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Why Did Colonialism Ruin Africa But Helped Develop The Americas?- By Emmanuel-Francis Nwaolisa Ogomegbunam

Colonisation is a process of external settlement. Nothing more. Nothing less. It has nothing to do with development.

No. No. Colonisation develops.

Explain Mexico.

It only develops when the British do it.

Explain pre-independence Ireland.

A theory with too many exceptions is wrong.

Development is one of those things that you know when you see it. In which case, everywhere south of the Rio Grande is, in real terms, stagnant. Mexico, Brazil, Argentina or even Chile have equal odds of surpassing the USA as an African or Southwest Asian country.

They are all part of the rest, caught in the Low to Middle-Income trap. The exceptions to the general rule of limited convergence between the West and the Rest are Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Other exceptions include low population countries with tourism, finance or mineral advantages.

That is it.

The politics and societal challenges of the rest are much more similar than they are to the West, much less the East Asian exceptions. There are protests across much of South America for pretty much the same reasons as in Africa. They rest are also least likely to top the lovely governance tables churned out by Western Think Thanks.

As a group, they are more similar than they are dissimilar.

Now to address your question.

In the 21st-century, the things associated with wealth and power are derived from inventions and discoveries pioneered by certain West European countries from the 18th-century onwards.

Rich countries are those who best imported those practices and then pushed the frontier forward.

The Americas forged ahead for three reasons:

Large mineral nodes

The plantation system

Easier intra-European migration of inventors and Capital

The Dutch disease narrative seems to have convinced people that minerals are a curse. They are not. It is rare to find any historically prosperous society that also did not have access to valuable minerals. The city centres of many prosperous cities in the Americas lie on a foundation of mineral wealth.

The fortunes made in the Caribbeans and Brazil were not all spent there. The prevalence of absentee owners likely meant that the majority flowed back to Europe. There it joined the capital pool that funded the ongoing productivity revolution. It also created a leisure class that could devote itself to governance. The USA would be a different country, most likely for worse, if its founders were not slaveholders.

Finally, investors across the Americas were culturally similar and of a shared class. That made the movement of ideas and investment frictionless. It was not enough for Americans to ‘steal’ European inventions. It was also easy to make Europeans Americans.

In the 19th-century, who would a Manchester technician up roots and follow: A Boston Brahmin or an African palm oil merchant?

The one African exception to that general trend was South Africa and for similar reasons outlined above. Cecil Rhodes had the connections to attract investment to his mines because he had led the fox hunt at Oxford. And the politicians of the Boer republics, the location of the mineral nodes, dealt with him in the first place because he was European.

Now, of course, over time, even in the Americas, an investment hierarchy developed. Then the distinction between industrial centres and commodities-supplying peripheries became stark. The superiority of Industry rests on the fact that it is regenerative: cars today, silicon chips tomorrow. The death of a commodity is just that: death.

Regardless, the historical advantages of the American countries and their greater mineral resources placed them ahead of their African competition. Those have always been part of the commodities-supplying periphery.

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