· Although African states are today independent of colonialism, they remain heavily dependent and exploited under the effects of neo colonialism and neo liberalism.
· This dependency and exploitation particularly through the activities of Trans National Corporations, adversely affects the living conditions of millions of people in Africa, creating economic hardship and in some cases encouraging political repression.
· These problems can be linked to the crisis of underdevelopment in Africa and the attendant refugee problem.
What is neo-colonialism?
· One of the foremost proponents of neo colonialism was the former Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah who described Neo Colonialism as the worst form of imperialism and capitalist exploitation.
· The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State that 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 outside.
· Foreign capital is used for exploitation rather than development of less developed countries; investment increases gap between rich and poor.
· Aid given to neo-colonial state returns to the imperialist country.
Workings of Neo Colonialism
· Largely because of the world capitalist system and the so-called international division of labour which sees Africa only as producers of primary commodities, most African nations have no viable integrated industries which can diversify their economies and supply the rest of the world with finished goods.
· Mining production for example is destined principally for exportation. What stays in Africa is the wages paid for the mineworkers. A majority of money spent on salaries goes to Western directors, and much of the profit goes to Western Trans national corporations.
· Two examples 1) Debeers and the diamond trade in Angola, Sierra Lone and the Congo that has encouraged the war in these countries and impoverished them. A recent UN report implicated Western firm and countries including Belgium in the illegal diamond trade. 2) Shell in Nigeria and the Ogoni crisis which led to the state execution of the environmental right activist Ken Saro Wiwa
· Due to centuries of slavery and imperialism, Africa does not have very much capital with which to begin industrialization. Although agriculture is important, industrialization is more important in today’s industrial world.
· African states often do not get fair prices for their primary export commodities, which are usually their only source of income. This is because they have little control over the international money market. The prices of cocoa, timber, rubber have all collapsed. Recently, the price of oil which is the main source of revenue for some developing African and Arab countries increased but the big financial powers in the West rallied to make sure that it came down within days because it affected them. But for many years, such inflation in the prices of imported consumer good has affected Africans without anyone coming to their aid.
Obstacles to African Economic Progress
· The global outcry and opposition over the inequitable trade regulations being put in place by the World Trade Organization has drawn attention to the inequities in the global economic system. The demonstrations in Seattle against the WTO meeting there are an example of this growing awareness. At no other time in history has there been greater disparity between very rich nations and very poor nations.
· Nations in the west are forming coalitions to integrate protect their economies (NAFTA in North America and the European Union in Europe). Yet at the same time, poor developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are continually told by the World Bank and the IMF to liberalize and remove protectionist policies from their economic programs.
· For Africa, redressing this is an urgent challenge. Africa needs continental planning more than national planning, because “Africa is clearly fragmented into too many small, uneconomic and non-viable states.
· Neo-colonialism and neo liberalism makes continental planning harder over time, because narrow national markets becomes structurally entrenched.
· The domination of Africa’s economy by foreign firms must be ended and a more equitable international economic system established if we are to achieve rounded economic growth” (27).
The Implications of Neo Colonialism on the Refugee Question
· Although many people may not readily see it, there is an obvious link between contemporary neo colonialism in Africa and the refugee question which currently confronts many Western sates and affects the lives of so many displaces Africans.
· Historically, the wave of refugee migrations has always been associated with political and economic difficulties. People have also moved to other countries when confronted by economic hardship and political persecution.
· The history of Canada, considered by many, as one of the most liberal nations in the world is an example of this pattern of refugee migration. In the 17th and 18th century, the first migrants were English common men who were seeking a better economic life in the New World. The English were followed by poor starving Irish who were fleeing the Irish Famine of 1845-50. Then cane the Italian in the early part if the 19th century, again fleeing the economic hardship in post War Europe and later, came the Ukrainians fleeing communist persecution. Today, it is the turn Africans and Asians fleeing economic hardships and political persecution. Thus, historically Canada is a nation built of waves of refugees immigrants which has gives the country the appealing multiethnic diversity that it has today.
· In the same way, the economic hardship and political persecution induced by the workings of neo colonialism has been one of the major reasons for the influx of refugees from developing countries in Africa to the West. But as I have pointed out these migrations are not unique to Africa or historically unprecedented. They only reflect the present global economic and political realities.
· Thus, to adequately address the refugee question, we must first address the problem of neo-colonialism, global economic inequalities among the nations of the word, the exploitation of multinationals and the complicity of Western countries in the political persecution of opponents by African regimes.
· The refugee question therefore has to be put in proper historical context and address in the light of the fundamental economic problems that give rise to it. The clamp down and harassment of refugees now being carried out by some Western countries will not adequately address the problem. Such tactic only addresses the symptom rather than the ailment.
Feb 8, 2007
The Implications of Neo Colonialism and Neo Liberalism in Africa on the Refugee Question
About the Author
Author & Editor
Bonny Ibhawoh is a professor of African History and Global Human Rights History in the Department of History and the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University.