Updated: Apr 12
In geopolitics, Africa has always presented a strategic point for commercial exchanges and expansion of political and economic influences of the great powers. From the nineteenth century throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Africa suffered from colonization by Western powers. The type of colonization suffered by Africa during this period was political colonization. The particularity of political colonization is that the colonizers use military force to impose on the colonized their political system, cultural values, and laws. In other words, the political colonization practiced by Western powers was coercive.
This form of colonization was decried by the Soviet Russia of Lenin, who maintained that imperialism (colonization) was the ultimate stage of capitalism where developed market-based economies abused their power to subjugate weak societies to steal their resources in order to enrich themselves and maintain these weak societies into servitude. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and China, the two largest communist countries in the world (geographically and militarily), became the spokespersons for third-world countries. As a result, most of the newly independent African countries became sympathetic to Russia (former Soviet Union) and China. And Africans upheld this sympathy toward Russia and China in the post-Cold War era. While Africans naively believed that Russia and China had their best interests at heart, Russia and China progressively expanded their political and economic influences in Africa. Today, a new form of colonization took place in Africa: economic colonization.
The colonization practiced by the Chinese and Russian is a type of soft colonization. In this system, the Chinese and the Russians make Africans believe that they are dealing with them as their equals, although it has never been the case. The Chinese and the Russians understood that they did not need to use military might to acquire Africa’s resources. They just had to create economic and financial treaties of certain commercial exchanges between them and African governments to gain control over certain resources. In a nutshell, China and Russia pledged to develop Africa’s infrastructures in exchange for control over certain resources that will benefit their countries (Russia and China).
One of the most flagrant examples of this is the acquisition of Uganda’s airport by a Chinese Bank. The Ugandan government signed an agreement with China’s Exim Bank to borrow $207 million to expand Entebbe International Airport. The main collateral asset of this loan was Entebbe’s airport itself. Failure to pay back the loan by the Ugandan government would rightfully entitle the Chinese Bank to become the owner of the airport as stipulated in the signed agreement. Russia has been providing military assistance to many African governments in exchange for control over key resources such as minerals. Indeed, Russia has a shortage of important minerals such as manganese, bauxite, and chromium. State-owned Russian companies have been mining bauxite in Guinea, cutting deals to extract diamonds from Angola, and winning concessions to produce off-shore gas in Mozambique.
This colonization, although much softer than the political colonization practiced by Western powers a century ago, remains a subjection for Africans. Why? Because Russia and China are not training Africans to develop the technical skills needed to take control of key economic sectors. Africans still rely on foreign aid to develop their own infrastructures. Why don’t Russia and China help African human capital develop its skills? Simply to maintain them dependent. Because if Africa acquires the skills necessary to transform its own infrastructures, then no foreign powers will be able to dominate again.