Today: June 13, 2024

“Scheming African minds”: Neocolonialism and Africa’s uncertain future

By Temesgen Aschenek Zeleke


Africa was divided among colonial powers since the late 1800’s where the whole of the continent was partitioned like a homemade peach pie.  However, due to the major international developments, the impact of World War II (the defeat of the axis powers) and the emergence of new sense of African nationalism and resistance; almost all African nation were got independence by the end of the 1960’s. Immediately after independence the western educated first generation African leaders tried to bring transformation with gigantic sentiments. Thus, the western values and system of governance and policies were being applied and inculcated in the continent without customizing with African traditions, values and understandings. These facts further lead the continent with the cycle of constant changing of power, civil war, poverty, insecurity and ongoing conflicts [1].  These are the accounts of the heirloom of colonialism where colonial masters still established Colonial lasting client-patron association that existed and still exists in some cases between ex-colonial powers and the ruling elitist governments.  This short piece of writing tries to asses and analyzes the practice of neocolonialism as a consequence of decolonization in Africa.

Arguments on post-colonial African Situation

Though the continent of Africa get independence and much was expected, the deteriorations of Africa have been continued till today. This led the various interpretation of post-colonial Africa. In this regard three arguments dominated the academic discourse on the situations of post-colonial Africa. The first argument focus on the major problem for Africa is its colonial legacies where the political and economic relationship between post-colonial Africa and the West have the same underpinnings and meet the same objectives like the relationship of the colonial period. The exploitative and asymmetric character of this relationship has far reaching effects which weighs down the development on the continent negatively where still the colonial ruling style of oppression of the colonial administration that was imposed on African states by the new African nationalist rulers was not based on the choice, consent, will and purpose of the African people [1].  The proponents of this view argued that colonial legacies shape the current Africa. The current conflicts and economic deteriorations are the result of colonialism legacies. For example, ethnic conflict is the result of the colonial masters emphasized the distinctions between the different ethnic groups, thereby strengthening tribal differences and rivalries between these groups and preventing them from forming a united opposition against the colonizers which still become a chronic problem to Africa. The failure of the rule of law and institutions which were imposed irrespective of African culture which later become the implementing agents of colonial power policies and strategies with the disadvantage of Africa are also regarded as the accounts of colonialism.

The second argument emphasizes internal problems accounts more than external influences on the decolonized Africa.  Mentioning shortly after independence, the socio economic environments of most African countries were progressive and very favorable because there existed the spirit of self-determinism and high hopes to succeed without colonial influence. However, economic buoyancy could not stand the test of time and hence was worn out over a short period when the united forces that fought for independence and political freedom were broken, leading to the dominance of single-party rule which centralized all political and economic supremacy. The national governments failure to implement appropriate policies, negligence of the rural people and economic sectors, inability to form popular governments are the major accounts for the post-colonial Africa. Proponents argue rather than thinking and blaming western power it is good to solve major issues hampering African development like corruption, inefficiency, and protectionism.

The third view analyzes Africa in terms of the current global forces. According to this view, globalization is the major force that shape the current political economy of Africa. Blaming the colonial masters for post-colonial African situation has no weight as by no means Africa is free from the force of globalization. In this regard, the internationalizing and the globalizing of the economics of African countries continue to criminalize and degrade their peoples in the world economic relation [6].


Neocolonialism as a Consequence of Decolonization


Neo-colonialism is a concept developed immediately after the decolonization of African and Asian states to show the asymmetrical relationships observed. It basically refers to the indirect control of the Africa nations by their former colonial masters socially, politically and economically.  The concept was first developed after Africans finally “won” the fight for their liberation and a response for the economic, political and cultural exploitation of the continent actually continued [2]. The concept of neocolonialism has several theoretical and epistemological influences of which it owes much from Marxist thinking and dependency theories of the 1960s.

In the African context the term neocolonialism was first coined by Kwame Nkrumah which appeared in the 1963 preamble of the Organization of African Unity Charter, and was the title of his 1965 book “Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965). In his book Nkrumah argued though African states granted independence their economic policies, strategies and finally their political system were indirectly formulated by ex-colonizers [3]. The ways of re-colonizing operated in varying ways in post-colonial Africa like in the form of foreign aid and foreign financial interest, control over government policy, influence to import the manufactured goods of the colonial powers.

In the introduction part of his book neocolonialism the last stage of imperialism, Nkurmah, clearly stated neocolonialism as

The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside [3].

John Perkins, “The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” also express how neocolonialism is being exercised in financial and policy wise influences. He claimed that if developing countries resist accepting loans that would enslave their countries in debt, the powerful nation jackals would overthrow or assassinate them [4]. Furthermore, he stated

..Money that had been budgeted for health care, education, and other social services was diverted to pay interest on the loans. In the end, the principal was never paid down; the country was shackled by debt. Then International Monetary Fund (IMF) hit men arrived and demanded that the government offer its oil or other resources to our corporations at cut-rate prices, and that the country privatize its electric, water, sewer, and other public sector institutions and sell them to the corporatocracy [4, p 28].

Neocolonialism and Africa’s uncertain future


In post-colonial Africa, neocolonialism is being manifested in political, economic, cultural and psychological aspects. In this regard the following three parameters best explains the practice of Neo-colonialism in Africa. The first aspect is Client patron relationship among and between former colonizers and colonies. In many African countries, while the ex-colonizers help in maintaining their power, in return post-colonial African governments allow their market and economy to be easily exploitable. According to Alemazung [1] the selfish and exploitative character of the master-colony relationship that reigned in the colonialism time continued in different forms even after colonialism was long gone, and continues to impact contemporary African politics. Furthermore, colonial powers succeeded for establishing the political structure which laid a basis for patron-client ruler ship after colonialism. Neo-patrimonial leadership as practiced in many African countries is an extension of the kind of autocratic and alien tyrant rule that the colonial master’s had initiated. Thus, the African petty bourgeoisie, which had received power from the exiting colonial government, has been the primary cause of neocolonialism in Africa.

The second aspect is economic means and asymmetric relationships. With the demise of socialism and expansion of capitalism coupled with globalization of economies feature the current world order to be asymmetric.  Even failed and collapsed decolonized states forced to swim in the imperialist world without any competing capacity. This leads unbalanced economic, trade and investment interactions. According to Perkins, imperialist nation invested in mass in developing countries in a way that enable them to exploited African market, cheap labor, and raw materials[4].  Colonial Powers continue influencing African states through policies that enable them to continue for exploiting their resources. For example introducing Unequal exchange, currency exchange control, giving loans and grant that result into debt burden and bring Permanente dependence and underdevelopment. Furthermore fixing price of African cash crops by keeping the prices low so that Africa remain dependent to their  aid while they make African countries a dumping place for manufactured low quality goods.

The third aspect is social and cultural means in which Controlling the minds and thinking’s of African elites and African population is another manifestation of neocolonialism in Africa. In this regard using western advanced Medias to influence the society and shape an agenda that favors western culture and life as superior than Africans, providing scholarships and educational systems which is shaped not in the way that benefit Africa, expanding western films and mechanisms of influence are some of them. In support of this, Walter Rodney, ‘How Europe underdeveloped Africa” clearly explained.


“Through influence of western films, books and education syllabus where films books and education Syllabus where by the curriculum is developed by the agent of colonialists masters that it is European based to big extent Little is about the people concern”[5]


In the social aspect of neocolonialism the general belief on the westerners is control the minds and hearts of the people so that they will surrender themselves without any doubt. Furthermore, introduction of their culture which led African culture to be destroyed and also inculcating their language which later lead the disappearance of African languages. This again further led to lack of communication and language barriers to most of African countries.

To conclude, it is clear that African Countries are decolonized from the conventional way of colonialism. The traditional concepts of sovereignty and territorial integrity were granted to Africa particularly in 1960s. However, the decolonization of Africa is followed with the more elastic but invisible way of colonialism which is termed as neocolonialism. In conventional colonialism, African countries were under subjugation with physical presence, military control, and direct interventions where as in the decolonized Africa capital mobility, dumping of manufactured goods, introducing western style of governance, shaping policies, debt burden, cultural influence and establishing asymmetric relationships have been exercised as a new form of colonialism in the continent. The influence of neocolonialism by ex-colonizers plus the inescapable development of globalization makes the continents’ future uncertain.


[1] Joy A.  Alemazung, Post-Colonial Colonialism: An Analysis of International Factors and Actors Marring African Socio-Economic and Political Development: The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.10, Bremen, Germany, (2010)

[2] Mwaura, Ndirangu, Kenya today: Breaking the yoke of colonialism in Africa. USA: Algora Publishing (2005)

[3] Kwame Nkrumah. Neocolonialism, the last stage of Imperialism: New York: International Publishers (1966)

[4] J. Perkins. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: Oacland, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc,(2016)

[5]  Walter RodneyHow Europe Underdeveloped AfricaBogle-L’Ouverture Publications, (1972)

[6] Eze R.c & Nkwede J, The Effect Of Globalization On African Countries: An Over View Of Nigeria, International Journal of Asian Social Science, 2012, vol. 2, issue 4, 394-401


By Temesgen Aschenek Zeleke

Contact: taschenek@gmail.com




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