500 years of colonization or 50 years of Independence?



The first white people to land in Southern Africa were the Portuguese. In August 1487 Bartolomeo Diaz landed at Mossel Bay, near Cape Town, on his way to India. Ten years later Vasco da Gama landed at St. Helena Bay and sailed round the tip of Africa. Many other Europeans would follow and some would settle in present day South Africa and eventually make headways north into what is known as Zambia.

Yes, it would have been over 500 years of colonization in Southern Africa if the trend would have continued to present day. What would have Africa become of if we would have continued with this? Or to bring it home, what would have Zambia become like if we stayed colonized by the British? Can we really say we are better off with 50 years of independence as opposed to 500 years of colonization?

Many argue that colonization brought about slavery (although slavery existed among ourselves), economic and social inequality as well as political domination. Quite the contrary, colonization brought a lot of good to Africa. There is no doubt that Africa would have been a better continent had we remained a territory of the British, French or Portuguese Empires. Here is why?

Africa would be the largest economy in the world today. Going by the abundance of natural resources, Africa was the richest continent 500 years ago. Sadly, it is still the richest continent endowed with natural resources. It is estimated that in the year 1500, United States’ GDP was about $800 million while Africa’s GDP was an impressive 20 billion dollars. Today, the United States’ GDP is over $16 trillion while Africa’s GDP is only $2 trillion. What happened exactly? If our resources were managed by the Europeans, Africa would be a continent the rest of the world would hold in high esteem. The truth is Africans cannot plan, Africans are not economic managers and Africans lack the patience that comes with building wealth. Instead Africans leaders prefer to put in place policies that benefit them individually as opposed to policies that benefit the masses.

Africa’s goods and services would have unlimited access to the global market. Africa continues to lag behind in terms of exporting its goods and services to other markets like Eurozone and North America. On the contrary, the Europeans and Americans can access our market liberally. The Chinese today can boast of a total volume of over $200 billion of trade with the Africans beating the Europeans and Americans. Why aren’t we selling more or better to these markets today? The truth is because we are not one of them—we are Africans. If Africa was governed by our colonizers, there is no doubt that we would also have access to these markets freely. Our minerals, oil and other natural resources would have been better managed and given us a better return than what we are currently getting. Right now, most African exporters have to literary beg their way into these foreign markets.

African markets would have long integrated. The truth is Africans don’t like each other. African-Americans don’t like Africans and vice-versa. Tribes within African countries don’t like each other or pretend to like each other. They cannot work together. However, if we would have been governed by non-Africans we would have integrated politically and economically. We would have been talking about a United Africa-something that would have given us an economic advantage. If this idea came from a muzungu we would have jumped on it in the same way we do when they tell us how to run our economies. But because the proposal came from our own, we refused to embrace it.

Democracy would have matured. If we would have just let nature take its course we would have a matured democracy today. We are talking about having a continent with a solid constitution, strong legislature, freedom of speech/assembly and with rule of law. Most African countries have been independent for more than half a century and yet they are not democratic at all. Worse still, they are very poor. Haiti, a country of Africans, got its independent in 1804 and yet it is the poorest country on the planet. So, what’s the fuss about independence? If Haiti allowed the Americans or the French to take over their territory, it will likely have been the richest Black Country on earth. But it seems Africans are content with the political definition and not economical definition of the term “independence”.

African emigration would have been better managed. We are busy screaming about independence and yet most of us are dying to leave our independent countries. The lucky ones who have left Africa have no plans of returning at all to their independent countries. Had Africa remained colonized, most of us would have stayed in our own countries. There would have been no need to look for a job in Australia or Canada because our continent would have managed to take care of us. A lot of African intellectuals are denied academic freedom. They are suffocated intellectually and yet they are the same people who will be making long speeches on Independence Day about how great it is to be free.

Africa would have experienced dynamic leadership. Africa is the only continent with the longest serving dictators. It also has the oldest serving politicians on the planet. We speak of political independence and yet we have made no headways in changing our leadership. Zimbabwe’s president has been in power for 34 years almost matching that of the Angolan leader. Had we let the Europeans continue managing us, a youthful and energetic leadership would have been at the helm of African politics. We would have been talking about leaders with an average age of perhaps 40 years or so. Remember, Africa has also the youngest population in the world. In the last 50 years, Zambia would probably have had about 10 presidents the same way the United States have had 9 presidents during this period.

The truth is that Africa would have been a better place if it remained a territory of the Europeans. Look at some of the inhabitable places like Alaska or Yukon. They have been able to advance centuries ahead in technology, water development, infrastructure and even mining and yet they are some of the remotest places on earth. Why? Because they remain territories of the United States and Canada. If it were not for this, chances are that they would have been underdeveloped.

Africa’s biggest enemy is ourselves because we have failed to hold our leaders accountable. Africa, more than ever, needs economic independence. This can only be achieved if the African youths demand it and engage in peaceful demonstrations so that a revolution can begin to sweep across the continent. Africa needs to usher in a new breed of selfless leaders and lawmakers. Africa needs leaders who are going to fight for Africa and save it from economic mismanagement. This is the independence Africa yearns.

If Zambians, today, were given a choice between 500 years of colonization that came with clean water, decent housing, freedom of expression, good education, good healthcare, jobs, and decent living standards or 50 years of independence that came with cholera, no jobs, our politicians, our police, bad schools, terrible infrastructure and deplorable living standards very likely many would opt for the former. Again, what exactly are we independent from?

By Wesley Ngwenya


  1. This is the worst case of inferiority complex I’ve ever seen.To suggest that it would be better to be slave of white man than to be a free African man is more than I can fathom.Mr.Ngwenya prior to 1487 before we had the misfortune of Bartholmew diaz landing on our shores our people were not slaves.For 1000s of years we ruled ourselves.There was no poverty.We lived in tribes or clans and had our own social and political structure.But history is written by the victors and if you rely on white man s account of Africa you will believe African are inferior beings.We lost our land and dignity because white man had a gun and we didn’t. If we want to look to history lets talk of the greater portion of history -the thousands of years before white man colonised us.

    • The author of the above article is 100% correct. Don’t argue just for the sake of arguing. Look again at the above picture and see the attire of the five slaves. Thats how your forefathers used to dress and thats how you would be looking today had the white man not come to your continent. Back then our people lived like animals. We had no capacity to develop our world. The fruits of civilisation we seem to be enjoying today eg the high ways, cars, aeroplanes, ships, shopping malls, the modern clothes, the internet are all products of the white man. Take South Africa for example, to whom do you accredited the infrastructure development in that country, to Shaka Zulu or to the white man? KK made big mistake to chase away the white man after 1964.

    • The usual empty tins start off with the loudest noises shooting down the author with assumptions of “Slavery” and the like. Zambians were colonialist and not enslaved.
      The author raises serious points for debate and introspection. Are we really better off as Independent African nations? And where would we be had we remained colonised? He has gone on to give his position that we would be better off under colonial rule and he has some valid points. Pls give your valid points against these.
      As hard as it is to accept being ruled by Europeans, the sad truth is that our exisiting leaders and their mindsets will never bring any tangible development to Africa they are thiefs and too corrupt. But before we jump to support colonialisation, we should try out young and “exposed” leaders…

    • @ J J, being uncivilised was better than today where everything is at an expense. I would rather live in the village than town because village life is cheaper and better. It is you people from towns who pollute the villages.

    • @ex-Moma: Don’t get Emotional but read the article in detail, it has facts. Honestly let us ask ourselves these questions?? Are we better off with our leaders? Do you really think as Zambians we are poor?? The Answers are NO: but we have bad leadership, with no plan? We give away our Assets (natural) resources with no proper management because we are stu.pid. ESPECIALLY OUR POLITICAL LEADERS: 50 YEARS we have no decent HOSPITALS?? All these selfish LEADERS still go to SOUTH AFRICA FOR MEDICATION/ Let alone die there?? Actually it is disgusting and suggest we have a let the people talk on this matter. OUR LEADERS ARE Fo.olish, SELFISH and DULL: Challenge me if you think if they are smart and we are better off with the so called Independence. 50 years celebration is a Joke???

    • Tata lesa, i have never read such ignorance as this in my whole life, ba ngwenya, JJ, what are you thinking guys? napakutampila tetiwishibe. your views are misplaced and dont give us that horse crap that everyone is entitled to an opinion, because this opinion yenu is totally out of place. So you tell me, its better that we were in chains like the picture above in exchange for a statistics such as GDP, and concepts like democracy? You decide to lose you freedom and identity in exchange for better economy. Awe, that brother Llaila Africa was right. Not all of us can be saved from white indoctrination, some of us are just slaves for life not by force but because we choose it. As for my family and I,we choose to be free no matter what the consequence.Enough of white lies and rule!!

    • Just delete that article.
      Ngwenya’s mind is same as boycotting his own birthday, and claim that what should be celebrated is the birth of his grandfather, because he the one who wrongly impregnated his under-age grandmother, thus end-up the birth of Ngwenya.

    • The difference between you Africans who believe the crap said in this article and the Japanese is the Japanese believe in themselves….You think technology can only come from the West,you think development can only come about if there is a white man.You insult the Creator! The Japanese,Israelis and to some extent Arabs believe they can do it without white mans help and they are doing it.In the meantime us Africans are crying for the British to come back and rule us and also fighting among ourselves…Africa is a waiting for America to give it an ebola vaccine,damn it,its our people dying lets make our own vaccine. With the abundance of sunshine in Africa our engineers are waiting for American engineers to design solar panels for us.Damn it! we should design our own solar technology

    • This is pathetic to say the least. Basically, this White man in a Zambian body is suggesting that it is better for us to be enslaved to Europe than to Rule ourselves.

      Before you start writing on these important matters Mr Ngwenya I suggest you return to the library and research, Observe and analyse the Condition Africa was in 10 000 years before the 15th Century, actually just do 500 years before the 15th century.

      You claim Afrikans are not competent economic managers, why is it then, that it was actually our Ancestors that WOKE EUROPE Up from their slumber in the 7th to 12th centuries.. why is it that Afrikans ruled Spain and influenced all of Europe for 800 years.

      Iv always said it is premature to make conclusive judgements on how well we have faired as a people.

    • In any case it is premature to make conclusive pronouncements on how we have faired thus far, because Zambia was colonized for 70 years plus, and we have not even clocked that in self rule.. We are still evolving. And this article shows you DO NOT understand the KEY MOTIVE of Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism, which essentially was to DEVELOP EUROPE AND AMERICA AT the Expense of us. They Develop While we UnderDevelop. Therefore if Europe or white men were to officially return, which they would gladly do, in fact they would kill themselves to do it, we would be worse off and them better.

      Ngwenya, sorry to say, this is so misplaced, and I would advise you use your creativity in coming up with Solutions, as well as KNOWING YOUR REAL HISTORY.. YOU DON’T KNOW IT. YOU ALSO DON’T KNOW OUR…

    • JJ you Africa started civilization. It is well documented, and archeological finds are plentiful. Ruins even in Zambia are waiting for you to visit them. South African had iron kingdoms thousands of years ago, highly advanced for that matter. It was even on the discovery channel. I am here laughing at your inferiority personality. I even know your people group, that is all I shall say of that. Moma well said.

      Also we were a protectorate, and not a colony. If you knew what that means, you would be smiling right this moment.

    • Mr Wesley Ngwenya, I am so appalled by your ignorance I can hardly believe that a person like you does exist. Having sat in University classes with White colleages and saw them many eliminated from the course and having sat long nights with a Japanese friend whom I literally held the hand to get them through our Engineering Maths, it is so painful to realise that we Africans can not get the fear of Whites out of our systems. They are just our fellow human beings, friends, not any better or any worse. They came to Africa because they were better educated and better armed at that time and took advantage of the situation in Africa just as we would have done if the situation was reversed. The British ruled Zambia for 70 years and built 800km of paved roads. In 50 years we have built 10,000km

    • It’s really difficult to even comment on this useless article. I would rather be poor and free than enslaved with everything.
      Mr Ngwenya, it seems you are a very frustrated individual. Umusungu temunobe. Epo mpelele.

  2. What a shocking article to read on the start of an important week like this.

    To say we are better off to be ruled than to rule ourselves, is the biggest insult to all Black people, freedom fighters and civil rights activists. I wonder what Nelson Mandela would say about this.
    To be a free man is better than to be a slave. Nothing can ever excuse or justify the opression of one man by another. It is always better to rule your destiny because SELF DETERMINATION it is the whole essence of being human.

    “Would haves” and “ifs” don’t make history. If I was the editor, I would bin this article rightaway.

    • Please lets try to accept the truth, not even a single African country can survive without the help from the western nations. today we have Ebola and the whole of africa is looking up to west for assistance. Non of our leaders care about the masses only about their pockets and families. accept your weakness and learn from it maybe you can improve as Africa.

  3. I could not even finish reading the rest of the article. Just around the third chapter my body went cold! On the other hand Africa is under-developed because of such people – inferiority complex. Speak for yourself Mr Ngwenya – the rest of us have not given up on our inheritance and the future of our children. Yes we are down but watch this space – we aint out yet!

  4. One question though begs for an answer – Which one is better ; a well fed slave and a hungry free man? It is irrational to claim that you have the resources if the prime resource – the brains are defunct. Africa should stop claiming having the resources if she does not have the mental capacity and the eyes of the mind to make those resources meaningful. How can you celebrate that you have punkins in the field yet you do not have the pot nor the fire?

  5. Good Article. I have always wondered why colonisation has always been looked at with negativity. It is undeniable that the British civilised and gave us the education that we are so proud of today. The author is simply trying to show us that we have under achieved so much since we got independence despite the benefits of colonisation.

  6. The truth is Africans don’t like each other. African-Americans don’t like Africans and vice-versa. Tribes within African countries don’t like each other or pretend to like each other. They cannot work together.
    There you have it..
    Jealous coupled with (ubuloshi) witchcraft..eliteracy,dullness,phd sydrome.greed,laziness,showi display,nepotism these are some of the things that have retarded Africans.

    • @Kin, “African tribes do not like each other”. This is a negative human attribute not unique to Africans. Europeans have the smallest nation states precisely for this reason. They started the World War I for this reason. Yugoslavia broke up for this reason. The massacre of Treblinka and Sarajevo took place for the same reason. All human beings have to actively work to like each other.

      Education is the key. If you have been disappointed by your leaders you should raise the bar so that Zambians elect competent people. You should also work to build strong institutions that will protect you and the country from excesses and despotic tendencies. For that you need a good and strong constitution that can not be manipulated.

  7. Wesley Ngwenya, I didn’t know you think so shallow, or wait maybe I did.

    You are not better of now, than your ancestors were when the white man ruled you, FACT


  8. ….interesting topic indeed…no need to argue with the author, that’s his personal opinion. The topic reminds me of the debate we had at school many moons ago entitled….’would the technology have advance to this level had earth been occupied by Africans only..?’…assuming the whites and any other race…the Chinese, Indians, Japanese etc say occupied other planets far away from us..??
    I do not know how old Wesley is, but let him try and tell my 80yr old grandfather his ‘thoughts’ of ‘better colonised’…I advice him to be a metre away from my grand pa or be ready to guard his face from a good slap.
    On the other hand, Wesley’s outcry on economic dependence/management, governance and resource management may get the support from the same grand pa of mine….

    • …..with the past and current crop of our political leaders….may be Wesley’s thoughts can be summed up like…’we were going to be better off remaining a British territory just like the Falklands islands, Gibraltar…’

  9. Absolutely shocking. Ignorance is one of the biggest enemies we have that is why we have a whole generation of people who think we are better off being colonized. There has to be a solution to this kind of thinking because I am sure people in their right frame work of mind wouldn’t think this way so for us who know better I think it’s high time we began studying our own people so we can find out why people think this way because this is their perception and perception is more powerful than reality because it shapes your reality. I suggest we re-write our own history, find whatever information we can get and re-write it to help our brothers and sisters. We need a system that will make information that promotes positive African history to be readily available otherwise we are finito.

  10. The Author is totally misguided. I would suggest that he does abit of research on the political of the World. Every part of this earth has had to go through serious tribal wars, corruption, greed, civil wars, poverty and confusion in political management before finally stabilising. Am sure Africa will reach there one day. The whole issue of colonisation did not start with the british. But every phase that comes brings its own style of governance and cultural norms. We shall not blame any one at this time, but we shall conclude to say every phase is important in human development. It has contributed to the current status of the earth….be it good or bad.
    The order is as follows: Egypt-Babylon-Greek-Roman-British-American…now chinese is slowly coming in force. Am sure Africa will be next

  11. The same reasons that some readers choose to argue with the author is the reasons why we are not developed. Ok if you disagree with the author, write something in detail to contrast this article. Not this one or two liners.

    I find this article informative and a trigger for ‘brain-storming’ regarding where Africa and in particular Zambia is wrt development. There is no deyning that we are decades behind Europe, USA, Asia etc. Africa is the least developed continent. Yet we have abundance of natural resources more than any other continent. Something is wrong with us. And i guess the author was trying to illustrate what is WRONG with US.

  12. I agree with Wesley Ngwenya.

    If Zambia were led by ‘Expatriate Presidents’ since 1964, the Country would be far more developed that it is today!

    Zambians have failed to rule/govern themselves democratically. The leaders have failed to allow people to run their own affairs. They have failed to tap talent from the masses, whom they have ruled as though the leaders had the monopoly of knowledge.

    Zambia has, since the handover of powers to her leaders by Britain, its leaders keeping the powers of governance on a personal-to-holder basis, away from the People, therby stiffling development.

    Zambian leaders must learn to share power in all areas and at all levels with the People.

  13. ….hypothetically, if we had a rare breed of leaders like the Mugabes, Amin, Gaddafi, Shaka Zulu, Al-bashir, Malema etc all ruling African states at the same time and give ALL none Africans matching orders to leave Africa within 30days and never to come back for 5 yrs….what would be of Africa after that period….??

  14. This is the stupidest article allowed by LT.

    You only have to see what happened to us during colonial period. We never enjoyed the wealth created by the white man. The whites took ALL our money to develop United Kingdom. Revenue from our resources was denied us.

    If the white man had remained, we would be worse offl. We were not allowed education, medical access was limited and the lecherous white man raped and impregnated our girls! What is good about that?

    The whole article is silly and ignorant. The writer shows full blown ‘white man’s damage.’ He has no self esteem.

    There are some very damaged individuals from that era. Most of Africa’s problems is down to the continued actions of the white man, Mines(KCM, Vedanta). Landgrabing ‘investors!’

  15. Great Article indeed. The author raises pertinent issues that call for a serious discussion. Many of us are busy ranting on this forum from our colonizers’ countries. We are not even in Africa. Why are we studying in Malaysia, Why are we working in England, Why are we using English and why do we associate ourselves with everything Western?
    Let’s face it Africa is pretty fcuked up alone. Look at Brazil, the country with the largest black population outside Africa. The race that is putting Brazil and helping it economically is the white race. Meanwhile, the race that is bringing it down is the black race. The same can be said for South Africa, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and many other nations. So what are you independent from Africa? You don’t make your cars, clothes, food, and so on?

  16. Good article, however, the article is panctuated with cyncism. when shall we forget the past and soldier on. Am not denying the past injustices. But the point is we cannot reverse the ills that have shamefully marked, our history. Notwithstanding the shame, Bigotry, segregation and mindless treatment, colonialism had its benefits as well as its downside.

    • Nzelu, you can say all you want about the bembas. It looks like they are more organized tribe. The only tribe in Zambia I know of with a website: umubemba.org

  17. “A picture is worth a thousand words”; take a look at the picture of the slaves above (beginning of article). The modern day version of the two armed African men pictured with the slaves is the author of this article (“Uncle Tom”). Perhaps the author could demonstrate that “Africans were better off under slavery than today” by asking his neighbor to chain him to a tree, whip him a few times and then clean his neighbor’s house at no charge. What an *****.

  18. Intellectual dialogue means that one can pose any theory and it has to be tackled with the same intellectual facts.
    Thanks Wesley for provoking to think.

    Here is a fact however,
    The White man ruled Black people not as equal humans but as inferior, therefore he would not have shared the economic prosperity with you.
    The British were in Zambia for 60 years but built no university for Africans.
    The population of Zambia was only 3 million by 1964. The life expectancy was 56 yrs.
    The population has quadrupled and life expectancy would have been 70 yrs were it not for the HIV pandemic.
    As for democracy sir, we had our own traditional democracies where a nduna would sit in court to advise our kings. This was stripped from us and an alien system imposed.

Comments are closed.