Belgium colonized Congo during the colonial period. As with most relationships between African countries and their colonizers, the relationship is one filled with strife. DRC Congo is a country that has a vast land, which is filled with minerals. This aspect made the DRC Congo an ideal target for Belgium’s search for natural resources. King Leopold II of Belgium established concessions with private entities. In all concessions, the Belgian ruler assumed the role of a primary stakeholder. The private entities applied extreme violence and force while extracting minerals. This led to the death of at least 10 million people in DRC Congo. This was about half of Congo’s population between 1880 and 1920 (Lowes & Montero, 2021).
Various perspectives are provided as regards the effects of colonization on Africans. For DRC Congo, various feelings are evoked by the colonization process due to the deaths that occurred. These feelings and discussions have led to an apology letter from Belgium’s king as he acknowledges the brutality of the country’s rule in Belgium during the colonial period. Belgium’s King Philippe issued an apology letter during Congo’s 60th independence anniversary. The letter acknowledged that the colonizer initiated discrimination as well as racism issues, which consistently aroused the pain that was inflicted on Congo’s citizens during the colonial period (Campbell, 2020). Besides the brutal murder of people in Congo during the colonial period, families were separated and enslaved by the colonizer. The armies constituted orphaned individuals. The country was simply King Leopold’s personal income venture. Eventually, Congo gained independence in 1960 (Schwikowski, 2020).
The colonized people of Congo have benefitted from the colonization by Belgium in various ways. First, the introduction of Western medicine has facilitated the ability to access more efficient healthcare services. Unfortunately, the healthcare system in Congo has been unable to evolve and sustain itself due to massive inefficiencies. Factors such as lack of funding, poor leadership, and lack of regulation of the health sector have led to the current state of healthcare. This scenario occurred as early as the 1970s, about a decade after gaining independence (Ntembwa & Lerberghe, 2015). This implies that while the introduction of Western medicine could have been beneficial, the process of implementation has been poor.
The other supposed benefit of colonization is the introduction of Western education. Education has been largely beneficial in other African nations. In DRC Congo, the uptake has been slow due to constant violence in the country. This environmental aspect has led to poor coverage as well as low quality. At least 3.5 million children who should be going to school are at home. For the few who are lucky to attend school, 44 percent begin late. According to National data, the students who get in school do not all manage to complete. Only 67 percent of those who join the first grade manage to get to the sixth grade. Among those who attain the sixth grade, only 75 percent manage to succeed in the exit examination. Interventions from international organizations such as the USAID as well as the United Kingdom Department for International Development have advanced assistance to the nation to ensure that education is accessible to more children and youth (USAID, 2021).
DRC Congo’s Leadership
DRC Congo is a rich country that is endowed with land and minerals. Congo’s independence has minimal significance as the country’s citizens continue to suffer in poverty, hunger, and corruption. Even after independence, Belgium’s influence in Congo’s affairs and the CIA continued to affect the country negatively. In 1961, Patrice Lumumba, who had been elected democratically as the first prime minister, was assassinated. Belgium and the USA supported Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship (Smith, 2010). Under his leadership, corruption became the norm. The leader deliberately exploited the citizens for his benefit. He held on to leadership for 30 years. After Mobutu Sese Seko was overthrown, the change of power reigns, and war has been the norm. Violence across the DRC Congo was used to maintain power. Killings and frequent sexual abuse in the form of rape occurred frequently. According to Thomas Elbert, a psychology professor, the use of violence during the colonial period may have heightened the willingness of the victims to exert aggression and violence, a process that is challenging to stop (Schwikowski, 2020). The lack of a healthy transition from colonial leadership into a system that is free of corruption perpetuated the current situation in Congo.
Trade with Belgium
DRC Congo and Belgium are involved in the trade. In 2019, DRC Congo exported goods worth $88.6 million to Belgium. Belgium exported goods worth $362 million to DRC Congo. Congo’s exports to Belgium included diamonds, cocoa beans, cobalt, coffee, sawn wood, and copper in its refined and scrap state. The diamonds constituted 49.9 percent of all exports. DRC Congo receives items such as vaccines, cultures, antisera, packaged medicaments, vehicle parts, delivery trucks, cars, poultry meat, excavation machinery, toilet paper, sauces, seasoning, instructional models, cotton, computers, beauty products, among others (OEC, 2018).
As seen in the list of things that DRC Congo imports from Belgium, local industries in the country are almost nonfunctional. DRC Congo relies on imports from Belgium for the most essential items, including food and toiletries. Based on a competitive landscape analysis by OEC for 2019, Belgium has a significant comparative advantage over DRC Congo (OEC, 2018). This situation can be explained by the country’s unstable and unfriendly political environment. For instance, human rights defenders, as well as activists, have been attacked by government authorities for speaking up against the current economic crisis and the effects it has on the people (Amnesty International, 2021). This situation explains the lack of freedom to express oneself or assemble in the country.
DRC Congo’s situation can be traced back to the colonial period. Belgium’s influence over the country features subtly despite the public apology for the events that the colonial perpetrated prior to Congo’s independence. However, Belgium’s failure to support Congo during its transition after independence can be blamed, especially due to its active role in supporting dictatorship. As a colonial master, it would have been advisable or beneficial for the country if peace-oriented political systems and facilitated the reasonable distribution of resources were set up. Failure to do so has made it exceptionally difficult for DRC Congo to reap or maximize the benefits associated with colonization. As a result, when compared to other African countries, DRC Congo continues to lag in different sectors such as education, health, trade, as well as political growth. The citizens continue to experience violence and lack basic services that are easily accessible in other nations.
Amnesty International. (2021). Republic of Congo: Crackdown on dissent as economic crisis exacerbates failures in health system. Retrieved from Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/04/republic-of-congo-crackdown-on-dissent-as-economic-crisis/
Campbell, J. (2020). Belgium Begins to Confront Its Brutal Colonial Past in Congo. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/blog/belgium-begins-confront-its-brutal-colonial-past-congo
Lowes, S., & Montero, E. (2021). Lasting effects of colonial-era resource exploitation in Congo: Concessions, violence, and indirect rule. Retrieved from https://voxdev.org/topic/institutions-political-economy/lasting-effects-colonial-era-resource-exploitation-congo-concessions-violence-and-indirect
Ntembwa, H. K., & Lerberghe, W. V. (2015). Improving Health System inefficiency. WHO.
OEC. (2018). OEC. Retrieved from https://oec.world/en/profile/bilateral-country/bel/partner/cod?compareExports0=comparisonOption3
Schwikowski, M. (2020). King Leopold’s legacy: The lingering chaos in DR Congo. Retrieved from DW: https://www.dw.com/en/king-leopolds-legacy-the-lingering-chaos-in-dr-congo/a-53982357
Smith, D. (2010). Is colonialism still to blame for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s woes? The Guardian.
USAID. (2021). Education. Retrieved from https://www.usaid.gov/democratic-republic-congo/education
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In this assignment, you will pick a pair of countries that are directly affecting one another in the global economy to analyze the effects that colonialism and globalization have had around the world today.
Analyze how the colonization of one country by another has affected the colonized people.
Consider the effects of free trade agreements between nations (which constitute globalization) that often exploit the cheap labor of already-poor nations.
Your analysis doesn’t have to concentrate entirely on the negatives; are there any beneficial aspects of colonialism and globalization? Make sure to support your position with relevant examples and citations.
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