Dr. Walter Rodney wrote in his book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” that under-development is not absence of development, since all people have developed in one way or another and to a greater or lesser extent. Under-development makes sense only as a means of comparing levels of development. It is very much tied to the fact that human social development has been uneven and from a strictly economic view-point, some human groups have advanced further by producing more and becoming more wealthy.
After Britain had begun to move ahead of the rest of Europe in the 18th century, the British economist Adam Smith felt it necessary to look into the causes behind the ‘Wealth of Nations’. At the same time, many Russians were very concerned about the fact that their country was ‘backward’ in comparison with England, France and Germany. Today, our main pre-occupation is with the differences in wealth between Europe and North America on the one hand and Africa, Asia and Latin America on the other. In comparison with the first, the second group can be said to be backward or underdeveloped. A second and even more indispensable component of modern underdevelopment is that it expresses a particular relationship of exploitation: namely, the exploitation of one country by another. All of the countries named as ‘underdeveloped’ are exploited by others; and is a product of capitalism, imperialism and colonialism. African and Asian societies were developing independently until they were taken over directly or indirectly by the capitalist powers. When that happened, exploitation increased and the export of surplus ensued, depriving the societies of the benefit of their natural resources and labor. That is an integral part of underdevelopment in the contemporary sense. It is within that context that The Cutting Edge presents an excerpt from a speech by President Barack Obama at this week’s U.S.-African Leaders Summit on investing in Africa’s Future.
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