Explaining Underdevelopment in East Africa in the Post-Independence Period

A country-analysis of Kenya and Ethiopia

Master's Thesis, 2014

42 Pages


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction and Methodology
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Thesis objective
1.3 Methods and research

Chapter 2: Framework: literature, concepts and definitions of underdevelopment
2.1 Literature review, scholars & ideology
2.2. Overview of underdevelopment: definitions and concepts

Chapter 3: Colonialist and post-colonialist’s legacies in East Africa
3.1 First symptoms of underdevelopment
3.2. Post-colonialism in East Africa : underdevelopment’s intensification?
3.3 Legacy of foreign imported regimes & ideologies in East Africa

4. Country profiles and analysis criteria for underdevelopment
4.1 East Africa: Kenya and Ethiopia
4.2 Indicators of underdevelopment

Chapter 5: Conclusions


Chapter 1: Introduction and Methodology

1.1 Introduction

The history of underdevelopment, in the post-colonial period in the African states, marked by years of imperialist dependency and characterized by ideological and de facto revelations, has created an abundance of intellectual debates. At stake in these debates, specifically in the sphere of international relations, is whether the so-called definition of post-colonial underdevelopment in Africa over the past 70 years or so could be explained by the historic origins, “colonial inheritance” and legacy, fluctuating economics or could simply be defined by the eclectic concepts of the chronic dynamism of underdevelopment (Ahluwalia 1996:18). The latter, seen by many scholars in the context of neo-realist, Marxist and post-colonial theories of unequal development, such as the Modernization and Dependency theories, presents further grounds for interpretation within this analytical realm. In parallel to the International Relations’ and social theorists’ views, the specifics of each region, as the thesis will also acknowledge, should be purposefully placed within the context of East-Africa, its regional dynamics and past experiences. Further examination also covers the long-lasting repercussions and consequences of post-colonial regimes and policies.

From the northern part of the Eastern coastal line, from the Horn of Africa down to the Southern regions of Zimbabwe, the socio-economic reality contains unique historical congregations and presents a multitude of current challenges. Taking into consideration the strongly contrasting colonization history and geo-politics and the current security, social and economic issues, it is indeed reasonable to compare two regional and internationally important, although completely different neighbor states like Kenya (a former British protectorate) and Ethiopia (an ancient monarchy and independent country), whilst tracing the extent of the post-colonial legacy in the predetermination of the current ideological onus (see Ronald & Gervase, 1963). The two types of countries analyzed, will present the evolutionary and constructive nuances of the progressive and retrogressive development. Both will also provide more insights on how underdevelopment matures within different contextual realms.

The notion of underdevelopment is used in this paper to seek and uncover several strands of theoretical framings, whilst challenging the multipolar nature and origins of this very issue. On the one hand, it would analyze the issue within an extensive array of criteria, on whether underdevelopment’s primary aim is economic or secondary to the historically burdened post-colonial and ideological realities, or not. Is underdevelopment an evolutionary phenomenon or rather internally influenced, structural one? The answers will transpose similar views and calibrate them to the environmental, psychological, socio-economic, cultural, religious and political levels and challenges in the current century. On the other hand, this paper would deal with the ideological notion, in the context of the given academic literature. The literature review will seek to critically reassess academic, scholarly and missionary reviews. It will also measure, define and outline the subjectivity and variety of gaps and views on the issue, as well as debate the nature of underdevelopment and its evolvement, during political regimes, ethnic conflicts or authenticity crises.

1.2 Thesis objective

Several important factors underpin the objective of this research study: history, politics and the society. Firstly, there is a pressing need to redefine and contextualise the concept of underdevelopment, and equate it to the current politico-social reality, which suggests reconsideration of partially obsolete economic perceptions, in order to understand whether underdevelopment is regionally unique phenomenon. This need stems from the past ideological dynamism, which resulted in multiple, ill-guided attempts to indoctrinate and reshape the history of the African continent, based on the arguments of economic underperformance or African inferiority. Thus, I seek to illustrate the pattern of decolonization leading to underdevelopment, whilst also providing evidence on how far did underdevelopment evolve and when/why did it first materialize.

Secondly, the popular usage of the academic tool of underdevelopment does not bring about any particular changes as it does not evolve, unlike the politico-social reality in Kenya, Ethiopia or any other African state. The main tenet for this definition is to actually bring about the required changes and to assess the ideological impact of the trans-border historic legacy in order to abolish all current and recurring grounds for the future persistence of socio-economic and political issues. It aims at an analysis of the oxymoron illustrating these current realities: underdevelopment as a phenomenon in the fastest-growing country economies which, at some point in history, have become inherently burdened. Moreover, the underlying idea is to understand East African society on communal level, whilst critically assessing the aspects of the given developmental progress and applying these to the stages of progression within a typology of ethnically fractured societies, such as in the existing anthropological gaps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

For these reasons, the primary objective of this paper is to seek to summarize the existing literature by extracting, analysing, uniting and refining some of the major themes, and by providing insight into the relationship between underdevelopment, ideologies and regimes by examining two types of post-colonial African societies. Secondary objectives include:

a) to compare two regional countries and to contrast postcolonial realities, among which Ethiopia has endured sporadic imperialist dominations by British, Italian and Russian forces, but did not entirely experience colonialism alike Kenya, being part of the vast territory of the East Africa Protectorate
b) to analyze the impact on the transformation and trace the side effects of modernization on the foreign imported ideologies, later materializing in African interpretations of socialism and capitalism

1.3 Methods and research

In this paper, I acknowledge, before proceeding further, that there are many instances of underdevelopment in existence, not only in countries on the African continent, but also in Latin America and parts of Asia. The intensification of the phenomenon of underdevelopment since the beginning of the post-colonial economic history in the 1960s accompanies some of the poorest countries, becoming an inseparable part of the ongoing internal and trans-regional border conflicts and problems. Thus, if this phenomenon in the past was just a local, colonial issue, it now affects the global communities, transcontinentally, too.

The current methodology being applied is to employ this research and to analyze it within the context of the two case studies, Kenya and Ethiopia, whilst simultaneously offering a greater spectrum of overviews of the global practice of underdevelopment in East Africa. The purpose of this strategy is to measure the impact of foreign adopted and later imported regimes, ideologies and ethnic stratifications, in the two differently burdened and historically charged, in terms of post-colonial legacy, states.

The literature used in this research, together with the given statistical data and graphics, is divided into topical categorizations depicting the most vivid past and present practices in handling underdevelopment on both practical and theoretical levels, by such means as highlighting certain historical events, like periodization of colonization, imposed social divisions of tribes and communities, environmental impacts, draughts, climatographical occurrences and others. Moreover, it encompasses the criticism and other academic paralleling of eclectic theories, together with the charge of archaic and modern developmental connotations.

Chapter 2: Framework: literature, concepts and definitions of underdevelopment

This section would seek to illustrate partially the available literature in the case of underdevelopment in the countries of East Africa. The presented literature on the subject projects global practices and views on underdevelopment, seen primarily as an embodiment of the undeveloped economic term. Its secondary dialectic purpose appears to be found in a variety of academia, too, covering the social and politico-ideological dimensions, discussing the stages of societal organizations and governance. In this, I examine the terminology of post-colonialism and underdevelopment’s appearance in the given literature and thus focus on its eclectic characteristics (e.g. economic, cultural) and the historic legacy of colonization, its lingering impacts and the sustaining role of the ongoing problems.

2.1 Literature review, scholars & ideology

The phenomenon of underdevelopment became ostensibly defined in the context of the sustained conflicts of WW2 and the Cоld War, materializing in social, political and economic issues. Underdevelopment also constitutes a major part of the ideological and cultural “post-colonial readings” in many African states (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin 1998:192). In almost all African countries, and by definition, the historic legacy pushes the boundaries of the conservative tradition opposing modernization, as well as the dependency that characterises post-colonial resistance. However, before delving deeper into the terminology itself, it is worth mentioning that proclaiming progressive development in Africa has been one of the greatest aims of colonizers, representing a decade of pushing the boundaries of ideological and historical progress. Perhaps it is this particular striving for the equal development of reciprocity, for both Europeans and pan-Africans, which has led to the rethinking of the concept in terms of linking it to Eurocentric, negative connotations.

There are many instances of the gradual spiralling of the progression of underdevelopment. It manifests itself not only in the discourse of development, but also in terms of underdevelopment and even overdevelopment (see Bennett, 2012). These three concepts manage to transform the overall stereotypical trajectory of classifications in the given literature and to organise them according to the intellectually manageable ideas of post-war (WW2) causality. For centuries, these ideas managed to polarise the very North and the South, and the East versus the West, as a natural form of competition between imperialists on a global scale. Each participant in this process of global development left its legacy. The worldwide legacy left by colonialism, as seen in Marxism as the counterpart to capitalism, indigenous cultures re-adapting to the imported social and political rules has caused the fluctuating line of progress and regress becomes ongoing, thus materializing in the historical legacy of underdevelopment.

Nevertheless, in order to explain the basis of the main argument concerning why underdevelopment has been over or under-analysed and who or what is to blame, it is vital to categorise the evident literature and the issue according to the subject matter and corresponding linkages.

The following paragraphs would shed light on the core and periphery of literature and would put the main arguments in a certain order, despite the eclectic nature of the term of underdevelopment. The order which is to follow refers to the backbone of this very research – to trace the interconnectedness between underdevelopment, post-colonialism and ideological legacy.

Firstly, in order to ratify the issue, I will refer to authors like Bujra (2002) and the “classification of conflicts” in Africa in general, and in the post-colonial period, as categorised by Salim (cited in Bujra, 2002:3), in order to better illustrate the legacies of underdevelopment at hand, among which two main problems appear: Political and ideological conflicts, and the ethnic and trans-border issues. Relating the latter observation to the literature discussed, it can be seen that this varies in the pre- and post-colonial periods, together with ideological partiality and projected criticisms regarding imperialism, exploitation, African nationalism and Eurocentrism. There is, however, a dichotomic difference in regional, East African literature, or at least in the works that have been translated, insofar as underdevelopment is concerned. Kenyan works on such topics present the economic-social and anthropological side of the issue (see Leys, 1975), as well as with tracing the corresponding linkages between agriculture, class and state (see Bradshaw, 1990). The Ethiopian situation, by comparison, reveals that the literature mainly sheds light on the economic, regimental and environmental problems that lead to economic underdevelopment (see Chole, 2000).

For the purpose of the thesis and research, the form of comparative analysis was used as the main analytical tool, in order to determine and create the aforementioned synapsis between literature, reality and ideology in (East) Africa, in general. The latter, builds up the argument and causes of underdevelopment, rooting more significantly in the nature and evolvement of societal environments, breeding in the given circumstances. They, on the other hand, become influenced simultaneously by the history of colonization and the creation of gaps and vacuums, fostering such set of events to progress further. The problem is not, by a great extent, on whether underdevelopment has occurred, but as to who was and would be capable to deal with its aftermath. This expectancy projects the burden on both political and societal strata, which becomes extensively illustrated in many studies, too. While referring to the overall academic sources with unbiased impression, underdevelopment, in the form of colonialist legacy appears to take multiple forms and connotations in the literature, some of which I would like to list and highlight below.

1) appears in African pre- and postcolonial historiography (Abu Boahen, Walter Rodney)
2) represents historic legacies,congregation of past and present events (Leftwich, Leys, Chole)
3) has social, economic and political usage, along with International Relations theorization (Nunn)
4) generates and evolves with some social and IR theories such as: developmental, modernization, neo-liberalist and Africanization theory, Marxism, Dependency and Modernization Theory, Feminism (gender studies), Post-colonialism and - structuralism

What stroked me the most during my research, were not so much the natural gaps between modern and archaic literature but the sporadically blurring lines of concepts, on which quite involuntary do all scholars agree. Despite these sporadic discrepancies between Western and indigenous African authors regarding the topic of colonialism and underdevelopment, the abovementioned list of academic areas in which the underdevelopment of Africa has materialized over the past few decades suggests that, with time, a slight marginalisation of the specialised literature. The epitome of the term underdevelopment, which is deeply rooted in the field of economy, is actually more narrowly used to categorise and justify post-colonial emotions and correlated dynamics, rather than focussing only on local and trans-border economic peculiarities.

What is underdevelopment?

Underdevelopment should be primarily explained with the help of the following evidences: history of colonialism, ideological legacies, comprehending the feelings of the colonized, economic justifications, and socio-cultural categorisations, perceived within certain contexts.


In this attempt to supplement the grounds for the phenomenon of underdevelopment, many scholars abide by the empirical belief that the (post-)colonial world is in search of the correct theory to describe the state of affairs in Africa, but that this faces many obstacles because it appears to be “historically new and structurally insecure” (Leftwich, 1994:64). To an extent, the argument about the insecurity of the African state and society, on the whole, becomes topical, whilst tracing its roots to colonial and post-colonial literature in particular. On the one hand, the African historian Boahen (1989) condemns colonialism during the 1800 and 1900, as an entirely wrongly imposed event, which overshadowed and ruined the great African palette of social and political structures up until the 20th century. On the other hand, as Shirley and Richards (2010) convey in their compendium, the chief and lingering theme is related to the problems of social and political resistance coming from the African society itself, a tendency that is clearly visible in particular case studies of the East African states, with the expressions of tribalism or militarisation in the post-colonial period, such as a high degree of ethnic segregation and internal conflict, which also contribute to underdevelopment.

However, despite the partial absence of concrete arguments, together with the subjectivity and “blame games” exercised in such academic schemes, one could still find a silver lining in the social and economic-cultural relevance of Africa, and particularly of East Africa, in this reciprocal process of underdevelopment (see Kutor, 2014). This research thus suggests a conceptual rearrangement of key points and ideas in order to bridge and bind the eclectic nature of the issue with a practical solution.

Secondly, in the given context of the extensive academic sources and from a rather critical point of view, the great range of authors and publicists have managed to represent similar descriptive analyses of the given literature, but not a great deal regarding ideological charge and impact of the concept of underdevelopment itself. The literature can be subdivided into purely historically time-framed, social, economic or political aspects, as will be seen in the paragraphs below. At first glance, regardless of the timeframe, the region of East Africa is admitted as being highly resourceful and populated, as well as being immensely affected by the emerging capitalist feelings. In addition to these accumulated feelings, an antidotal counterweight in the context of the past managed to attract more ideological subversion, which started to counteract foreign, imported ideologies and practices that had had been imposed on East Africa. Capitalism was starting to oppose the followers of socialism (mainly appearing in the form of African Socialism), as traditional tribalism was doing with the imposed governmental apparatus.

Thus, an ideological perspective particularly illustrated in classic works by like Walter Rodney (1972) in his work “How Europe underdeveloped Africa”, synthetizes the positive impact of the African economy on the capitalist West, and the negative aspects of colonialism imposed on Africa by the settlers. However, Rodney (1972) failed to place equally charged criticism on the analysis of the socialist ideology introduced by the Soviet Union. His opinion stems from his biased, radical socialist views conveying such arguments, and he essentially says little about this notional lacuna. The concept of underdevelopment, in such types of literature, acquires different connotations over time. Again, the ideological dimension of socialism does not receive a central spot in the analysis of underdevelopment; rather, overall colonialist exploitation and imperialism is usually highlighted.

Another similar example is the multiple equilibria model developed by Nathan Nunn , who takes on the major economic problematic being assessed and discussed, in the different stages of colonization (2005:173). Reportedly according to the exposed presumptions, the issue lies on the shoulders of the past and the nature of exploitations, slaves and historical burdens. Nunn makes a rather very brave and straightforward suggestion on the fact that colonialism equals nothing more than a mercantile, imperialist strive, which thoroughly supports underdevelopment. In this context, what about other aspects supporting underdevelopment? I consider that the overall problem relating to the connecting bridge between colonialism and underdevelopment hides in the given ideological context. Is it only the historically charged burden, which predetermines underdevelopment? For example, the observation on ideologies, suggests that democracy prone governments rely more on the personal initiative, unlike the socialist ones, which focuses on the collectiveness and in the case of Africa, ideology is what becomes left from the colonial legacy.

Further notional instances, depicted by authors like Sachs (1992) or Onunwa (2005) relate mainly to culture, society and government, but not necessarily becoming bound to a certain periodic timeframe. Another example of underdevelopment backs up the latter perception, while depicting observations from another continent, namely Latin America. One of the bespoke authors like Lawrence Harrison (2000), suggest in one of his works that underdevelopment is just a ‘state of mind’, something that gets inherited, as being part of the human nature. For these culturally-psychological explanations of colonialism and underdevelopment, I consider as quite plausible reasons, which play a role, along with other sets of arguments. Moreover, another suggestion might point at the direction of the fact that on psychological level underdevelopment could be seen in the following realm: all ideological, cultural and psychological matters surpass the speed of progress of modernization. Thus, they can evolve regardless of the practical realities, and naturally create certain gaps.

In this regard, these and other points, mentioned in the great volume of literature on underdevelopment and post-colonialism, manage to capture and analyze somehow vastly, but slightly inconsistently the real problematic behind – is underdevelopment only economic term, and a socially-cultural, or foremost an amalgam of pre and post-colonial ideological factors?

2.2. Overview of underdevelopment: definitions and concepts

Underdevelopment is an epistemologically and historically charged and transposed concept, materializing in “different degrees of expressions” (Stuchtey 2011:4). It is also inseparably coupled with the term first coined in 1952 by Alfred Sauvy, depicting such underperforming regions as the “tiers monde” or the “Third worlds” (Mason 1997:31). Similar epitomization of the view of underdevelopment began to function as definable, ideological tool, setting some strict analytical norms in the historic realm, neo- Marxist colonial and post-colonial interpretation, such as Modernization and Dependency Theory. The Globus became with time divided into a triage of differently developed worlds. As such, the underdevelopment in the Third Worlds of Africa, Аsiа, Lаtin Аmericа and Оceaniа, did not only encompass past, current and future realms, but also started to characterize multipolar economic, regional and global continental dynamics.

Ultimately, the phenomenon of underdevelopment also poses a lot of questions and provokes many disputes, asking on the stand point on who underdeveloped whom or what defines it. For the present state of affairs, underdevelopment adopts many ideological faces. According to the African socialist and historic classicist Walter Rodney on the African’s underdevelopment:

Obviously, underdevelopment is not absence of development, because every people have developed in one way or another and to a greater or lesser extent. Underdevelopment makes sense only as a means of comparing levels of development. It is very much tied to the fact that human social development has been uneven and from a strictly economic view-point some human groups have advanced further by producing more and becoming more wealthy (1973:23).


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Explaining Underdevelopment in East Africa in the Post-Independence Period
A country-analysis of Kenya and Ethiopia
University of Birmingham
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underdevelopment, East Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, politics, international, policy
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Martina Petkova (Author), 2014, Explaining Underdevelopment in East Africa in the Post-Independence Period, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/303876


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