Why Southern Africa is Different

Most countries in north and western Africa gained their independence by 1960.

What about southern Africa? A few countries gained their independence in 1964, but for most of the countries, colonialism did not end until much later. For example, South Africa, the largest country, did not gain independence until 1994.

Most African colonies did not have many residents from Europe, apart from colonial government officials, missionaries, and businesspeople. However, people from Europe were attracted to southern Africa colonies because of the great agricultural potential and mineral wealth.

The settlers did not integrate with the indigenous African peoples. They knew they would always be a minority, so they tried to guarantee political control and economic prosperity by controlling the political systems and denying Africans their political rights.

The settlers controlled the sources of wealth—the mineral and agricultural resources. Settlers passed laws to take the most fertile lands for themselves. In South Africa, African populations were forced to live in specific African reserves.

Colonial governments introduced tax laws that required all African families to pay a special tax. A “head” tax required each adult male to pay a set tax. The “house” tax placed a set tax on each household. The African populations were required to pay these taxes in the currency of the colonial power. Since most Africans in the region were forced to live on overcrowded, unproductive land, they had to work in mines or on settler-owned farms to pay the taxes.

While technically not slavery, this was forced labor based on a system of taxation without representation.

Source: Why Southern Africa is Different
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