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110330 The (Un)Desirability of Neo-Colonialism and the

Development Challenge in Afria


By Teke Ngomba - Special to Africafiles.
[1] Teke Ngomba is currently studying for a Ph degree in political communication at the
epartment of !nformation and "edia Studies# Aarhus $ni%ersity# enmark.
In March 2011, I sent an e-mail to a former classmate from Brazil trying to find out what he has been
u to since we last heard from each other se!eral months bac". My former classmate, who is now
wor"ing as a #ournalist in his nati!e Brazil, relied few days later and told me among others that$
%e!erything is fine o!er here although I am wor"ing a lot lately due to the insistent will of the world to
"ee generating headlines&. 'his assessment of what the world is %doing& at the moment- insistently
%generating headlines&, atly catures the series of historic e!ents that ha!e so far mar"ed 2011.
(e are barely four months into 2011 and it is already clear that so much has been haening which is
enough to ma"e 2011 stand out !ery distincti!ely in history. 'he list of history-ma"ing e!ents within
the first four months of 2011 is !ery long but a few stand out$ )aan e*erienced a de!astating
earth+ua"e in March which left thousands dead and ut the country on the brin" of a nuclear disaster,
-uba is on the way to historic socio-economic and olitical changes encasulated in the official
steing down .finally/0 of the enigmatic 1idel -astro as the head of the -ommunist 2arty which he
founded in 1345 and on a lighter note, 2011 will also be remembered as the year when the world turned
its attention to Britain- for a much-touted royal wedding.
Beyond these e!ents mentioned abo!e, the first four months of 2011 ha!e been centrally mar"ed by
mouth-gaing and - still unfolding historic olitical e!ents in the 6rab world and in sub-7aharan 6frica.
6 dramatic dislay of %eole ower& has significantly changed the olitical outloo" in the 6rab world$
Ben 6li of 'unisia was forced to resign and go on e*ile in )anuary, 8osni Mubara" of 9gyt was
similarly forced to resign in 1ebruary, further %unbelie!ably&, both Ben 6li and 8osni Mubara" ha!e
seen their olitical arties dissol!ed and are currently being in!estigated for a series of alleged crimes
including corrution and abuse of office.
:ibya&s ;adaffi is currently fighting off a struggle to oust him on the ground while <nited =ations-
aro!ed air raids are still destroying his military arsenals. 6fter wee"s of street rotests, 7yria&s
Bashar al-6ssad has been forced to lift the country&s decades-old state of emergency at the same time
as he is currently o!erseeing a bloody suression of street rotests demanding his resignation. >n his
art, ?emen&s 6li 6bdullah 7aleh has also been forced to announce that he will be steing down as
resident in about a month&s time e!en though rotesters are still on the streets demanding his
immediate dearture.
In sub-7aharan 6frica, 2resident Blaise -omaore of Bur"ina 1aso, faced with an unrecedented
mutiny in the army which une*ectedly sread across many cities, has interestingly aointed himself
minister of defence to fight off the looming threat to his osition. In =igeria, after the recent
residential elections, the northern region lunged into ost-election !iolence which according to some
local human rights grous, has dislaced more than 14,000 eole and led to the death of about 500
=igerians .BB- =ews, 2@ 6ril 20110.
It is ob!ious that before the remaining eight months of 2011 come to ass, a lot would ha!e haened
to further deeen the historical significance of this year. 8ow are things going to lay out at the end in
7yria for instanceA (hat will haen in the coming months in Morocco and 6lgeria where the ruling
cli+ue has already initiated socio-economic and olitical changes after witnessing the e!ents in
neighboring countriesA (ill ;adaffi goA 6nd if so howA 1rance and Britain in articular are already
murmuring thoughts about the need for %ground forces& in :ibya to sulement the current air raids
against ;adaffi. (hat of Bur"ina 1asoA (ill -omaore sustainably sur!i!e the army mutinyA =igeria
is literally holding its breath now- will the election of go!ernors lunge sections of the country into
further !iolenceA (hat of -ameroonA 2residential elections are also due in the country by >ctober
2011 and in the conte*t of serious olitical contestations about the electoral system as a whole and
secifically about the comosition and role of the election management body, will the country also
lunge into serious ost-election !iolence after >ctoberA
6nd tal"ing about ost-election !iolence - I!ory -oast. In the first four months of 2011, the ost-
election disute in I!ory -oast too" dramatic turns$ regional, continental and international dilomatic
initiati!es were literally stretched to the limit as :aurent ;bagbo, incumbent resident of I!ory -oast,
fanatically resisted se!eral calls for him to ste down and hand o!er ower to 6lassane >uattara who
was internationally certified as the winner of the =o!ember 2010 residential elections run-off. >n 11
6ril 2011, after months of serious ost-election stalemate and !iolence, :aurent ;bagbo was finally
arrested humiliatingly and his arrest has ractically brought an end .at least for now0 to the unen!iable
scenario of ha!ing two residents in one country.
Bery few national olitical e!ents ha!e sar"ed serious continent-wide deliberations in contemorary
6frica li"e the =o!ember 2010- 6ril 2011 e!ents in I!ory -oast. 7e!eral themes and +uestions ha!e
featured rominently in these deliberations with !arying conclusions and answers deending from
which ideological sectrum one loo"s or latform one stands. 7ome of these burning issues include
+uestions li"e$ how can one analyze the relati!ely rinciled stance of the 6frican <nion .6<0 and the
9conomic -ommunity of (est 6frican 7tates .9->(670 as far as the crisis is concernedA Cid they
demonstrate the caacity for such institutions to stand their ground and uhold the rinciles of
democratic alternation of leadershi in 6frica or rather showed how wea" they were to effect their own
decisions and resist %outside ressure&A (ho was right after all, in the claims of !ictory and election
rigging- ;bagbo or >uattaraA (hich sets of laws should be adhered to in such matters facing a
so!ereign country- the country&s constitution or a <nited =ations 7ecurity -ouncil DesolutionA (hose
forces "illed whose suorters or rather how many eole did each faction "illA (ho should be held
resonsible for these deaths and where- in or out of I!ory -oastA
1rom 1333 when the current I!orian crisis effecti!ely "ic"ed-off with a successful cou d&Etat led by
;eneral Dobert ;uei against 2resident 8enri Fonan Bedie to 11 6ril 2011 when :aurent ;bagbo was
arrested, one of the most contentious themes of the crisis has been the role of 1rance, the country&s
former colonial master, in the I!orian crisis. Broadly sea"ing, the central contending issue has been
the e*tent to which I!ory -oast is or is not a clear e*amle of recurrent neo-colonialism in
contemorary 6frica.
6fter the arrest of :aurent ;bagbo, contrary to claims by his suorters, 1rance !ehemently refused
that its :icorne forces in I!ory -oast were art of the forces that arrested ;bagbo. 'he debate o!er who
arrested ;bagbo is ertinent gi!en that at its core is the central issue of neo-colonialism in I!ory -oast
in articular and in 6frica as a whole. 6s the BB- stated in resonse to the +uestion$ who arrested
;bagboA
%9!erybody concerned stresses that he was catured by Mr. >uattara&s forces. But the 1rench layed a
big role and it was initially said they had seized him. It is a !ery imortant +uestion because Mr.
;bagbo has always argued that 1rance, the former colonial ower, was trying to oust him because he
was standing u for the economic interests of the world&s largest cocoa roducer and was using its
influence in the <= to do so. If 1rench forces had seized him, that would ha!e bolstered Mr. ;bagbo&s
argument that he was the !ictim of a neo-colonial lot. But in any case, 1rench and <= military ower
layed a decisi!e role in bombing the residential residence where he was staying and they also layed
a art in the ad!ance on the ground& .BB-, 1G 6ril 20110.
=o matter the le!el of official 1rench refusals, there are still eole and e!en go!ernments that ercei!e
the recent e!ents in I!ory -oast as nothing but a clear manifestation of neo-colonialism. In an
articulation of this ercetion, on 15 6ril 2011, the ;ambian go!ernment for instance, ublished what
it called the go!ernment&s %osition on the tragedy in I!ory -oast&. In its osition statement, the
;ambian go!ernment said that it will not %recognize any 2resident or ;o!ernment in 6frica that has
been imosed by forces outside of the 6frican -ontinent for whate!er reason& and that the e!ents in
I!ory -oast$
%Hha!e !indicated us on our earlier assertion that (estern =eo colonialist sonsored agents in 6frica
that owe allegiance only to themsel!es and their (estern Masters are ready to wal" on thousands of
dead bodies to the residency. 'his is what is haening in I!ory -oastH8istory is reeating itself as
the =eocolonial forces that o!erthrew 2atrice :umumba, catured and handed him o!er to his enemies
almost fifty years ago, are the same forces in!ol!ed in the I!ory -oast with the only difference being
that it is now a different former colonial owerH>ne thing is !ery clear to all 6fricans today- the lot
to recolonise 6frica is !ery real and we must stand u to itH.(hy can&t the (est resect 6frica&s
Indeendence and dignityA& .;o!ernment of ;ambia, 15 6ril 20110.
7o are the recent e!ents in I!ory -oast manifest signs of neo-colonialismA >b!iously it is imossible to
ro!ide incontestable resonses to this +uestion but to the e*tent that the e!ents in I!ory -oast resonate
around issues of the olitical and socio-economic de!eloment of the country and the %inter!ention&
both officially and unofficially, directly and indirectly of %e*ternal owers&, it is aroriate to mo!e
from I!ory -oast and loo" entirely at sub-7aharan 6frica and as" if contemorary neo-colonialism-
howe!er defined, is %really bad& for sub-7aharan 6frica and whether in ragmatic terms it can be totally
eliminated and if so- at what cost to sub-7aharan 6frica. In the wa"e of all that has been written and
said about neo-colonialism following the recent e!ents in I!ory -oast, isn&t it in lace to mo!e from
I!ory -oast and attemt to address .a olitically incorrectA0 +uestion- doesn&t contemorary sub-
7aharan 6frica actually need a %healthy dose& of neo-colonialismA (hat will constitute this %healthy
dose& of neo-colonialism and when should its consumtion be %turned down&A
>!erall, at least three oints can be made regarding contemorary sub-7aharan 6frica and the issue of
neo-colonialism. 1irstly, old habits, as they say, die hard and it is true that some former colonial
owers, notably 1rance, ha!e continued to relate with their former 6frican colonies in articular as if
we are still in 1350. 7econdly, sub-7aharan 6frica cannot %secede& from the rest of the world but rather,
it will ha!e to deal with the world, esecially with de!eloed countries and global institutions in terms
that are largely unfa!orable to it by dint of a collection of reasons not least its current low le!els of
olitical, socio-economic de!eloment and regional integration.
In this conte*t, thin"ing of a total eradication of neo-colonial tendencies in the relationshi between
sub-7aharan 6frica and other de!eloed countries in articular and or international institutions li"e
those of the Bretton (oods is to say the least illusionary. 7o howe!er sad and unalatable it may seem,
it is ractical to realize that at least for se!eral decades to come, most countries in sub-7aharan 6frica
will still be under %the shac"les and fetters of neo-colonialism& .Comatob, 13II$1510. 'hirdly, the
recurrent go!ernance +uagmire in sub-7aharan 6frica in the conte*t of the enormous de!elomental
challenges in the region arado*ically necessitates at times a %healthy dose& of neo-colonialism. I
e*amine these themes below.
The &ld 'abits of (rance ) *o.
In se!eral resects, e!en though institutions li"e the (orld Ban", the International Monetary 1und
.IM10 and the (orld 'rade >rganization are often bundled alongside other de!eloed countries in
articular as central neo-colonial actors in sub-7aharan 6frica, one country has rominently been cited
as the %face& of neo-colonialism in the region- 1rance.
6ccording to ;regory .20000, one of the central features of 1rance&s relationshi with its former
6frican colonies has been the %continuity and stability& of 1rench olicy towards these countries.
Beyond the bond of language, through a combination of se!eral formal and informal arrangements
between these former colonies and 1rance in di!erse sectors, 1rance has been able to %maintain
hegemony& in its former 6frican colonies at times e!en %by force if necessary& .;regory, 2000$@G40.
More than fifty years after most 1rench colonies gained indeendence, this sort of relationshi between
1rance and its former colonies is still ersisting desite se!eral ledges by successi!e 1rench residents
to change things. 'he current one- =icolas 7ar"ozy, famously declared in 200J when he became
resident that he will initiate a %ruture& with the old ways of dealing with 6frica. 'oday, on the e!e of
the end of his current mandate, the !erdict is at best mi*ed.
'his relati!e unsha"en continuity in the way 1rance has related to its former colonies in 6frica in
articular is both intriguing and comle* to e*lain. In a reflection of this intriguing scenario, in a 13I1
lecture e*aseratingly titled %8ow can 1rance do e!erything that it does in 6frica- and get away with
itA&, 'amar ;olan e*ressed her surrise that more than two decades after indeendence the %secial
relationshi& between 1rance and its former colonies was still %ali!e, acceted by and accetable to both
1rance and the 1rancohones& .;olan, 13I1$G0.
(hile se!eral reasons can e*lain this intriguingly comle* scenario, as -hafer .1332$G3-@00 has
ointed out, one of the main reasons that can e*lain the relati!e continuity in 1rance&s olicy towards
6frica and the atterns of its relationshi with its former colonies in articular is the continuing and
consensual underlying assumtion by leaders of the mainstream olitical factions in 1rance that
%1rench grandeur is intimately bound u with dreams of wielding influence in distant laces& and that
6frica is %suosed to contribute to 1rance&s restige and international status on world stage&.
'he incontestable leading and influential role that 1rance layed in the recent crisis in I!ory -oast-
both dilomatically and militarily, was in se!eral ways a manifestation of these %dreams of wielding
influence& esecially when it comes to sea"ing about and dealing with a former 1rench colony. (hile
li"e 1rance insists, it might be true that its forces did not ta"e art in actually caturing :aurent
;bagbo, as the BB-&s Mar" Coyle has stated, %it is also undoubtedly true that the 1rench mounted the
military action that allowed the arrest to ta"e lace&.
>!erall, these are some of the ersecti!es that are assionately regurgitated by those who charge
1rance for e*hibiting neo-colonial tendencies in the recent I!orian crisis. 'hose holding such !iews, as
e*ressed by the go!ernment of ;ambia cited earlier, also draw on anecdotal oints to buttress the
charge that the recent e!ents in I!ory -oast are scenarios of neo-colonialism with 6lassane >uattara
being the %foster child& of neo-colonial actors.
'wo anecdotal oints, concerning 6lassane >uattara&s socio-rofessional life, ha!e featured
rominently in relation to this charge. 'hese oints are that beyond being a former rime minister of
I!ory -oast, 6lassane >uattara is married to a 1renchwoman and he has sent much of his rofessional
life wor"ing for the International Monetary 1und where he e!en became a deuty managing director of
IM1. 7o he is, in a sense therefore, by dint of such a socio-rofessional rofile, a real rototye of what
the ;ambian go!ernment has called %(estern =eo colonialist sonsored agents in 6frica& who are
li"ely to %owe allegiance only to themsel!es and their (estern Masters.&
Ciscussions about neo-colonialism in sub-7aharan 6frica li"e that sar"ed by the e!ents in I!ory -oast
ha!e the tendency to turn sentimental. But beyond these regular e*hibitions of sentiments, a central
issue that warrants less of idealism and more of ragmatism is how to deal with neo-colonialism in the
region. -an 6frican countries ha!e a relationshi between the Bretton (oods institutions for instance
and other de!eloed or influential de!eloing countries li"e -hina, India or Brazil that is totally de!oid
of neo-colonial tendenciesA ;i!en the de!eloment challenge and nature of go!ernance in the region, is
it entirely out of lace to thin" that sub-7aharan 6frica needs some neo-colonial tendenciesA
It would seem aroriate to contend that for their !ery sur!i!al, countries in sub-7aharan 6frica ha!e
no choice but to deal with non-6frican countries and global institutions. 1or se!eral reasons, not least
historical .as in the case of relations with former colonial masters for instance0 and also gi!en that
most, if not all of these 6frican countries are currently at the %recei!ingKwea"er end& of the relationshi
e+uation, ractically, it is imossible to en!ision a relationshi in such conte*ts that can be %e+ual& and
free of neo-colonial tendencies. 7o, while ideally one may be symathetic to calls to end neo-
colonialism in 6frica, without being ac+uiescent, ractically sea"ing, such calls are lofty but they are
significantly illusionary.
If a totally neo-colonial free sub-7aharan 6frica is ractically unattainable at least in the ne*t coule of
decades, could it be so that some le!el of neo-colonialism is actually needed in the regionA 7tructurally
sea"ing, one can lace sub-7aharan 6frica&s relationshi with the rest of the world in between the
contemorary de!eloment challenges in sub-7aharan 6frica and the nature of go!ernance in the
region. 8ow these three broad issues intermingle can hel to substantiate claims as to the ositi!e or
negati!e role of neo-colonialism in the region.
Sub-Saharan Africa+s e%elopment *hallenges
Decently, the IM1, the <nited =ations as well as the 6frican <nion, ublished some imortant reorts
on the state of de!eloment in sub-7aharan 6frica. -ombined, the conclusions from these reorts aint
a mi*ed icture of teid rogress in economic de!eloment in articular and engrained challenges in
o!erall human de!eloment in the region.
6ccording to the IM1, after a slowdown in economic growth in sub-7aharan 6frica in 2003 as a result
of the global economic crisis in articular, the %rosects for 2011 and beyond loo" good& .IM1,
2010$10. >!erall, 6frican economies are said to ha!e %reco!ered& from the global economic crisis
%better than e*ected& and now, their %aggregate ;C2 growth is forecast to rise to 5.0 er cent in 2011,
u from @.J er cent in 2010& .<=9-6 and 6<, 2011$20.
6s these reorts also indicate, o!er the last decade, imro!ements in the economic erformance of sub-
7aharan 6frica as a whole %has not been translated into commensurate reductions in unemloyment and
o!erty nor significant rogress towards the Millennium Ce!eloment ;oals .MC;s0 .<=9-6 and
6<, 2011$G0. (ith !ariations in countries and the different regions, the 2010 <nited =ations reort on
the rogress made in attaining the MC;s re!eals that the teid rogresses notwithstanding, the
de!eloment challenges in sub-7aharan 6frica are still enormous. 7ome of the conclusions from the
reort which oint to the de!eloment challenges in the region include the following$
L 6s er 2010 (orld Ban" estimates, the current global economic crisis will lea!e some additional 4@
million eole in %e*treme o!ertyHrincially in sub-7aharan 6frica and 9astern and 7outh-9astern
6sia& .<=, 2010$J0.
L 'he total number of children out of school is decreasing across the world- from 104 million in 1333 to
43 million in 200I. 6lmost half of these children .G1 million0 are in sub-7aharan 6frica& .<=, 2010$1J0
L 'he %highest rates of child mortality continue to be found in sub-7aharan 6frica&. 6ccording to the
<=, in 200I for instance, one in se!en children in sub-7aharan 6frica died before their fifth birthday.
6ll G@ countries in the world %with under fi!e mortality rates e*ceeding 100 er 1,000 li!e births in
200I are in sub-7aharan 6frica, e*cet 6fghanistan&. 7ub-7aharan 6frica alone %accounted for half of
the I.I million deaths in children under fi!e worldwide in 200I& .<=, 2010$2J0.
L 7ub-7aharan 6frica accounted for %J2 er cent of all new 8IB infections in 200IH6n estimated GG.@
million eole were li!ing with 8IB in 200I of whom 22.@ million are in sub-7aharan 6frica& .<=,
2010$@0-@10.
L (ith regards to malaria, %half the world&s oulation is at ris" of malaria and an estimated 2@G million
cases led to nearly I4G,000 deaths in 200I. >f these, J4J.000 .I3 er cent0 occurred in 6frica& .<=,
2010$@40.
L )ust about 40 er cent of the oulation in sub-7aharan 6frica has access to otable drin"ing water
and about 43 er cent of the eole in sub-7aharan 6frica lac" access to basic sanitary facilities .<=,
2010$5I0.
7uch statistics indicate that the de!eloment challenges in sub-7aharan 6frica are indeed still
enormous. 6s the deadline to meet the MC;s aroaches, the o!erall conclusion with regards to sub-
7aharan 6frica is that while rogress has been %in the right direction, its ace is largely inade+uate for
achie!ing all the goals by the 2015 deadline& .<=9-6 and 6<, 2011$G0. In outlining what is needed to
ush de!eloment forward and faster in sub-7aharan 6frica, <=9-6 and 6< .20110 argued that the
region needs among others, %de!elomental states& and according to <=9-6 and 6<, a de!elomental
state is$
%Hone that has the caacity to deloy its authority, credibility and legitimacy in a binding manner to
design and imlement de!eloment olicies and rogrammes for romoting transformation and growth
as well as for e*anding human caabilities. 7uch a state ta"es as its o!erall socio-economic goals the
long-term growth and structural transformation of the economy with e+uity. Ce!elomental states in
6frica should be inclusi!e and oerate through a democratic go!ernance framewor" which is necessary
to ensure socio-olitical inclusi!enessH& .<=9-6 and 6<, 2011$J0.
<nfortunately, states with such +ualities are the e*cetions rather than the norm in sub-7aharan 6frica
where the struggle for democratic go!ernance is as imerati!e today as it was two decades ago.
Sub-Saharan Africa+s *ontemporary Political Score *ard
If sub-7aharan 6frica is facing significant de!eloment challenges, the same could also be said about
its olitical de!eloment. In 6ril 2011, the academic #ournal Cemocratization ublished a secial
issue which focused on assessing the current state of democratization in sub-7aharan 6frica. In the
introductory article to this secial edition of Cemocratization, ;abrielle :ynch and ;ordon -rawford
ro!ide a synotic ersecti!e on the state of democratization in sub-7aharan 6frica and their
conclusion is that o!erall, there is a %icture of comle*ity and of contradictory trends& in the current
democratization rocess in sub-7aharan 6frica and that in %as much as ad!ances in democratization&
ha!e been made within the last two decades, there are also e!idence of %%democratic rollbac"s& and the
entrenchment of autocracy, albeit under the guise of electoralism in multiarty conte*ts& .:ynch and
-rawford, 2011$2340. 'o ma out this contradictory icture further, :ynch and -rawford identify se!en
areas of %rogress and setbac"s& regarding the contemorary situation of democratization rocesses in
sub-7aharan 6frica$
%Hincreasingly illegitimate but ongoing military inter!ention, regular elections and occasional
transfers of ower but realities of democratic rollbac" and hybrid regimes, democratic
institutionalization but ongoing residentialism and endemic corrution, the institutionalization of
olitical arties but widesread ethnic !oting and the rise of an e*clusionary .and often !iolent0 olitics
of belonging, increasingly dense ci!il societies but local realities of inci!ility, !iolence and insecurity,
new olitical freedoms and economic growth but e*tensi!e olitical controls and une!en de!eloment
and the donor community&s mi*ed commitment to, and at times er!erse imact on democracy
romotionH& .:ynch and -rawford, 2011$2J50.
(hen one uts discussions about neo-colonialism in between considerations of the enormous
de!eloment challenges facing sub-7aharan 6frica and the contemorary score card of the
democratization rocess in the region as atly described by :ynch and -rawford, then one can see in
what ways neo-colonialism can be a force for %good& or %ill& in contemorary sub-7aharan 6frica.
If this line of thought is followed, there are in a sense t,o broad ,ays in ,hich it can proceed.
(irstly# 6frican countries ha!e generally made %little rogress in mobilizing domestic resources for
de!eloment& and their gross domestic sa!ings as a roortion of ;C2 are thus %inade+uate to finance
the in!estment necessary for maintaining solid ;C2 growth& .<=9-6 and 6<, 2011$@0. 1urthermore,
as the IM1 .2010$20 noted, %more than a third& of countries in sub-7aharan 6frica %remain on the
margins of international caital mar"ets& and are %deendent on official forms of e*ternal financing&.
Most of these e*ternal financing come from de!eloed countries, Bretton (oods institutions and
increasingly now, -hina and to an e*tent India and Brazil.
Secondly# "eeing aside debts owed by these 6frican countries to these e*ternal sources of financing,
to the e*tent that most countries in sub-7aharan 6frica really deend on these financing, these %donor
countries or agencies& arguably aroriate a certain le!el of le!erage in their dealings with these
countries and it is at the le!el of %ma"ing use& of their ac+uired .deser!edA0 le!erage that sar"s of neo-
colonialism are e*hibited and related charges le!ied.
8as the use of this le!erage been often %good& for 6fricaA International relations is at its most basic, a
game of national interests. 6t such a basic le!el, it is therefore aroriate to understand that no
country will use its le!erage o!er another country against its own interests. >n the contrary, such
le!erage will be used as much as ossible for the country&s self interests. It is for this reason that a
country li"e 1rance for instance, has often been accused of using its le!erage o!er its former colonies in
6frica if not to determine the course of olitical succession at least to %ro u ro-1rench rulers
including some of the most desotic and murderous indi!iduals in ost-colonial 6frican history such as
9meror )ean Bedel Bo"assa and Mobutu 7ese 7e"o& .;regory, 2000$@GJ0.
1urthermore, one "ey imact of such tendencies .all facets of neo-colonialism by the way0 is that
because 6frican go!ernments are deendent on e*ternal funding and other forms of suort from
%e*ternal owers& and institutions, they ha!e become in essence %more accountable to the donor
community than to local electorates or arliaments& with the e*erience in drafting and adoting the
se!eral 2o!erty Deduction 7trategy 2aers in the region being a "ey case in oint .:ynch and
-rawford, 2011$23@0.
>b!iously such e*amles highlight the negati!e imacts of neo-colonialism and thus its undesirability
with resect to the socio-economic and olitical de!eloment in sub-7aharan 6frica. But the dynamics
mentioned abo!e also arado*ically underscore and highlight why it can be argued that sub-7aharan
6frica needs %some doses& of neo-colonialism.
7ub-7aharan 6frica has a leadershi roblem .not to say curse0. -haracterized by dramatized
ersonalization of ower, significantly high le!els of across-the-board corrution and a general
tendency for imunity as a result of high disregard of the rule of law, the leadershi roblem in the
region has often been cited as being one of the stumbling bloc"s to socio-economic and olitical
de!eloment.
8eads of state in articular who rule their countries with !ery limited or no le!els of domestic
accountability and resond to domestic calls for broader democratization either dismissi!ely or with
force, can arado*ically be ressurized through neo-colonial networ"s to resond to domestic demands.
7imilarly, faced with sit-tight residents, most acti!ists in sub-7aharan 6frica, from formal oosition
arties to rominent intellectuals and ci!il society acti!ists, ha!e tended to etition dilomatic
reresentati!es in their resecti!e countries, as"ing for these countries to %ut ressure& on the resident
to heed to their demands. 'he oosition in -ameroon is currently doing this ahead of residential
elections due in >ctober 2011.
In line with such thin"ing, :aurent ;bagbo&s suorters may call 1rance&s actions %neo-colonial& but to
other obser!ers and 6lassane >uattara&s suorters in articular, in the face of ;bagbo&s %sit-
tightedness& and adamant refusal to hand o!er ower after losing an election, if it needed neo-colonial
tendencies to send ;bagbo out and ta"e the country forward, then that was aroriate. 6s the BB-&s
Mar" Coyle noted recently$
%If ost-colonial sensiti!ities were not so acute, the whole affair could be ortrayed comletely
differently. 'he 1rench could easily resent themsel!es as the ones who heled "ic" start democracy in
I!ory -oast&.
7o in a sense, neo-colonialism can ser!e contemorary sub-7aharan 6frica in both relati!ely good and
relati!ely bad ways. 'he region is facing substantial de!eloment challenges which among others,
warrants a democratic, resonsi!e and %de!elomental state&. 6 tye of state which is anything but
common in sub-7aharan 6frica gi!en the nature of leadershi in the region as discussed abo!e. (hile
neo-colonial tendencies can hel eretuate the cycle of undemocratic and domestically unresonsi!e
go!ernments, it is also arguable that in the conte*t in which the current leadershi in sub-7aharan
6frica can be ushed in one way or another by %e*ternal actors&, in certain cases, these neo-colonial
tendencies could ser!e relati!ely good uroses.
6s an e*amle of one of these relati!ely good uroses, it is often mentioned in academic discussions
about democratization in sub-7aharan 6frica that former 1rench colonies in articular, ushered in
olitical oenings in the 1330s after the :a Baule 1ranco-6frican 7ummit during which 2resident
1rancois Mitterrand announced that 1rench aid %would henceforth be lin"ed to democratization&
.-hafer, 2002$G400. -urrently the whole criticism about -hina in relation to its current engagement in
and with 6frica has centred on the oint that Bei#ing is not using its %le!erage& to ressurize 6frican
countries to resect human rights .'aylor, 200I0.
In certain ways therefore, one could argue that arado*ically, neo-colonialism has stayed its course and
may continuously do so in sub-7aharan 6frica because 6frican leaders ha!e either in their ersonalized
dealings with neo-colonial actors or in their manifestations of significantly untoward democratic
tendencies, gi!en good cause for neo-colonialism to both manifest itself and be desired.
*onclusion
'he issue of neo-colonialism in relation to sub-7aharan 6frica is a toic that surs sentiments as seen in
the discussions that ha!e been ta"ing lace following the recent e!ents in I!ory -oast. Beyond the
normal and understandable sentimental reactions, the e!ents in I!ory -oast also ro!ide an oortunity
for a more deeened discussion of contemorary neo-colonialism in sub-7aharan 6frica. It is also an
oortunity to loo" at the de!eloment challenges facing sub-7aharan 6frica, what it ta"es to
sustainably tac"le these challenges, the nature of leadershi and go!ernance in sub-7aharan 6frica and
as" the +uestion whether ractically sea"ing neo-colonialism can be totally eradicated and whether in
a sense, some %dosage& of it is not needed in the region.
The discussions presented abo%e coalesced into t,o main points- (irstly# that in addition to
historical reasons, the current low le!els of socio-economic de!eloment in sub-7aharan 6frica
condition sub-7aharan 6frica to engage with %e*ternal actors& - be they countries or global institutions,
from a wea"ened osition and that because international relations is basically a game of national self
interests, countries dealing with sub-7aharan 6frica will always try to use any le!erage they ha!e for
their benefits. =eo-colonial tendencies will therefore be in sub-7aharan 6frica for a !ery long time to
come.
Secondly, neo-colonialism is a double-edged sword. It can both romote and thwart efforts at socio-
economic and olitical de!eloment in sub-7aharan 6frica. In relation to the ossibilities of it
romoting efforts at socio-economic and olitical de!eloment in the region, gi!en that resonsi!e
leadershi is needed in 6frica to tac"le the enormous de!eloment challenges in the region and also
gi!en that 6frican leaders ha!e shown signs of an %accountability mismatch&- being accountable more
to %e*ternal actors& than to domestic institutions and actors, neo-colonialism might actually be needed
to ush these go!ernments to enact ro-oor and ro-democracy initiati!es.
In a widely discussed article in 133@, titled %Cecaying 2arts of 6frica =eed Benign -olonization&, the
celebrated 6frican scholar 6li 6. Mazrui argued that in the conte*t of significant underde!eloment in
certain regions in 6frica, there is a need to reestablish the old :eague of =ations 'rusteeshi system
with 6frican and 6sian nations among those aointed by the <nited =ations to go!ern certain
countries under the guidance of a council of ma#or 6frican states. 6s e*ected, such !iews were widely
criticized as an unwelcome call for the re-colonization of 6frica.
6 year after Mazrui&s article, (illiam 2faff, writing in 1oreign 6ffairs argued that in the wa"e of the
oor socio-economic de!eloment and high le!els of bad go!ernance in 6frica, %much of 6frica needs,
to ut it lainly, what one could call a disinterested neo-colonialism& .2faff, 1335$20. 6ccording to
2faff, such a %disinterested neo-colonialism& could be instituted through the creation of a %cooerati!e
9uro-6frican trust organization to which the ma#ority of 6frican go!ernments would assign a defined
.and irre!ocable0 authority& to "ee or restore order in troubled societies, establish regimes of olitical
and social rights, rebuild health and educational institutions and de!elo national economic
infrastructures. 6s 2faff recognized himself, such ideas, which are basically new forms of colonialism,
do not %stand much chance of accetance& but they need to be %considered& .2faff, 1335$40.
(ithout suggesting the establishment of new forms of colonial structures li"e Mazrui and 2faff did, the
central argument resented thus far is that gi!en the nature of both the de!eloment challenge in sub-
7aharan 6frica and the +uality of go!ernance in the region, as unalatable as it may seem, neo-
colonialism could actually be a desirable factor in ositi!ely ushing the frontiers of current le!els of
socio-economic and olitical de!eloment in the region.
-onscious of the ermanence of neo-colonialism and its otential to be both a force for good and bad,
the challenge then for 6fricans in general is to loo" for aroriate and sustainable mechanisms to
engage with the current leadershi system through wide grassroots mobilization. :i"e in re!ious
%color re!olutions&, the recent e!ents in 9gyt and 'unisia in articular ha!e shown us that when
eole rise u as one, e!en a thirty-year-old unaccountable go!ernment can be urooted.
7uch wide eole mo!ements as we ha!e seen in 9gyt and 'unisia in articular, results in the
lessening .if not brea"ing0 of the notch of %mismatched accountability& that is a central node of neo-
colonialism. In the conte*t of such wide eole mo!ements, the often domestically unaccountable
go!ernments are ushed to the wall and their e*ternal bac"ers-often (estern countries, %ashamed& not
to be seen as standing on the way of such wide mo!ements, e!entually as" these go!ernments to, as it
is often said - %resond to the legitimate demands of the eole&.
'o deal with neo-colonialism through an engagement with these domestically unaccountable regimes in
such ways, a lot needs to be ut in lace but rincially, what is centrally needed is a strong networ" of
interlin"ed community organizations with a caacity to mobilize eole and ma"e them belie!e that
their single !oice counts in forcing the go!ernment to wor" towards a sustainable change in the state of
their li!es.
'his is what the eole of I!ory -oast for instance, need to start doing beyond fretting about the e*tent
to which 6lassane >uattara is or is not an instrument of neo-colonialism. If this is not done, li"e it has
haened in other 6frican countries, changes in the country&s leadershi, howe!er bloody and forceful
it has been, ris"s not yielding any substantial amelioration in the li!elihoods of the eole. If this
haens .as it is li"ely the case0 then I!ory -oast, through 2resident 6lassane >uattara, would ha!e
merely added e!idence to the mantra-the more things change, the more they stay the same. 'he 1rench,
now singled out once more for being neo-colonialists in relation to recent e!ents in I!ory -oast, e!en
ut this in a nicer way$ 2lus Ma change, lus cNest la mOme chose.
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