The Danger of Neo-Imperialism
“Africa is a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism . Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below the soil continue to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa’s impoverishment.”
-Kwame Nkrumah, First Prime Minister and President of Ghana, Pan African Revolutionary, Founder of the Organization of African Unity
The Early Signs
Neocolonialism is a new wave of globalism and imperialism that does not use the direct military control or political hegemony. The awareness of the term became popularized by Kwame Nkrumah in the 1950’s to describe the risk Africans face with decolonization, a new form of manipulation for European expansion. Kwame Nkrumah emphasizes that this new form of neocolonialism is done behind closed doors. ‘
A quote from Kwame Nkrumah’s book Neo-Colonialism reads:
“The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality, its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from the outside.”
Correlations can be made between the actions now and during global colonization from the last half millennia. Before missionaries and foreign powers would enter African states with promises of salvation, development and building meanwhile serving their own self interests of a slave labor force that relates back to their dollar. Now the framework has changed to corporations and nations promising development, debt security and economic/political salvation meanwhile serving their own self-interests relating back to monetary reasons. Ultimately this widens the gap between the rich and poor, makes it so that the principles such as nepotism can occur, people can empower themselves through exploitation, the first president of Ghana and the one that started the Pan African movement across Africa. One study has shown that sub-Saharan Africa is given about $134 billion from loans and investments towards development from world powers. At the same time, about $192 billion dollars has been taking out of the country in debt payments, profits for multinational corporations, and claims on natural resource reserves.
The term soft power must be understood to have a framework on the utilization of neo-imperialist policies. Instead of the old method of European entities carving out Africa and having direct and indirect rule, the new method is to gain political control of the military, trade networks, and the infrastructure by garnering favors through personal relationships and business deals. For the goal of maintaining constant political influence and control over the nations’ natural resources, foreign direct investments on the nation’s infrastructure. The predatory loans and business transactions done by foreign institutions such as the IMF and World Bank have put Africa further into debt. This has created a distrust for western powers and capitalist systems to create a vacuum of exploitation for nations such China to fill. China took the chance because of the global shift from relying on Chinese manufacturing, which comprised a big chunk of the Chinese economy, it needed a new way to get natural resources for its manufacturing sector. Sub-Saharan Africa has over 50% of the world’s cobalt reserves, 77% of the world’s manganese reserves, and 88% of the world’s platinum group metal reserves. With many other avenues to pursue business and diplomatic exploits, it becomes clearer why nations have shifted their gaze upon Africa.
There are strong parallels between the reasons behind the actions being taken now and those that occurred during African colonization in recent world history. Before, missionaries and foreign powers would enter African states with promises of salvation, development, and altruism meanwhile serving their own self interests of a slave labor force that relates back to their dollar. Now the framework has changed to corporations and nations promising development, debt security and economic/political salvation meanwhile serving their own self-interests relating back to monetary reasons. Ultimately this widens the gap between the rich and poor, makes it so that the principles such as nepotism can occur, people can empower themselves through exploitation, the first president of Ghana and the one that started the Pan African movement across Africa. One study has shown that sub-Saharan Africa is given about $134 billion from loans and investments towards development from world powers. At the same time, about $192 billion dollars has been taking out of the country in debt payments, profits for multinational corporations, and claims on natural resource reserves.
The turn of the 21st century marked a significant shift in the economic trajectory of China, a foreign nation that has sought global economic expansion and has since used Africa as the biggest area for investing. African scholars view the Chinese economic control on African states as a method of exploitation and manipulation of the economic system of the different nations for sociopolitical gain as well as growing its economic capital. Chinese monopolistic foreign policies are comparable to those of European empires in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the simplest form, foreign nations acquire the resources in Africa and use them for their own monetary gain. Instead of keeping up a true symbiotic relationship with African states which they initially presented their involvement in Africa would result in, Chinese intervention in various issues of the states (which they have indirectly caused or have a direct influence in) often occurs when their own interests are at stake. Examples of this occurrence are when their stake in oil is at risk in Sudan or the detestable attacks on Chinese nationalists in Mali occur.
Chinese corporations over the decades have become one of the biggest investors in the African economy. The Chinese Communist Party’s intervention on the continent, through its growing manufacturing, construction, and trade industries, is seen as having implemented neo-colonialist policies. There are projects such as the OBOR project which plan to place maritime routes for Chinese exports all along the coast of Africa. China started in sub Saharan Africa created the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation which laid the foundation of manipulative policies by “broaden[ing] trade, increasing African imports and finally promoting the balance and fast development of China-Africa trade”. The FOCAC immediately began educational programs, significant debt forgiveness and pathways for political cooperation for facilitating pathways for business networking and trade. China funded the US$200 million African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia, and infrastructure projects in 50 of the 54 African states such as highways, subway, and railroad systems. Through its natural resource in exchange for investments in African development, Chinese corporations have been able to control the economies of impoverished nations. Only Chinese constructions firms and workers have been used in these projects, displacing many Africans from jobs.
The predatory loans plunging African states further into debt create the space for the Chinese create political favors in exchange for debt forgiveness. These political favors involve having the nations agree with China in United Nations decisions, offering jobs to Chinese nationalist instead of local Africans, the immediate release of Chinese nationalists known to have done illegal mining operations and child labor, and to end diplomatic relations that go against Chinese interests. Angola, Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ghana, and many other nations owe China billions of dollars in natural resources. Some of the nations have suffered through civil wars. Angolan imports of goods into China have increased over the years and now China controls over 30% of the Angolan economy.
The Next Steps
While foreign intervention pushing the development of African states is not inherently a bad thing, exploitation for monetary or political gain is not right. Aid in a nation’s infrastructure is a good thing at face value but not when multinational corporations are effectively draining Africa’s resources and negatively contribute to the debt crises. To stop the continued manipulation of Africa, the other foreign world powers need to take a stance and create a robust anti-imperialist strategy in conjunction with the African Union. The policies created would need to hold leaders of Africa accountable for their corruption. to start supplying Africa with non-predatory loans, with non-exploitative debt forgiveness policies.
More global exposure to the manipulative and predatory practices needs to occur to bring more awareness to the issues plaguing the continent. This dilemma is so expansive and multifaceted that a certain level of altruism is needed by foreign entities for the appropriate intervention to occur. One of the best ways that you can help is by reaching out to your nations’ ambassador or United Nations representative to advocate for the creation of a robust strategy to deter aggressive foreign corporate policies and the corruption of its officials.