The same somehow applies for colonialism. Africa is challenged with a new colonial invasion which is not less destructive and exploiting in its dimension than the colonialism of the 19th century. Britain’s Government and economy is still heavily involved in today’s Scramble for Africa.
How did the first colonial invasion in Africa start?
To figure that out you have to follow the financial interests of the British Empire. The British Empire first only had a few bases in West-Africa, which mainly served as Britain’s trading venue for cheap labour force for the colonies in America and the Caribbean – Millions of Africans were sold into slavery.
When slavery was abolished in 1807 by the Slave Trade Act, other interests in Africa arose. At first, safe ports were established along the African coast for the trade route to India, with the purpose to build outposts stretching from Egypt to South Africa. Then, the Brits started to do more and more explorations further into the African continent, resulting in the exploitation of African resources and the destruction of African societies. By the end of the 19th century, every European country wanted its own piece of Africa culminating in the Berlin Conference of 1884, known as the Scramble of Africa: European governments gathered together in Berlin and divided the African continent among themselves. Not one African representative was part of this Conference!
Britain got what we call today Egypt, Sudan, Gambia, Zimbabwe, a part of Somalia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia – this meant power over 30% of the African people.
The British established three different kinds of rulership in its colonies:
- Indirect rulership mainly in West-Africa (Europeans didn’t want to live there because of the extreme climate and diseases like Malaria) by favoring and supporting a specific minority over the other tribes living in that country. For example, in Nigeria they gave power to Fulanis to rule over the others or in Sudan to the Arab minority
- In other countries a company rulership was established by giving land to British companies to administer it and the people living on it
- The third version of rulership was the Settler Colonialism, which was the cruelest form of all because it sought to replace the original population with a new society of settlers. A large number of British settlers immigrating into mainly Southern African countries forced resettlements to make space for themselves. More severe effects were the rape of women, endless torture, murder, castration and concentration camps
With all this knowledge, it’s shocking that a poll from YouGov in 2016 shows that 44% of the British people are proud of their colonial past.
After their fights for independence, all African countries are free from British rule now, aren’t they?
A new wave of colonialism is flooding Africa these days and it is driven by the plundering and exploiting of natural resources like gold, platinum, diamonds, oil, cupper, silver, coltan, cobalt, and many more. More than 100 mainly British companies are listed on the London Stock market, which have mining activities going on in about 37 different African countries. This means they are controlling more than 1 Trillion worth of resources!
Their concessions cover a staggering 1.03 million square kilometers of African land.
The British government is also heavily involved in the new Scramble for Africa. It argues that Africa should continue staying the primary resource provider and supports African regimes which enable the access to resources for foreign companies. It also works to prevent regularities and protection barriers for commodity trade. This results in African governments holding only minority shares of mining companies and if they do it’s only 5-20%. Additionally, one quart of these British companies is operating in tax havens and many more are given tax incentives, so African governments and more importantly the people are losing billions of tax revenues every year!
However, the worst effect of this new colonial invasion is the violation of human rights, and the social and environmental exploitation. Working condition and environmental regulation naturally enforced in the UK, are completely ignored from a lot of British companies operating in Africa! Harmful acids and insufficient safety equipment are often used to extract minerals. This results in the killing of plant life and severe health issues for the African population.
For example, in Zambia Thousands of people were polluted by contaminated water and many are still affected today by kidney and liver issues as well as miscarriages. Other practices are forced resettlements with empty promises of building new homes, labor rights violations like loan cuts and even the involvement in killings: In South Africa, 34 people were killed during a strike by the police. A transcript of a meeting between the Lonmin company and the police showed how much the police was pressured by Lonmin to end the strike.
These facts barely make the mainstream news, that’s why we give them room here today, for Black History Month. To end this article with another quote: