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The Economic Origins of Twentieth Century Decolonisation in West Africa

J.A. Agbor
Publication date: 
March 2010
This paper argues that the pattern of decolonisation in West Africa was a function of the nature of human capital transfers from the colonisers to the indigenous elites of the former colonies. Underpinning the nature of these human capital transfers is the colonial educational ideology. Where this ideology emphasized the notion of "assimilation", the system generally tended to produce elites that depended highly on the coloniser for their livelihood, hence necessitating a continuation of the imperial relationship even after independence was granted. On the contrary, where the ideology emphasized the "strengthening of the solid elements" of the country-side, the system tended to produce a bunch of elites that were quite independent of the coloniser and consequently had little to lose from a disruption of the imperial relationship at independence. The model raises several predictions based on a single assumption on the nature of the nationalist elite. The paper's contribution, is in providing a framework for understanding the different paths of decolonisation in Africa in general, but more specifically in the British and French West African empires, an approach which unites both the Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives.
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Series title: 
Working Paper 177
International Journal of Development and Conflict