October 20th, 2009
Why Europe Lost Africa
The Apparent End of Afro-European Relations
To understand China’s foray into Africa, it is instructive to read the weekly issues of The China Monitor, a publication of the South African-based think-tank Centre for Chinese Studies. It provides a deep insight into China’s economic relations with Africa as far as trade, aid, and infrastructural development are concerned. Such developments confirm Africa’s drift from Europe. Why did Europe lose Africa?
The Evils of Colonialism
In his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney spells it out in black and white that “colonialism was a one armed bandit.” Frantz Fanon categorizes colonialism as “violence in its natural state.” The entire system of colonialism was based on how much, how best and how fast Europe could exploit Africa even at the cost of African “life and limb.” It sowed the seeds of violence and instability that have followed Africa till this day.
The legacies of colonialism are still quite visible everywhere in Africa. The most outstanding is the diametrical relationship that exists between Europe and Africa. This continent remains the least developed in the world and a showcase for hunger, disease misery and conflicts. “Africa entered colonialism with a hoe and left with a hoe,” says Rodney.
Neo-colonialism, Europe’s New Form of Exploitation
Neocolonialism continued the job left by colonialism. Its main instruments were hypocrisy, double standards and propaganda. The spiral of conflicts that greeted African independence were visible signs of neo-colonialism at work. It is not difficult to find Europe’s hand in all African conflicts from the Congo in 1960, through the Rwandan genocide of 1994 to the recent upheavals in the continent.
African conflicts provide a lucrative market for western (and now Chinese) arms merchants. Europe is notorious for hypocrisy and double standards in Africa. The West has left a reputation for condoning the butchery of Africans by Africans and then preaching human rights. Europe provided economic and military assistance to obnoxious apartheid regime of South Africa that butchered Africans in thousands.
In August 2008 for example, the government of Rwanda issued its report which documented France’s role in the Rwandan genocide. It is shocking to find the names of former French leaders like Francois Mitterand, Allan Juppe and Dominque de Villpin. France is among those western countries which claim to uphold human rights.
Neo-colonialism also practices a policy of selective criticism of African governments. Two cases in point are the recently flawed elections in Nigeria (2007) and Kenya (2008). For fear of disrupting oil supplies in Nigeria, the West did not go beyond verbal protests. As for Kenya, this country was simply transformed into an ethnic volcano. When Robert Mugabe rigged his own elections in June 2008, the West started calling for regime change.
Is China a Credible Alternative to Europe?
Angered by China’s foray into Africa, Europe has attempted to bring China to book over human rights abuses. “China’s ‘no conditions’ investments in African countries misgoverned by oppressive regimes contributes to perpetuating human rights abuses and further worsen governance,” said a draft report of the European Parliament on Development in May 2008. This report further insisted that any “coherent strategy to respond to the new challenges raised by emerging donors such as China … must not attempt to emulate China’s methods and aims….”
China has so far given a deaf ear to western rhetoric about human rights in Africa. Beijing has continued to embark on the path set out in “China’s Africa Policy,” which is inspired by what China calls a “win-win relationship.” Chinese constructed roads, railways, bridges, schools, hospitals, and airports are living signs of China’s transformative presence in Africa.
Africa’s Time to Choose
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, enemy number one of the West was among the first African leaders to define Africa’s choice of partner. “We have turned east,” he said, “where the sun rises, and given our backs to the West where the sun sets.” Considered a pariah, Mugabe has never been taken seriously. All Europe looks forward to is his departure.
“When it comes to China and Africa, the European Union and the US want to [eat] their cake and [have] it,” said Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. “Today … economic relations are based more on mutual need and the economic reality that the EU and US cannot compete with China.” President Wade concluded his interview with Financial Times in strong terms. “Not just Africa but the West itself has much to learn from China. It is time for the West to practice what it preaches….”