Walter Rodney How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Walter Rodney made an impression with How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, and its appropriate for us to review it as part of our 500 Year Slavery retrospect.



In short, the book takes the view that Africa was deliberately exploited and underdeveloped by European colonial regimes.

Main Thesis

In the first chapter of the book, Walter Rodney mainly looks into the concept of development and underdevelopment. He criticized the popular conception of development via a Bourgeois lens. Instead, the term ‘development’ should be based on the Socio-Political context of a particular community.

He also considers the developed nature of African territories before the coming of the Europeans up to the 15th century.

In his view, the unique status of African civilization was characterised by certain peculiarities some of which include the possession of distinct institutions/ideas of government. These ideas were subsequently altered by culture contact which saw the infiltration of European civilization into the African system.

He emphasizes that unequal trade relations also saw the transfer of wealth from Africa to Europe which elevated Europe’s status as the dominant section of the world wide trade system.

In brief, “Colonialism was not merely a system of exploitation but one whose essential purpose was to repatriate the profit to the so called mother land” making the development of Europe a part of the same dialectical process by which Africa was underdeveloped…Even infrastructure such as Railways were not meant to benefit the African population, but rather to enable more efficient extraction of African resources.


At most, Rodney argues, Africans were mainly free to participate in the money economy and to pass the European oriented culture at a very low and uncreative level. The negative impact of colonialism on Africa can be seen in the loss of power by Africans as Political power was put in the hands of Colonialists coupled with the minimal beneficial impact of Colonial education for Africans.



The conclusions drawn in this book have been criticised for failing to properly consider and balance the pros and cons of the Colonial Economy which Rodney describes as a ‘one-armed bandit’.

Lately, this has been regarded as an oversimplification of the complex historical forces surrounding the colonial era.

Nevertheless, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa presents a compelling argument that cannot be swept aside without some degree of consideration, and for this reason it remains an enduring contribution to the ongoing dialogue on African development.

For a picture of what Pre-Colonial Africa looked like, peep the classic Learning Channel documentary below.


Stay woke fellow Africans and brethren.


Links & Credits

African Involvement In Slave Trade

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  1. Pingback: African Complicity In Slave Trade | Afrika Is Woke September 7, 2018

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