Before the end of the first period of colonialism African nations were properties of their colonial masters who did what they could to rape the continent of whatever the resources they deemed good for the development of their citizens in Europe.
Out of nowhere and without consultation with the people of the African continent, the Europeans met and divided the continent among themselves in what has been termed the scramble for Africa. Through this scramble, France, Britain, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Belgium all went on a looting spree, raping Africa of her resources without putting any of the proceeds back for the development of the continent.
When Africa was given her “freedom”, the fathers of independence inherited nothing more than empty treasuries. They realised that after 300 years of colonial rule their colonial masters had left them nothing. No money and no infrastructure. This horrendous situation and their eagerness to improve lives of their people led them to turn to the IMF and the World Bank where to their horror, found their former colonial masters were there waiting for them. The colonisers used their majority votes to dictate to the World Bank and IMF about how these former colonies should be helped.
The colonial masters dictated to the Brettonwoods Institutions that for Africans to be helped, they have to open and liberalise their economies to allow European corporations in. This underscores the numerous conditionalities associated with loans from these institutions. These conditionalities are nothing but a smokescreen designed to ensure that Europeans do not lose their grip on the resources of their former colonies thus solidifying and entrenching neo-colonialism. Some of these conditionalities include instituting secret memorandums of agreements, subsidies for foreign corporations and massive tax concessions such as income tax which is a primary source for export oriented developing countries.
The sad thing is that Africans thought independence would bring them respite to develop, but this was never to be as the colonial masters used their multinational corporations and intelligence services to deliver vengeance on the people. They deliberately understated their profits and falsified profit documents as well as undervaluing their goods. They indulged in smuggling, theft and the falsification of invoicing and non-payment of taxes, employed kickbacks and bribes to public officials.
They also overpriced their projects, provided safe havens to looted funds, promoted the sale of guns, overthrew resistant African leaders, supported horrible dictatorships and assassinated those Africans who were allergic to their corrupt neo-colonial exploitative nature, example here being the tragedy of Patrice Lumumba and support the west gave to the dictatorship of Mabuto.
These dictators or bourgeoisie compradors were then ideologically corrupted by the neo-colonial MNCs to the state of becoming helpless stooges. The only tangible role that they played was belly dancing and pandering to the whims of
Their corrupt, nepotistic and patron clientalistic practices opiated them into a frenzy of callous brutality against their people. They used multinational corporation armed and funded Gestapo style police units to engage in political castration of those who stood up them through systematic torture, exile, detention etc much to the libidious excitement of their neo colonial multinational corporation masters. It is very common all over Africa during these so called “independence celebrations” when these power drunk dictators would shamelessly parade their ill-gotten wealth, chanting freedom slogans trying to blind the poor and hungry African masses not to realize that in actual fact they are celebrating exploitation and economic independence enjoyed by neo colonial multinational corporations handed to them on a silver platter by international financial institutions.
It is of utmost importance to make poor Africans to be aware that MNCs corrupt practices affect their beautiful continent in many adverse ways. They undermine development and exacerbate inequality and poverty. They disadvantage smaller domestic firms and transfer money that could be put towards poverty eradication into the hands of the rich. They distort decision making in favor of projects that favor the few rather than the many, they increase the debt that benefit the company not the country, they bypass local democratic processes, circumvent legislation and promote weapon sales used for black on black violence.
Finally with a tinge of sadness, I safely posit that with the arrival of the Chinese corporations as fierce competitors, Africans thought now they have a choice not to go to IMF and World Bank for conditional loans. They thought it may be the beginning of an end to neo colonialism, instability, dictatorship, corruption and all the ills that Europeans and Americans have been promoting in Africa.
They thought it may be the beginning where Africa’s resources will be bought and payment made to the people and a new chapter that will usher in Africa’s development. Sadly the Chinalisation of Africa through their corporations has worsened the already horrible situation. Their poor human rights record, deplorable sweatshop working conditions, insulting slave wages, substandard development projects and corruption have made African independence a farfetched dream that will never be realized in the near future.
*Solly Rakgomo is a graduate student of Politics and International Relations.