Why was Eurocentrism significant in Africa?

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European imperialism was a multifaceted enterprise in terms of the motivating factors that drove it. Certainly, material riches in the form of precious metals were sought, as was the prestige that accrued to the nations that succeeded in conquering more territory. Another factor in the drive to conquer territories in other continents was the perceived requirement to spread not just Christianity but European culture and practices as well. The sense of racial superiority that permeated European cultures compelled the process of colonization to include the imposition on conquered peoples of systems of government and ways of living that reflected the nations from which conquering expeditions sprang.

This was the nexus of Eurocentrism and colonialism in Africa. Across the continent, French, British, German, Portuguese and Spanish systems of government and culture were systematically imposed upon the captured nations victimized by European imperialism.

Nationalism is a powerful and natural force. Occasionally, that nationalism is imbued with a strong sense of racial and cultural superiority. Such sentiments do not necessarily propel imperialistic tendencies, but sometimes they do. The history of European imperialism was, as noted, strongly influenced by a sense of ethnic and cultural superiority that colonizers felt compelled to spread to non-European peoples.

Visit any country in Africa or Asia once colonized and one will invariably witness untold indicators of Eurocentrism, from architecture to civil service structure to language. Christianity, as with Islam, came to Africa through imperialism as well as through more benign avenues like trade. English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are still spoken in those African regions once colonized by those European powers. All of this is a product of Eurocentrism.

Eurocentrism was significant in Africa because it imposed foreign characteristics on native or indigenous cultures, depriving those indigenous peoples of their traditions and customs. Borders were imposed by European forces alien to local tribal and clan divisions with ramifications still felt today in Africa as well as in the Middle East. What Africa would have looked like absent a history of European colonialism we will never know. What is known is that those outside forcibly imposed influences created a lot of problems for contemporary Africa.

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