However, the African countries managed to fight for their independence and today they are all sovereign states regardless of being rocked by their own internal challenges. But, wait a moment, there is an elephant in the room! China, Russia, Japan and the United States invented an advanced colonial tactic in the form of economic-colonialism. Though the Russia, United States and the Asian economic giants seem somehow late comers to the colonial fray, their warfare does not involve the sound gunshots, theirs is about economic control of resource territories. With abundant unexploited gold, diamonds, platinum, copper, gas and oil reserves among other natural resources, there is justified interest by these economic giants to pursue Africa.
While there has been reduced direct influence by EU member states upon Africa, there are new players taking up the space previously occupied by the former colonisers. China, Russia, Japan and the United States are expanding their sphere of influence into Africa at an ever increasing rate. Could it be that they are taking advantage of Africa’s desperate need for FDI? China has the China Africa Cooperation, Japan has TICAD (Tokyo International Cooperation for African Development) Russia proudly host the Russia Africa Summit, an annual event that was recently held a few days ago in Sochi while the US has several initiates with African countries with the iced US – Africa Business Summit. The battle for territorial influence by these economic giants is real. The question to ask is what is driving the scramble for a footing in Africa? Do they want to foster a symbiotic win-win relationship or they want to exploit Africa?
At the recent Russia Africa summit, the Russian president Mr Vladimir Putin pledged to support African countries through loans with no interest cost. His initiative seems to be broking a win-win mutually beneficial deal to the capital hungry African states while securing opportunities for Russia to tape into the vast natural resources of Africa. Of particular importance is the fact that Russia is not very new to Africa, she played a critical role in assisting African nations to fight against colonialism. Thus the general perception is African states regard Russia as a big brother coming to their rescue. Russia seem to be bringing a better deal when compared to the Chinese who are regarded more as exploiters than investors. Moreover Russia’s willingness to respect the sovereign status of African states makes her a better alternative when juxtaposed against the commanding tone of America and EU countries that try to interfere with Africa’s political affairs.
Not to be left in the game of forming alliances with Africa is the United States. America has always assisted Africa largely on humanitarian grounds. But the new perspective of Africa emerging as the world’s fastest growing economy offers a broad spectrum for the US-Africa ties. As much as American investors are regarded as credible, pro-development and doing business in a sustainable and progressive manner, they also exert unwanted political influence to African states. They are also known to go the extent of supporting rival opposition political offshoots and establishing puppet governments which in turn will give them unrestricted access to resources. They are alleged to be the master-minders of the movement that toppled Maumar Gadhafi in Libya while in Zimbabwe they funded the Movement for Democratic Change that saw Morgan Tsvangirai rising against the ZANU PF led government. Thus their increasing visibility in Africa will always attract mixed views. Are they investors, or friends bringing humanitarian assistance or clandestine capitalists disguising themselves in humanitarian garb to gain entry into this lucrative territory? Are they modern imperialists competing with Russia, China and Japan over control of the vast African territory?
Dangling their carrots in the air to lure African statesmen are the Japanese. Japanese are widely regarded as very innovative the world over. Their interests in Africa were relatively mild during the twentieth century, doing much less than general trade of raw materials needed for their high resource consuming and technically advanced industry. But the twenty-first century has seen tables turning. Their interests in Africa are growing as much to compete with other significant players like America, Chana and Russia. The government of Japan has also offered scholarships to African students to show their commitment to the African continent. They also donate technological equipment like computers and laboratory apparatus in schools, colleges and universities of Africa. No one can tell why their interest is growing but lately Africa has become a dumping ground for cheap, low class second-hand Japanese vehicles. This has seen the freight moving companies like Be Forward and other freight handling and shipment firms setting up offices in many African countries. Does Africa offer Japan prospects of overseas industrial expansion given her cheap labour force and an ever consuming young population?
More visible than all the above are the Chinese. They have grown to be one of Africa’s largest trading partner in the last eighteen years. Intense competition for land and space in their home country offers less prospects for new startups to compete with established players, thus they turn to Africa where there are high prospects for growth. Their advanced industry experience also gives them a competitive edge in the African market which is relatively primitive compared to the sophisticated and automated Chinese industry which is catapulted with greater economies of scale. China is also comfortable with the relaxed regulations for doing business in many African states. Africa therefore offers them opportunities for business and a safe home to expatriate their excess population that now exceed 1.4 billion people. However, they have been regarded largely as exploiters than investors.
Unlike the British and Americans, the Chinese investment model does not develop sound infrastructure in their host countries. They are also reported cases of Chinese employers underpaying and overworking employees in Africa. The worst of all is they work in cohorts with corrupt African leaders to loot away natural resources and externalising proceeds of investments generated in Africa. Their involvement in Zimbabwe’s diamond mining was characterised by a mysterious dark cloud. Their involvement with the Zambian government left a lot of questions unanswered.
Africa be alert
Having said all, it is imperative to say that African leaders should be wary of the increasing interest by these countries. Investment deals brought about by foreigners should be on a win-win basis. Because of the increasing scramble for Africa, she must also increase her bargaining power and broker deals that are sustainable both in the short run and long run. In all their engagements with China, Russia, Japan and the United States, African statesmen must be putting on future lenses. If not so, they will sell both their birthright to African resources and that of their posterity to these super powers and Africa will be economically colonized again.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
photo credit : google image/illustration