Exploitation of Africa: From past to present
The exploitation of Africa, which is widely known as the continent of opportunities, began with the wars inspired to procure enslaved people and the subsequent export of the most fit and strong members of Africa's population. And it continued with colonization in the nineteenth century.
The Scramble for Africa, which is also referred to as the Partition of Africa and Conquest of Africa, was the invasion, occupation, division, as well as colonization of African territory by mainly European powers during a short period called the New Imperialism (between 1881 and 1914).
The 10 percent of Africa that was formally under European control back in 1870 increased to almost 90 percent by around 1914, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Liberia being able to maintain independence.
European motives included (but were not limited to) the desire to control the continent’s valuable natural resources, rivalry and the quest for national prestige, in addition to religious missionary zeal. Internal African politics also played a role in all this.
The Berlin Conference of 1884, which formally regulated European colonization and trade in Africa, is often referred to as the starting point of the Scramble for Africa. There were considerable political and economic competitions among the European countries in the last quarter of the 19th century.
Partitioning the African continent was effected mainly without Europeans going to war. In the later years of the nineteenth century, the European counties moved from "informal imperialism”, i.e., exercising military influence and economic dominance — to direct rule, bringing about colonial imperialism.
Colonies were areas of Africa as well as other regions (such as India) which became placed under direct governmental control by European powers, effectively becoming extensions of those European countries. The Europeans exploited these colonies by taking mineral and agricultural products from these colonies at the cheapest possible price. The colonies were also markets for manufactured European goods. Manufacturing by Africans in African colonies (and in the Caribbean) was prohibited and African enterprise was diminished or eliminated altogether in every way imaginable.
The 500 years of European slavery and colonialism seriously harmed the economy of the entire African continent, almost destroyed the African societal structures, and also undermined the psychological self-assurance of Africans.
Unfortunately, Western extortion of Africa still continues, as do wars within the continent, often fought with guns supplied by westerners seemingly wanting the cheapest access to vital raw materials. The slaughter in Darfur (western Sudan) in the early twenty first century is in part due to this, as is, for instance, the situation in the Niger delta in Nigeria.
Based on a recent study by the United Nations, Africa loses some 89 billion dollars through illegal means such as money laundering and tax fraud. The question naturally arises as to where is all this money transferred to.
One way in which African wealth is being exploited is the under-pricing of very valuable natural sources such as gold. It is made possible through the cooperation of some corrupt African leaders with western powers that are still exploiting the African continent, but in a new form.
14 African States declared their independence from France: Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Congo-Brazaville, and Gabon.
However, when those states declared independence from France, the French government put all the former colonies in one group termed ‘compulsory solidarities.’ This basically meant that those independent states would need to pay 65% of foreign currency reserves to the French treasury and 20% for their financial liabilities. Therefore, each colony has only 15% left to use from their own money.
But the west cannot keep exploiting Africa in the many forms that it currently does without cooperation by some corrupt leaders from inside the continent.
Katanga province, for example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo is blessed with great natural wealth, including vast deposits of such precious minerals as diamonds, gold, and tantalum.
Katanga witnessed a spectacular mining boom around the turn of the century, when President Laurent-Desire Kabila and subsequently his son Joseph licensed international mining companies to tap its countless treasures.
This arrangement brought riches for the Congolese elite, and vastly more for the prospectors, but offered very little to the poverty-ravaged population. From 1999 to 2002, the Kabila regime "transferred ownership of at least $5 billion of assets from the state-mining sector to private companies under its control... with no compensation or benefit for the State treasury," a United Nations investigation discovered.
Numerous other such instances can be mentioned and discussed here, but the ultimate lesson is clear. World powers will never cease to be interested in the exploitation of the African resources. But they definitely need people from inside the continent to initiate as well as facilitate the process. The people of all African countries need to be united in their goal of eliminating foreign interference and exploitation in hopes of building a better future for the entire continent.