Dependency Theory: Causes of Inequalities between African and European Countries

As a part of development economics, dependency theory posits that global economic disparities are shaped by the historical exploitation of less developed countries by developed ones. This article explores the causes of inequalities between African and European countries from a dependency theory perspective, focusing on the historical implications, the current state of economic structures, and the role of international aid.

Highlights

According to dependency theory, the causes of inequalities between African and European countries include:

  1. Historical Implications of Colonialism: Colonialism led to the extraction of Africa’s resources by Europe, establishing a long-term dependency that disadvantaged Africa.
  2. Economic Structures and Trade Dependencies: Current global economic systems and trade agreements often favor developed European nations, placing African countries at a disadvantage.
  3. The Role of International Aid: Aid from developed countries often comes with conditions that may inadvertently perpetuate the dependency of African countries, increasing disparities instead of reducing them.

Dependency Theory: Causes of Inequalities between African and European Countries

1. Historical Implications of Colonialism

Colonialism significantly contributed to the economic disparities seen today between African and European nations. Europeans exploited Africa’s resources for centuries, leaving the continent with few resources to develop (Bach, 1999). The legacy of colonialism, including infrastructural and institutional deficiencies, continues to influence Africa’s economic trajectory.

Europeans largely extracted wealth from Africa and invested it in Europe, leading to significant industrial advancements in European countries at the expense of African development. This created a dependency, where African economies relied on European countries for finished goods, whereas European economies exploited African countries for raw materials (Escobar, 2016). This dependency persists today, contributing to the persistent economic disparities.

2. Economic Structures and Trade Dependencies

Current global economic structures perpetuate inequalities between African and European nations. According to the dependency theory, developed countries, in this case, European countries, control the world market, creating an economic structure that benefits them more than less developed countries, such as those in Africa (Cardoso & Faletto, 1979).

Trade agreements often favor developed nations, placing African countries at a disadvantage. For instance, tariffs, subsidies, and other trade regulations often favor European countries, making it difficult for African countries to compete fairly in the international market. Additionally, African economies are often dependent on exporting a limited range of primary commodities, making them vulnerable to price fluctuations in the global market.

3. The Role of International Aid

International aid, though often intended to reduce inequalities, can sometimes inadvertently perpetuate them. Dependency theorists argue that aid from developed countries, such as those in Europe, often comes with conditions that can perpetuate the dependency of African countries (Escobar, 2016).

Aid often requires economic liberalization or the implementation of certain policies that may not always be in the best interest of the receiving country. Additionally, the provision of aid can sometimes undermine local industries and discourage self-sufficiency, thereby increasing dependency. Therefore, while aid can potentially play a role in reducing inequality, its implementation and conditions often need to be critically assessed.

In conclusion, the dependency theory offers a critical lens through which the persistent economic disparities between African and European nations can be analyzed. To reduce these disparities, systemic issues such as the legacy of colonialism, the global economic structure, and the role of international aid need to be addressed.

References

Bach, D. C. (1999). Regionalisation in Africa: Integration & Disintegration. Indiana University Press.

Cardoso, F. H., & Faletto, E. (1979). Dependency and Development in Latin America. University of California Press.

Escobar, A. (2016). Dependency Theory: A Useful Tool for Analyzing Global Inequalities Today. [online] E-International Relations. Available at: https://www.e-ir.info/2016/11/23/dependency-theory-a-useful-tool-for-analyzing-global-inequalities-today/ [Accessed 26 May 2023].

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