7 March 2013, 19:00

21st century colonialism: a new scramble for Africa

21st century colonialism: a new scramble for Africa
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Dr. Hamdy Hassan, Director of the Center for African Future Studies based in UAE, speaks on the modern-day colonialism and the dominance of the West over new independent states in Africa and in Asia.

There’s been a conference held in France this week and the conference was focusing on neocolonialism and anti-colonialism. And I found it a little bit ironic that the French should hold this kind of event, though they are now closely engaged in Mali. So, do you think that the issue of neocolonialism is really hot on the agenda or perhaps it is a more theoretical stuff?

If we talk about the theoretical issue of the different aspects of colonialism, you have the ancient type of colonialism and the neocolonialism which is widely used after the liberation movement in Asia and Africa and it meant of this kind of economic and political influence or dominance of the European powers over the new entities or new independent states in Africa and in Asia. But now the issue, if it is relevant to Africa in practice, we have a new issue which we describe as a new scramble for Africa. So, it reminds us about the first scramble for Africa in the 19th century when the European powers met in Berlin and many European capitals decided to divide Africa among themselves. Now, the new type of scramble is for mineral resources.

So, you have newcomers, you have China, you have this new economic powers like Brazil and so it is not only the Europeans this time, but the new factor here, regarding the ancient European powers like Britain and France, is that they try to create a new atmosphere to militarize this new scramble for Africa. This is why we can see why the West intervened militarily in Libya and now France decided to intervene in Mali. So, you can see this as an attempt to militarize the competition among these new powers and ancient powers to dominate the natural resources in Africa.

If you take the case of Mali, so Mali is important because of uranium. It is very rich in mineral resources and in Europe now they are using uranium in energy, in Europe they are turning it into atomic energy to produce electricity and power. So, now we can understand why France intervened in Mali. And last month, in February, the Obama Administration decided to send 100 military personnel to build a permanent military base in Niger in order to use drones against what they call the terrorist suspects in the area.

So, I guess we can see a new Cold War where each party tries to maximize its benefits on the land using whatever means they can use. So, the umbrella here is the war against terror, the umbrella here is to intervene to support the indigenous people or the local people. But the main goal of the Western powers is to guarantee their access to natural resources in Africa. Here we call it - it is not a mere theoretical neocolonialism, it is a new division of power in Africa again.

Sir, but what can African governments do to prevent this kind of scenario or is it now too late to talk about that?

The difference between the first scramble process in the 19th century and the second scramble for Africa in the 21st century is that they use African military as agents, because now if you look at the case of Mali, they are not intervening directly in many cases. They use the African military to intervene and they support them logistically and financially because the Africans, they cannot do it alone. So, they need the Western support in their national politics. In this is one of the main differences – they use the Africans themselves in order to achieve their goals.

Number two, there is a kind of coordination between the Western, when I say the Western, I mean Europe and America, in order to share the African cake. So, it is not a matter of individual partition of Africa - this part belongs to France, or the other one belongs to Britain - but in the same area they can have a kind of influence sharing. So, you have the French administration and the British administration coordinating their efforts in order to guarantee or support their goals in Mali. So, it is not a unilateral issue as it was before. Now you have this kind of gentlemen’s agreement between the European powers in order to coordinate their advice in this new scramble for Africa.

If you look at the European Union it itself and its stance on the conflict in Mali - what they are looking for, for example with illegal immigration from Africa or fighting drugs and terror, they are looking at the conflict from their own perspective, from their own interests, not for the sake of the people of Mali or Africa. This is what is going on in Africa and this is why I do prefer, like the others, to call it a new scramble for Africa, because it is not a neocolonialism, but it is reminding us of a traditional case of colonialism or of partition of Africa.

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