…Europe and America are not the major drivers of the third scramble for Africa. The current players on the African turf are now the economies of Asia, involving China, a country that was once humiliated by European powers; Japan, a nation defeated during the Second World War; and India, a former British colony. These nations have learnt from the European and American powers, the economics of national wealth creation…
As no nation on earth is truly endowed with an abundance of human and natural resources, the need to look beyond national boundaries to make up for these essential economic wants becomes inevitable. Throughout the history of mankind, nations have struggled among themselves to shore up their internal resources from external sources through military conquest, colonialism and diplomacy.
To ease the pressure among its constituent people over the struggle for its meagre internally endowed resources and the excruciating condition of economic want, European nations explored other parts of the world for extra convertible-to-revenue resources. Beginning from the 15th century, European nations navigated the great waters of the earth in search for viable external sources of both human and natural resources. This search was to lead to the discovery of new lands in America, Africa and the Asia pacific region, which were explored, expropriated through military conquest and exploited for their rich human and natural resources.
The then newly acquired overseas territories ushered into continental Europe a period of prosperity from increased access to vast extra sources of human and natural resources. The human resources were needed to harness the vast agricultural and mineral resources of the New World that was the Americas, and convert these into enormous wealth for the emergent European powers, with the resources extracted from Africa through centuries-long trans-Atlantic human transhipments.
The advent of the industrial revolution in 18th century Great Britain, the subsequent decline of slave trade under a British sanctioned abolition and the rise of legitimate trade, were to result in the colonisation of Africa, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific regions by European powers. From that period, Africa emerged the frontline territory of exploitation and the economic playground of European nations. The fierce competition among rival European powers to acquire more territories beyond the coastal areas on the shores of the Atlantic and penetrate deeper into interior of the continent, led to the scramble for Africa. Following a diplomatic resolution of conflicting territorial interests among rival European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1885, at the instance of the German statesman, Otto Von Bismarck, all of continental Africa, except for two pre-existing nations of Ethiopia and Liberia, were shared out as the overseas territories and possessions of the different European countries for several decades into the second quarter of the 20th century.
…Nigeria has learnt nothing from its pre-colonial and post-colonial experiences. That Nigeria gleefully heeded the recent summons of Russia, the latest entrant into the race for Africa’s resources and markets to a Chinese style Russia-Africa summit in Sotchi, is indicative of its failure to appreciate the real economic motives of these so-called development partners in the contemporary times.
The 19th century scramble for Africa will not be the last. Following the flag independence granted to most of the countries in Africa, their fledging economies remained largely dependent on the colonial masters and the expertise of their legacy corporate entities operating mostly in the mineral exploitation industries. The end of the Second World War in 1945 and the subsequent portioning of defeated Germany into the East and West blocs in 1961, with the erection of a physical seperating wall across the historic city of Berlin, signalling two spheres of political and economic ideologies, aligned with the then rival nations of the United States (capitalist) and the Soviet Union (communist), was to have reverberating economic consequences across the globe. As the world entered a cold war era, with a sharp polarisation into the East (Soviet communist) and West (U.S. capitalist) blocs, African countries that had just attained flag independence were once again caught up in the whirlwind of the struggle for dominance by the rival world powers.
The noted erection of the Berlin wall signalling the beginning of the cold war era, also signposted a second scramble for Africa as a direct consequence, but this time not for the purpose of direct re-colonisation. The second scramble for Africa was a race between Soviet Union and the United States as rivals for politico-economic alliances with African countries that were strategic to the advancement of their national security, as well as economic, interests.
In the third scramble for Africa, the German city of Berlin was to feature as significantly as it did in the first and second jostles. If the erection of the Berlin wall in 1961 indicated the beginning of the cold war era, its fall in 1989 brought it to an end. The fall of the Berlin wall and the re-unification of Germany, which was quickly followed by the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, signified the triumph of capitalism over communism. Thenceforth, the new world politico-economic order was reshaped a long a unipolar power bloc of modern capitalist mercantilism. The concept of modern capitalist mercantilism, which seeks to grow the wealth of nations by the mechanism of an imbalance in multilateral trade relationships between the developed and undeveloped world has triggered a renewed scramble for Africa under the guise of foreign direct investments – FDIs.
Nominally known as the giant of Africa because of its size and population, but in reality a big-for-nothing, never do well country, Nigeria is the crown jewel in the third scramble for Africa. Plagued by sustained acute leadership failure, Nigeria’s considerable mineral deposits and nearly 200 million people are any investor’s delight.
Interestingly, Europe and America are not the major drivers of the third scramble for Africa. The current players on the African turf are now the economies of Asia, involving China, a country that was once humiliated by European powers; Japan, a nation defeated during the Second World War; and India, a former British colony. These nations have learnt from the European and American powers, the economics of national wealth creation through the mechanism of capitalist mercantilism by strategic geo-political positioning in the fierce race for global resources. In addition to flooding African markets with manufactured consumer goods through massive exports and a very predatory form of foreign direct investments that targets Africa’s most vital mineral resources, these new economic masters of the African continent are appropriating large swathes of land and exploiting these for the benefits of their fledging industries at home. And when they set up industries in Africa, it is usually for the purpose of the manufacture of locally consumed goods mostly paid for by host country’s meagre revenue from rents and the royalties of mineral exploration, in further depression of the balance of trade to the disadvantage of African countries. This most vicious form of exploitation has pushed African countries deeper into the abyss of underdevelopment, with poverty and debts mounting, while the so-called investor nations are phenomenally growing their national wealth in geometric proportions.
Whereas, the first and second scrambles for Africa, which resulted in colonialism and neo-colonialism of the African continent, was carried out without the consultation of the constituent peoples, this time around the third scramble is being done with the full participation of the African people. Posturing as friends and development partners, Africa’s new economic masters now routinely summon African leaders to such events as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Tokyo International Conference on African Development and the India-Africa Forum Summit. If ancient African rulers were not on the table in 1885 at the Berlin Conference, where their kingdoms were carved up among European colonial masters, their modern day descendants are present on the table at the different conferences/summits in Beijing, Tokyo and New Delhi, where they willingly exchange their economic sovereignty for aid and loans.
Unfortunately, Nigeria has learnt nothing from its pre-colonial and post-colonial experiences. That Nigeria gleefully heeded the recent summons of Russia, the latest entrant into the race for Africa’s resources and markets to a Chinese style Russia-Africa summit in Sotchi, is indicative of its failure to appreciate the real economic motives of these so-called development partners in the contemporary times. Nominally known as the giant of Africa because of its size and population, but in reality a big-for-nothing, never do well country, Nigeria is the crown jewel in the third scramble for Africa. Plagued by sustained acute leadership failure, Nigeria’s considerable mineral deposits and nearly 200 million people are any investor’s delight. Nigeria is particularly made vulnerable to exploitation by preying external economic scavengers, through its inability to evolve a cohesive national agenda for global engagement due to a disparate array of conflicting local interests, resulting from seemingly irreconcilable internal contradictions along ethno-geographic fault lines. Nigeria lacks a strong economic oriented and realist foreign policy thrust that allows it access to a larger share of global resources but is strong on the politics of internal resource sharing through zoning and rotation of political leadership positions. Consequently, Nigeria will continue to be scrambled along with other African countries as they remain at the bottom of the global economic food chain.
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