Post-independence African Policy: African Socialism and the Organization of African Unity

  •  Asfaw Kumssa    
  •  John F. Jones    


This article discusses the immediate post-independence African policy and the consequences of Africa’s national sovereignty—African socialism in its various forms, and the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The political trends in Africa in the 1940s and 1950s were largely leftist, partly as a reaction to the colonial countries that the new African leaders viewed as predominantly capitalist and an economic threat to Africa’s development. After independence, several African countries embarked upon state controlled economic development policy, involving central planning and a large public sector. Right after independence Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, and later Ethiopia embraced socialist ideology and embarked on centrally planned socialist development strategy. The growing appeal of Socialism and the central planning model in general, and of public enterprises in particular, arose from the recognition that the public sector is a very important instrument at the disposal of the state for the achievement of sustainable development. Moreover, nationalist African leaders embraced a state controlled development strategy because it gave them the opportunity to control private and foreign enterprises, which they viewed as agents of exploitation and domination. African nationalists were eager to bring their countries up to the socioeconomic level of other modern nations with social service systems for health, education, and welfare. However, the centralised development strategy not only hindered economic growth but also created subtle bureaucratic system that became an impediment to development. In response to this problem and encouraged by the collapse of the Soviet System and the end of the Cold War, many African countries introduced economic and political reforms that include liberalization of the economy and democratization of their polity. They have embraced the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) and limited the role of state to the provision of some services while private initiative and ownership and role of the market are encouraged. Unfortunately, the results of the reform have not been as satisfactory as the policymakers might have wished. Social safety nets, whether traditional or government-supported, have often been dismantled. Public social programmes, such as education and health services, have slowed or ground to a halt, while at the same time unemployment or underemployment have increased because of privatization schemes and the reduction of government subsidies to state-run enterprises. While this has been a fact of life in practically all transitional economies, African countries already burdened with foreign debt had felt the pain most acutely. The problem was finding models applicable to a mainly agricultural region in contrast to the welfare systems of industrial countries. To make the choices harder, the European and North American systems differed in their social service delivery systems from those of Japan or Australia. The article also discusses the reasons for the overthrow of the various African colonies of France, Britain, and Portugal, and the eventual destruction of apartheid’s white supremacy in South Africa and Namibia in the late 1900s. A number of factors contributed to the emergence of new movements in the 1980s and 1990s, notably women’s civil rights. New geopolitical and economic patterns overturned much of the social policy and planning in Africa. OAU lasted for four decades, and only in 2004 was it replaced by the African Union.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • Issn(Print): 1927-517X
  • Issn(Onlne): 1927-5188
  • Started: 2012
  • Frequency: semiannual

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