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The economic legacy that the Frenchmen and Britons left

By XN Iraki | February 12th 2017

The Britons, the French and other colonial powers left their economic footprints despite uhuru. How did the colonies fare after uhuru? Was there a difference in the performance between the former British and French colonies?

Data on GDP growth rates for a sample of former British and French colonies is analysed. We get the average growth rates one year after uhuru for each country up to 2015. Data is sourced from World Bank. Egypt got its uhuru in 1921 and is removed from the sample. Part of Somali was under Britain and is also removed.

There are former 15 British and 18 French colonies in the analysis. This is considered representative enough. The top five performers are all British. The last bottom performers are French, except Zimbabwe.

The mean for British sample is 4.45 per cent per annum, while that of France is 3.48. Though British colonies are faring better, the performance is not statistically significant. If you remove Zimbabwe among the British colonies, the performance between the colonies is now significant. Zimbabwe is clearly an outlier. The coups in West Africa could also be a factor in depressed economic performance of former French colonies.

Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the two powers were different in their approach to governance and even economics. For the French, it was about tight control of the colonies, before and after uhuru. That includes treaties that took care of French interests, at times to the detriment of the former colonies. Is it true that some colonies still pay colonial debt for the benefits of France colonisation? In my last visit to Senegal, I got a visa from French Embassy.

Britons allowed more latitude including the famous indirect rule. A visit to West Africa brings out the differences between the former French and British colonies. Conversations with citizens of former French colonies are very different from those of British colonies who seem to exude lots of self confidence. Do you agree?

The difference between the two colonial powers has outlasted colonialism. The last time I wanted to visit Morocco, a former French colony, I had to take a flight through Dubai. I hear now you can get a direct flight. Will France catch up with Kenya’s key export markets that include Uganda, UK, Tanzania, the Netherlands and USA? Will France join the list of Kenya’s key import markets which includes India, China, United Arab Emirates, Japan and South Africa? How will key trading and investment partners particularly UK (after Brexit) react to French economic inroads?

More poignantly, will French economic interests lead to political interests?

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