oa Africa Insight - Middle Africa's economic islands of development - Thirty years on

Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-2804



In the early 1960s, when independence came to most tropical African countries (those between the Sahara and Southern Africa), William Hance showed that no less than 85 per cent of these countries' exports came from a number of ""islands of development"" covering only 5 per cent of the region's total area. These economic islands had resulted from the penetration in colonial times of the West's modem market economy into a region in which the vast majority of the population were still engaged in subsistence production. This penetration took different forms. In some areas, notably Uganda and Cameroon, African peasant farmers were encouraged to produce cash crops for export; in others, European-run plantations or estates were established; in others again, European farmers were settled on alienated land, as took place in Kenya; and mines were opened where resources could be profitably exploited - as in Zaire and Gabon.

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