We are witnessing a rapidly transforming global landscape marked by numerous ongoing and new conflicts. The emergence of a new multipolar world and global order holds the promise of peace and prosperity for all. However, the impact of colonization on Africa remains profound and enduring.
The consequences of colonization have had a lasting impact on Africa. Even after these nations regained their independence, they continue to grapple with the enduring effects of racism, economic instability, development challenges, income and wealth inequality, weak government infrastructure, and religious conflicts. The term "neocolonialism," as articulated by Nkrumah in his 1965 book "Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism," is instrumental in understanding these dynamics.
Neocolonialism, at its core, involves the deceptive appearance of state independence while being controlled by external economic and political influences. Post-colonial Africa has witnessed the perpetuation of Western economic models and the influence of transnational corporations from Europe and America, and more recently, from China. Some African scholars argue that the new face of neocolonialism is globalization, representing the latest stage of European and American economic and cultural dominance on a global scale.
Africa continues to grapple with the challenges posed by neocolonialism, exacerbated by external interests. The U.S. has displayed a keen interest in the vast mineral resources of the Congo, including Congolese uranium, which was among the world's richest and used in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The struggle for genuine independence and sovereign control of the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) resources, as championed by Patrice Lumumba, the first elected prime minister of the DRC, was marred by his brutal humiliation, torture, and assassination in January 1961, with involvement from the U.S. and Belgian governments.
Leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah aspired for their nations to chart anti-imperialist paths towards genuine independence. Nkrumah envisioned industrial progress for Ghana, beginning with hydroelectric dams to harness the country's potential. However, external forces, including the U.S., UK, and the World Bank, withdrew their support after Nkrumah was overthrown in a military coup in 1966, effectively quashing his development ambitions for Ghana. It was only decades later that the Akosombo Dam was finally built, thanks to Chinese contracts.
Julius Nyerere in Tanzania focused on the development of villages and food security, while Zambia, rich in copper mines but under British control, faced issues of limited access to electricity and basic amenities. When the U.S. and World Bank declined to support Zambia, President Kenneth Kaunda reached out to the Soviet bloc and China for assistance. China subsequently constructed a $500 million railway linking Zambia to the Indian Ocean through Tanzania. Zambia's nationalization of copper mines aimed to improve living conditions rather than enrich foreign investors.
Cote d'Ivoire, a major producer of cocoa and coffee, was plagued by endemic poverty due to its pro-Western leader, Felix Houphouët-Boigny. The Western hostility towards African aspirations forced many countries to turn to the 'socialist' camp for infrastructure development and human resource enhancement. However, increased African government indebtedness led to the acceptance of structural adjustment conditions imposed by international financial institutions. Unfortunately, these conditions did not lead to improvements in the African economy.
A crucial aspect of colonization lies in its continuing exploitation of resources, which disadvantages newly independent countries. The past legacy of European colonialism still casts a shadow over Africa, where colonial influences persist. The United Kingdom has leveraged its power and influence to ensure British mining companies' access to Africa's raw materials, a practice that continues to this day. British companies exercise control over Africa's most valuable mineral resources, including gold, platinum, diamonds, copper, coal, gas, and oil. With 101 British companies operating mining ventures in 37 sub-Saharan countries, they wield influence over assets worth over $1 trillion.
The UK government has wielded its power to exploit Africa's mineral resources, all the while leaving behind a trail of social, environmental, and human abuses. Many nations that were formerly colonized never truly extricated themselves from the grip of colonial influence. The ongoing issue of 'debt slavery' reflects a situation where a financially challenged continent is, paradoxically, funding the development of more affluent nations. This intricate web is overseen by a global financial consortium comprising the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and other financial institutions.
The IMF, in particular, has been instrumental in providing Africa with expensive loans that the continent can ill afford to repay. In search of alternatives, some African nations are turning to the BRICS Bank, contemplating the abandonment of the U.S. dollar. It's noteworthy that Africa's banks, as reported by The Economist in 2020, rank among the most profitable in the world, yet they are also among the least effective.
In reality, the publication didn't mince words, as these less efficient banks could be seen as nothing more than a cohort of thieves disguised as bankers. The individuals heading these African banks appear unapologetic about perpetuating colonialist stereotypes to justify exorbitant interest rates.
In certain instances, certain African leaders, like those in Uganda, are selling off government assets to foreign capitalists. These post-colonial countries, lacking a local capitalist class, resort to offshoring their profits and keeping them hidden from public scrutiny. This hidden wealth often finds its way to cities like London and Paris, perpetuating the economic injustices borne from colonialism.
In the case of former French colonies, France has managed to retain substantial control over their economies and politics through a neocolonial system. Central to this is the management of natural resources and the use of the CFA franc, which was established in 1945 by decree of General de Gaulle. France has effectively installed puppet governments in many African nations and maintained a hold over their economic surplus. This arrangement dates back to 1871, effectively keeping many African countries in a state of debt slavery. The Central Bank of West African States and the Bank of Central African States are mandated to deposit 50 percent of their foreign exchange reserves in a special French Treasury 'operating account.'
A growing social movement is emerging, demanding the collective withdrawal of African countries from the CFA (African Colonial Franc). A group of African and European economists has even published a book on this subject titled "Liberate Africa from Monetary Slavery: Who Profits from the CFA Franc?" With more than 40,000 French companies actively operating in Africa, along with numerous large multinationals such as Total Energies, Areva, and Vinci, French dominance of the continent has persisted and intensified in recent years. It is becoming increasingly evident that several West African governments are openly rebelling against French influence.
Instead of genuinely supporting African aspirations, the Western world has often prioritized its own economic interests, all the while professing to endorse postcolonial ambitions. Neocolonialism undoubtedly stands as the foremost impediment to Africa's economic development.
In recent years, there has been a notable increase in China's presence in Africa. China has established military alliances with six African states, four of which are major oil suppliers: Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, and Sudan. While China has not yet established any military bases on the continent, there are plans for a naval logistic centre in Djibouti. Chinese peacekeepers have been deployed to countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and Western Sahara. China characterizes its investments and loans in Africa as mutually beneficial cooperation and adopts a position contrary to Western governments, emphasizing a policy of non-interference in internal politics.
China has been actively building relationships with resource-rich African nations, primarily due to its own growing shortage of raw materials. In these partnerships, China offers not only financial assistance but also technological expertise, labour, low-interest loans, and favourable financial conditions for infrastructure development projects. However, China faces significant challenges due to the extensive loans it extended during the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) boom. Balancing the need for debt repayment with its image as a friend of developing nations presents a complex dilemma. Currently, China stands as Africa's largest trading partner, with over 10,000 Chinese firms operating across the African continent. Africa has become a thriving market for China's low-cost manufactured goods, and Chinese industry has found a receptive audience in Africa.
Russia's influence in Africa is on the rise and appears to have a lasting presence. Moscow has a historical legacy, diplomatic ties, economic engagements, and military-security relationships that have contributed to the continent's continued willingness to engage with Russia. African nations did not condemn Russia's special operation in Ukraine, and the continent continues to harbour sympathy and respect for Russia. Since the 1950s, the Soviet Union, and now Russia, has actively shaped Africa's political and security landscape by providing substantial economic and security assistance, supporting independence movements, and aiding African governments. Russia has inked numerous bilateral agreements covering military, economic, and security cooperation and even forgiven billions of dollars in African debt. Trade revenue between Russia and African countries nearly doubled, growing from $9.9 billion to $17.9 billion by 2021.
Grain exports are particularly important, with nearly 30% of Africa's grain supplies coming from Russia. Russia delivered almost 10 million tons of grains in the first half of 2023 to some of the continent's most populous countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, and Sudan. Russia has also provided fertilizer to the poorest nations in need. Russia exports wheat, corn, coal, refined petroleum, and electronics while importing fruits, sugar, and minerals. The Russian Federation aims to further support Africa's emergence as a distinctive and influential centre of global development. Russian companies offer valuable business and technological expertise in various key African industries. Energy and nuclear cooperation agreements are a key strategic focus for Russia in Africa. Although Russia's engagement in Africa is still relatively modest, it serves as a significant supplier of arms to the continent, accounting for 40% of African imports of major weapons systems.
Africa boasts abundant critical minerals and metals; however, it requires significant infrastructure investment to strengthen its position as a key supply chain destination. African nations must secure improved mining contracts and exploration licenses for metals essential to high-tech products and supply chains. Africa has the potential to become a leading manufacturing hub for tech-intensive industries, providing an opportunity to boost emerging sectors, foster economic growth, and generate jobs for millions of inhabitants. The continent possesses a burgeoning, technology-savvy younger workforce and a growing middle class with an increasing demand for sophisticated goods and services.
Over the coming decades, dozens of African cities are expected to join the ranks of the world's largest megalopolises, driven by substantial urban migration. These megacities, such as Lagos, Johannesburg, Cairo, Khartoum, Kinshasa, and Abidjan, are grappling with rapid, overpopulated growth. Africa's overall population has multiplied, but it has also faced a series of challenges, including wars, famines, diseases, droughts, and floods that have ravaged the countryside. Land disputes, conflicts, campaigns of ethnic cleansing, inequality, foreign investments, and urban planning have contributed to mass displacement, migrations, and the ongoing transformation of the continent. In 2020, Africa hosted around 40 percent of the world's internationally displaced people, with nearly 9 million individuals affected.
Sub-Saharan Africa was plagued by violent conflicts and coups in 2022, with such events continuing into 2023. The international community appeared inactive in response to these crises, particularly in former French colonies like Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso. France retains the largest military presence in Africa among all former colonial powers. However, a military junta in Niger ordered the French ambassador and French military forces to leave the country, signalling Africa's struggle to assert its independence and free itself from Western neocolonial influences. For centuries, African nations have endured human rights abuses and resource exploitation. To prosper, Africa's people must demand an end to corruption, authoritarian regimes, and European colonialism. Unity and the realization of full independence from colonial forces are essential, including denying European, U.S., and Arab nation’s access to African resources. Taking these actions is crucial to improving the well-being of African people and ensuring peace and safety, with the rest following naturally.