Europe and Africa: Decolonization or Dependency?

Fifteen years after most of Africa received its independence, Europe is still present and influential in the continent. The European presence has, however, shifted from overt and direct to more subtle forms. While military occupation and sovereign control over African territories have all but been eliminated, political influence, economic preponderance, and cultural conditioning remain. Britain and France, and with them the rest of the European Community, maintain a relatively high level of aid and investment, trade dominance, and a sizable flow of teachers, businessmen, statesmen, tourists and technical assistants. Perhaps most symbolically significant of all, the long-nurtured dream of an institutionalized Eur-African community was finally inaugurated on February 28, 1975, when the convention of trade and cooperation was signed at Lomé between the European Nine and the then-37 independent Black African states (plus nine islands and enclaves in the Caribbean and the Pacific).

Thus, Eur-African relations are a matter of continuity and change, but judgments of them vary considerably, according to the importance given to one or the other of these two elements. To some, the successor of colonialism is neocolonialism and dependency; for others, what is taking place is gradual disengagement, and the multilateralization of ties to the developed nations. The first look askance at the continuing presence, comparing it with an ideal of total mastery of one's destiny; to them the change seems trivial, or worse, insidious. The second emphasize actual changes, the moves toward independence, and see them as part of a continuing process. The best perspective obviously is the one that can encompass and provide an explanation for the largest number of facts.

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