Neocolonialism in 2021: The Rise of the New Economic Powerhouses

The governance of African resources, political interests, economic inclinations, cultural, and power contexts might be the most serious concern for Africans in the twenty-first century. Who is in charge of the African continent’s destiny? Africa is mocked, regarded as the wastelands of civilization, where destitution is inextricably linked to the definition of what Africa is. When discussing this contentious subject, it is hard to resist mentioning the history of imperial colonialism, in which the continent was brutally subordinated to European domination. Imperialism meant that the economy of the new African political factions was dominated by white private capital. The victory of nationalist emancipation struggles did not, however, indicate the end of this paradigm.

The current world order is being reshaped by transposition in the balance of power, with China and India emerging as massive macroeconomic powerhouses attempting to situate themselves in the shifting geopolitical landscape. Such global dynamics of power reconfiguration are nowhere more obvious than in Africa, a region that has remained the exclusive domain of Western influence until recently. China and India’s extensive involvement with Africa have captivated the world’s attention, especially in the west, and rightly so. 

Why is it that China, the self-proclaimed advocate of the Third World, has to repeatedly justify itself against neocolonial accusations? China’s increasing involvement with African states, as well as its growing aggressiveness in the global arena, has sparked a polarizing discussion about how China should see its role in Africa. China’s foreign policy is characterised by neocolonial inclinations and imperialistic overtones. Academics who are critical of China’s participation in Africa have defined the relationship as one of power disparity between the economic powerhouse and politically fragile African countries.

The neo-colonialist aspect of Sino-African relations is called into question by China’s economic pragmatism credo, minimal concern for the wellbeing of African populations and human rights abuses, and its connection to political elites. China’s prominence on the African continent is unavoidable, and it is reasonable to assume that China will always play the geopolitical game of optimizing its own national interests while challenging other countries.

Similar allegations have been raised against India. Because China has been more assertive than India in advancing its economic interests in Africa and Latin America, Beijing is a bigger threat for Western liberals than New Delhi. India, once Britain’s imperial gem, has been accused of “neocolonialism” in Africa, where it has undertaken a race with China, Saudi Arabia, and others to buy up agricultural plantations and exploit cheap labour.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal, and Mozambique have been purchased by Indian agriculture corporations for the purpose of growing rice, sugar cane, maize, and lentils for the Indian home market. In what has been termed as a competition to China and Saudi Arabia in the new race for Africa, our government has provided soft loans as assistance to encourage overseas initiatives.

Small, family-run holdings, bullock cart transport, and armies of mediators dominate Indian agriculture. The cumbersome, inefficient method is recognised as the primary factor for a big amount of Indian produce rotting before reaching the market — estimated as an annual loss of up to £6 billion. As a result, Indian firms regard Africa as a potential location for expanding and improving agricultural production. This is distinct from the motivations of many Arab countries who purchase African land in order to grow food that their own countries are unable to cultivate. A government crackdown on non-Basmati rice exports, according to Raju Poosapati, Vice President of India’s Yes Bank, has prompted Indian corporations to harvest it in Africa for export. Because there are no government subsidies for Indian farmers to produce maize animal feed at home, numerous companies are now growing maize animal feed in Africa.

Critics have referred to the phenomenon as modern-day “piracy” and “land grabbing” by nations that had previously suffered from hunger and severe food scarcity. Western groups claim, somewhat erroneously, that the struggle between China and India is analogous to the 19th-century drive for Africa between competing European colonial empires. Regardless of the parallel, India is indisputably vying with China in Africa for oil and mineral resources. Although New Delhi follows behind Beijing, it is on the same path. The World Bank’s president, Paul Wolfowitz, bashed China’s and India’s economic policies toward Africa. Even as he rapidly backed down in the face of China’s political backlash, Wolfowitz emphasised the importance of Beijing and New Delhi not repeating the US and Western blunders of sponsoring unpleasant regimes for decades, such as Mobutu Sese-in Seko’s Zaire.

China and India would find the labels of neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism startling, if not revolting, after decades of perceiving themselves as victims of colonialism. Beijing and New Delhi, however, must face a new reality. Global criticism of their policies will be sharper the larger their economic and political potential to affect outcomes elsewhere in the world becomes.

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