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This meant that colonial governments were not able to provide basic infrastructure, such as roads and communication networks, nor were they able to provide basic social services such as education, health care, and housing. Due tothe lack of revenue within the colonies, little attention was given to promoting social change or development. Although all the colonies did not experience the same extent of social change, these colonies share the same characteristics in terms of social change.
Firstly, colonial and political practices caused a large scale movement of people. In some areas, migrations were primarily from one rural area to another. In other places, the migration was from rural areas to urban areas. These movements resulted in dislocation of peoples that impacted society and culture. Social and cultural beliefs and practices were challenged by these migrations.
Long-held practices had to be adapted, and at times were completed abandoned, to fit the new colonial circumstances. Secondly, and partly due to the first consequence, the dislocation of families also occurred. Men mainly left the household to work in mines and on plantations, leaving their wives and children behind. As a result, women and adolescents were forced to take on new roles and to cope in absence of their husbands and fathers. Due to colonialism, the African family structure had been severely changed.
Thirdly, urbanization emerged as colonization was imposed. During colonialism, urbanization occurred fairly rapidly in many African colonies. A number of pre-colonial African societies had towns and small cities. However, even in these societies, most people were engaged in agriculture in rural villages or homesteads. Urban living resulted in changes in economic activities and occupation, and in changes in the way people lived.
These changes often challenged existing values, beliefs, and social practices. Fourthly, the religious beliefs of Africans were adapted or changed. A small percentage of the African population regarded themselves as Christians, and today more than half of the African population is Christians. Colonial rule provided an environment in which Christianity, in many forms, spread in many parts of Africa. While Islam was widespread in Africa prior to the coming of colonialism, it also benefited from colonialism. British and French colonial officials actively discouraged Christian mission work in Muslim areas.
Lastly, the public education system of African was also changed. The majority of colonial governments did little to support schools. Most formal schooling African colonies were a result of the work of missionaries. Missionaries felt that education and schools were essential to their mission. Their primary concern was the conversion of people to Christianity. Missionaries believed that the ability of African peoples to read the Bible in their own language was important to the conversion process.
However, most mission societies were not wealthy, and they could not support the number of schools that they really wanted.
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Consequently, with limited government support, most African children did not go to school during the colonial era. In fact at the end of colonial rule, no colony could state that more than half of their children finished elementary school, and far fewer attended secondary school. West Africans developed an extensive self-contained trading system, based on skilled manufacture. From the 8th century Muslim traders, from North Africa and Arab countries, began to reach the region.
Gradually, communities began to convert to Islam. By the end of the 11th century some entire states, and influential individuals in others, were Muslim. At the same time, West African trade slowly expanded towards Egypt and possibly India. Arabic texts mention that from the late 8th century Ghana was considered 'the land of gold'.
Mali also possessed great wealth. In , when Mansa Musa, its emperor, made a pilgrimage to Mecca, he took so much gold with him that in Egypt, which he also visited, the value of the metal was debased. Prior to the European voyages of exploration in the fifteenth century, African rulers and merchants had established trade links with the Mediterranean world, western Asia, and the Indian Ocean region.
Within the continent itself, local exchanges among adjacent peoples fit into a greater framework of long-range trade. The Ashanti kingdom, or Asante, dominated much of the present-day state of Ghana. Gold Coast began encountering European traders in the mids, when the Portuguese began trading with coastal peoples. By the seventeenth century, many European trading giants including the British, Dutch and French began building fortifications along the coastline in order to assert their positions.
These interactions were to have a profound effect on African coastal settlements and African institutions came under considerable European influence very early on. West Africa had a long history of connection to trans-Saharan gold trade, and from the 15th century was drawn into trade with Europe, in gold and increasingly in slaves. The Ashanti kingdom had emerged from the mid- 17th century, benefitting from access both to rich agricultural resources and gold, much of the labour for production of which was provided by a domestic slave trade.
The Expansion of the Asante Kingdom, Image source.
Many parts of West Africa was still unknown to the rest of the world, thus By the late 15th century and early 16th century many European nations like Portugal started to send the missionaries and explorers to investigate various parts of Africa and West Africa in particular. As early as in the 19th century European powers like France, Germany, and Britain likewise sent number of missionaries, explorers, traders and philanthropists in West Africa.
When the Ashanti kingdom showed ambitions to expand its control southwards in negotiating treaties with African authorities and protecting trading interests, the British invaded Ashanti in and burnt its capital. The majority of European Explorers spent their time to investigate and to detail the interior and coast of West Africa to help European powers that were searching areas with potential materials as European countries were experiencing mushrooming of industries. Explores assisted the European merchant groups; penetration of west Africa interior in 18th century was real a hard and difficult but with the aid of explorers, European merchant groups had advantage of trading in West Africa freely with assurance of security of themselves and their trading commodities.
As Britain increasingly colonised more and more African countries, the British had become the dominant power along the coast, and they began annexing and laying claim to territory gradually. The expansion of the Asante kingdom towards the coast was the major cause of this, as the British began to fear that the Asante would come to monopolise coastal trade in their place.
The British placed the Governor of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was already annexed, in charge of British forts and settlements along the coast. He formed an unfavourable opinion of the Asante, and began the long process of attempting to bring them under British control. However, disputes over jurisdiction of the area known as Ashanti led to war between the British and the Asante, and in , the Asante succeeded in killing the Governor as well as seven of his men. In retaliation, the British with the help of tribes oppressed by the Asante, including the Fante and the Ga beat the Asante back in , and successfully ended their dominance of coastal regions.