African Society In A Neocolonial Framework: Becoming A Colony Of India And China

15 March 2011

By Sachin Kumar Jain

Africa is now becoming a colony of newly developed countries like India and China . Walter Fernandes, a well-known social scientist from the continent and an expert on the subject of displacement caused by development, reports that the rich capitalist class and their governments are currently in the process of usurping 40 million hectares from the Saharan nations. Most of these countries are under the control of dictators and lack any vestige of democratic functioning. At the same time, their people are denied even the basic facilities for living.

Representatives from Sudan and Congo who had come to attend the World Social Forum (WSF) organized in the African nation of Senegal from February 6 to 11, 2011 related how it took people two years to walk across the Sahara , the world's largest desert, when they decided to migrate from their homeland in search of a better life. They had to then sail across the Atlantic Ocean in tiny boats to reach European shores. Many died on the way. Many others were caught while slipping across the borders into European countries. The inhuman face of international diplomacy can be seen in the way they were transported and dumped back into the desert from where they had sought to escape. European countries like France , Italy and Spain are now paying around Rs 10, 000 million every year to African and Middle East countries to ensure that they make the necessary arrangements to prevent people from crossing European borders. The developed countries see the influx of migrants as having a deleterious impact on their resources while damaging their image in the eyes of the world, Over a million people from Kenya, Namibia, Congo, Algeria and other African countries are forced to migrate every year to escape their pitiable living conditions but they are not permitted to enter these European countries.

The face of colonial development and progress stands exposed. The colonizing powers first create scarcity conditions and then enslave the people of the country they target. They know that it is necessary to control culture, education, resources and language in order to enslave a society or a country. This process is still under way in the African continent today. But the ways in which colonization is taking place are changing.

A country like India , which was once itself enslaved and a victim of servitude, has over the past two decades adopted neo-liberal policies for its economic development. It is cutting down on governmental support/subsidies for agriculture and social welfare while at the same time increasing allocations for developing an industrial-capitalist framework. The bottom-line is how to increase the growth rate.

Wealth has, indeed, increased but imbalances in its distribution have increased even more starkly and rapidly. Today in India , a single industrial house, the Ambani family, controls 5% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). Around 70% of India 's resources have been captured by 7% of its people. It is these Indian industrial houses that are now targeting Africa to expand their colonial empires. This class has begun exploiting the industrial expansion policies of African nations to take control of the continent's natural resources.

China is already sending its citizens to cash in on the employment opportunities that are being generated there. In this way, countries that were once categorized as ‘developing' are now adopting colonial practices, the greatest irony being that we are now beginning to enslave those societies that have always been closest to us.

There is one other commonality that is clearly evident – African society is also the victim of capitalist policies.

In spite of being rich in resources, you will get a clear idea of the distressing state of the country's economy if you venture into the older quarters of the capital city of Dakar , where you will come across vendors on footpaths and in small shops selling second-hand clothes for children, men and women. The distressing fact is that the second-hand goods are coming into the market from Europe , which means that even the fashion trade is controlled by that continent. When we tried to snap photographs of the vendors they pleaded with us not to do so. They didn't want anyone to see their condition, which is becoming permanent, the norm.

The state of health facilities in the city will bring tears to your eyes. The people have no access or right to government or public health services. The maternal mortality rate is a distressing 1,000 per 100,000 births because there are no health facilities for women. Even private health facilities are skeletal, their reach being limited only to the capital. I'll quote just one example to illustrate the pitiable health situation in the country. Rami, one of our companions from the Philippines , came down with the flu and had a throat infection. It took us two hours to locate a doctor to attend to her and he charged 26,000 CFA francs (the Senegalese currency) as consultation fees, which equals around Rs 2,600. The antibiotics and paracetamol we bought for her treatment cost another 49,000 CFA francs (around Rs4,900)! Can anyone really dare to fall sick in a country where the average monthly income is less than Rs 2,000?

I roamed the city, bargaining like a tourist. But in the nine days I was in the country I did not come across a single individual who raised his/her voice while talking. They always listened respectfully to what I had to say, with no sign of guile or crookedness. I'd noticed that even the immigration official lowered his gaze while asking me for a bribe and smiled when he didn't receive one. Can one imagine a more civilized people?

Yet they were subjugated, colonized and enslaved. We found evidence of the violent, inhuman and frightening face of apartheid in a 5sq km island situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 15 km from Dakar . Known as Slave Island , this is the area closest to the rich, developed nations of the world.

In earlier times Africans were captured from different regions and brought here as slaves. It was from this island that they were dispatched into slavery in groups to different parts of Europe and America . One can still see those 80 to 150 sq ft rooms in which 15 to 30 people were imprisoned. They were allowed out only once in the day to relieve themselves. The insanitary conditions caused epidemics that killed thousands of Africans. Young girls were subjected to virginity tests and virgins were kept in separate rooms to be sent later to different places for sexual exploitation. If they became pregnant they were abandoned in forsaken places. Since this was the sole pathway to freedom, many girls sought to get pregnant as quickly as possible.

Official statistics covering over 300 years around the 14 th and 15 th centuries reveal that as many as 15 million people lost their lives during this period of the slave trade. Those who attempted to escape either drowned in the ocean or were attacked by sharks. Only the healthy ones weighing over 60 kg were sent across the ocean into slavery. The underweight were fed a special diet to increase their weight to qualify for slavery.

The people living on the island today relate the story of how the pope himself came here once from the Vatican to apologise for the depressing role played by the church in the practice of slavery. They told him yes, they could forgive him for this bitter truth of history but they could never forget it. Indeed, mankind has committed grievous sins in its history that cannot be forgotten.

The question we need to ask ourselves today is why European and American countries are still unwilling to fully reject an ideology steeped in apartheid and colonialism.



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