The University Of Sheffield

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This chapter has justified the purpose of the thesis, which demonstrates the role of the EU’s trade system with West Africa countries in preventing diversification and economic change in the region. The counterfactual argument is that the region would be much more diversified without the EU trade system. Two key imperatives for diversification are identified. First, it is necessary to diversify into industry for the purpose of structural transformation from a low equilibrium to a high equilibrium following a movement from agriculture to industry. Furthermore, there is a need to diversify away from colonial economic specialisation due to the structural ceiling limiting production systems installed during the colonial era. In this setting, an international-trade system such as the EU’s trade system with West African countries, which prevents diversification and protects a static production system, may obstruct the natural process of diversification that would otherwise occur after the depletion of vital production resources. To the extent that the continued production amounts to mass poverty, this can be read as an epiphenomenon of the EU trade system.

Diversification could disrupt the division of labour created in the colonial system, just as the diversification away from cocoa could lead to a global shortage in the raw material needed for chocolate production. Indeed, chocolate multinationals have recently lobbied the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in a bid to prevent a shortage in the supply of cocoa, but continuing production after forestland makes very little economic sense for West African countries. The desire to retain African countries in the annexes of the European economic system, to ensure their continued supply of raw materials, was to a certain extent the rationale for the creation of the EU trade system, as shown in the next chapter. Although this thesis is not fixated on a neo-colonial framework to study the EU trade system, it is a historical fact that the EU trade and development system was created to preserve the position of West African countries in the colonial economic system. This is the outcome of the trade system, although studied here as a function of the interaction between the trade system and local political strategies for survival.

Before addressing the main issues under study, the subsequent chapter investigates the historical background of the EU trade system (up to the point of its creation). It shows that the trade system was conceived and constructed as a perfect replacement for the colonial economic system, in both language and practice.

Chapter 4. Historical Background of West Africa- EU Trade System


This chapter provides a historical background to the trade system between the EU and West Africa. It shows that the EEC trade system is a perfect reproduction of the colonial relationship on the discursive level. It shows that the trade system that emerged during decolonisation did not begin from an empty slate; instead, it was a palimpsest of the colonial trade system, purposely designed in the European language of integration as a program for maintaining European economic influence on the African continent.

The chapter is organised around the following three themes.

  • The European language/justification of intervention

  • The European context of intervention

  • The outcomes of intervention

In terms of European language of intervention, the development theory of history, according to which progress—cultural and later economic—takes place in hierarchically ordered stages, provided the language used to justify European intervention. The original rationale for colonial rule was the civilising mission, which grouped non-Europeans into the category of the deviant “other” to be corrected through colonisation. This mission was codified in the 1884-5 Berlin Conference. Before the EEC joined the discourse, the “other” had already been transformed from “cultural other” (uncivilised/savage) to “economic other” (poor/undeveloped) in Britain and France. Frederick Cooper argued that “[t]he ideological context in which Great Britain and France turned to development—the need to find a progressive basis for continued colonial rule in an era when major powers had made ‘self-determination’ a slogan of international politics—coincided with the heightened needs both had for their empires” (Cooper 1997: 70). The EEC’s adoption of a self-imposed duty or mandate to develop the colonies was thus a perfect continuation of the colonial system; or simply a continuation of the “white man’s burden” in new form.

In terms of the context of intervention, the conference that inaugurated the colonial system—the Berlin Conference—was originally held to repair the relationships between European countries injured by increased demand for African territories (Saito, 2010: 164; Louis, 2006: 77), and in practice had nothing to do with a civilising mission. This context was replicated by the EEC in a post-war setting as this chapter will show that African colonies were originally included in the European integration project to reorganise Europe after the war, not to develop the African continent. For example, the first post-war project of European integration was proposed by Ernest Bevin, who argued that “it would be necessary to mobilise the resources of Africa in support of a Western European Union; and if some such union could be created, including not only the countries of Western Europe but also their Colonial possessions in Africa [...] this would form a bloc which, both in population and productive capacity, could stand on an equality with the western hemisphere and the Soviet blocs” (quoted in Deighton 2006: 842). The context for intervention was thus shaped by Europe’s declining influence in global politics.

In this chapter, the outcomes of intervention are assessed only in the colonial era; the outcomes of the EEC’s trade systems are addressed in the rest of the thesis. The chapter shows that the primary outcome of intervention was to determine the specialisation of West African countries. The rest of the chapter is structured chronologically, in two parts.

In the first part of the chapter (the pattern), the development theory of history is presented as an abstraction from which the civilising mission and the development mission were derived. The use of Africa in the Berlin Conference to organise peace in Europe is explored separately from the language of justification. The outcome is shown to be the determination of specialisation.

The second part (the replication) of the chapter begins by addressing the conscious shift in the vocabulary of the development theory of history. The concept of a development mission replaced that of a civilising mission at the beginning of the Second World War. This shift was deliberate on the part of Britain and France, to prevent echoes of the “civilising” goals of Germany’s National Socialism. The new philosophy of colonialism was development. To restore Europe’s waning influence in the post-war setting, negotiations were held on European integration and the inclusion of the colonies. This was the context of the Rome Treaty and the EEC’s self-imposed mission to develop the ex-colonies.

The chronological structure of the chapter enables diachronic investigation of the language of justification from the Berlin Conference to the Rome Treaty.

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