“The real explanation for the slowness of industrial development in Africa lies in the policies of the colonial period,” wrote Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, in his 1963 book, Africa Must Unite in free translation).

“Virtually all of our natural resources, not to mention commerce, shipping, banking, construction and so on, have fallen and remained in the hands of foreigners who seek to enrich investors and impede local economic initiative,” he wrote at the time, when many nations gained their independence from European countries. However, more than half a century later, events indicate that a new reality may be beginning to be outlined.

They are: the coups d’état that shook sub-Saharan countries, showing renewed energy to overcome colonial and imperialist logic, and a new perspective in relations with the great Asian power, which seems willing to provide resources for development without the draconian counterparts required by the West.

On the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in 2023, an Africa Industrialization Support Initiative was launched, in which China committed to increasing financing to build infrastructure, design and create industrial parks and help African governments and companies develop their policies and industrial sectors.

The idea is to support a development project that emerges from the African experience, rather than being imposed on African states by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) or other Western agencies and countries.

In publications recently released by the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, experts assess that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), known as the “Chinese New Silk Road”, launched in 2013, has provided significant financing for infrastructure projects that can form the basis for industrialization in regions that traditionally export raw materials and import manufactured products, as is the case in most African countries.

This does not mean that China is Africa’s lifeline, because this type of reasoning is part of the past and Africa’s path can, and should, be built by Africans. However, from its own experience of building manufacturing against a structure that reproduces dependency, China has much to share in terms of knowledge. And, as it has enormous financial reserves and does not impose conditionalities in the same way as the West, it can also be a source of financing for development projects.

In December 2022, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina stated that “Africa’s prosperity must no longer depend on the export of raw materials, but on value-added finished products”. Examples: turning cocoa into chocolate, cotton into clothing, coffee beans into ready-to-drink coffee, cobalt and nickel into lithium-ion batteries and electric cars, copper and silver into smartphones.

As Kwame Nkrumah wrote in 1963, Africa has everything it needs to become a modern, industrialized continent.

At the end of the submission

This new scenario of cooperation for development occurs at an intense political moment that is ripe for change, as the climate in the region is one of boldness to confront the neocolonial structures that crush hope. The people want to put an end to submission.

Anger against the former French colonizers – who still exercise strong political influence in the region – has been so intense that it has provoked at least seven recent coups d’état on the African continent (two in Burkina Faso, two in Mali, one in Guinea, one in Niger and one in Gabon) and has triggered mass demonstrations from Algeria to Congo, and most recently in Benin.

The most recent coup — in Niger, which deposed President Mohamed Bazoum in July 2023 — was led by military officers outraged by the presence of French and American troops and the permanent economic crises inflicted on their countries. In previous uprisings, the motivation was basically the same. But there are other details.

This region in the north of sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahel, has faced a cascade of crises: the drought of the land as a result of the climate catastrophe, the increase in Islamic militancy due to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) war in Libya in 2011 , the increase in smuggling networks to traffic weapons, people and drugs through the desert, the appropriation of natural resources – including uranium and gold – by Western companies that simply did not pay adequately for these riches and the entrenchment of Western military forces through the construction of bases and the unpunished actions of their armies.

After the coup in Niger, the West hoped to send a proxy force – led by the Economic Commission of West African States (Ecowas) – but African military leaders hesitated. Solidarity committees were created throughout the region to defend the people of Niger from any attack.

Meanwhile, not only did it appear that the people of Niger would resist any military intervention, but Burkina Faso and Mali also promised to immediately defend the country against any such intervention. In this context, the governments of the three countries created the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), to establish a collective defense and mutual assistance architecture for the benefit of their respective populations. A product of mutual solidarity.

But the AES is not just a military or security pact. At the signing ceremony, Malian Defense Minister Abdoulaye Diop characterized the alliance as a combination of military and economic efforts between the three countries. The seed was sown that could result in an economic agenda that benefits the populations and prevents France from exercising its authority over the region.


Since the mid-19th century, French colonialism has been present in North, West and Central Africa. In 1960, France controlled almost five million square kilometers (eight times the size of France itself) in West Africa alone. Although national liberation movements from Senegal to Chad gained independence from France that year, the French government maintained financial and monetary control through the African Financial Community or CFA (formerly the French Community of Africa), maintaining the CFA franc currency ( reads franc cefá) and forcing countries to maintain at least half of their foreign exchange reserves in Bank of France.

France maintained neocolonial structures that allowed French companies to siphon the region’s natural resources (such as uranium from Niger, which powers a third of French light bulbs) and imposed an IMF-driven agenda of austerity and debt.

Resentment against France grew after NATO destroyed Libya in 2011 and exported instability to Africa’s Sahel region. A combination of separatist groups, trans-Saharan smugglers and al-Qaeda offshoots banded together and marched south of the Sahara to capture nearly two-thirds of Mali, large parts of Burkina Faso and portions of Niger. French military intervention in the Sahel through Operation Barkhane (2013) and the creation of the neocolonial G-5 Sahel project led to an increase in violence by French troops, including against civilians.

Import substitution policies, which had been important for other countries in the so-called Third World, were rejected in favor of exporting cheap raw materials and importing expensive aggregate products. A spiral of debt and dependency has ravaged the continent.

This state of affairs encouraged migration across the region, which led Europe to implement security and foreign policy measures, including exporting illegal surveillance technologies to neocolonial governments in this belt of Africa. The Scream France, get out! [Fora França!] defines the attitude of mass agitation in the region against the neocolonial structures that try to strangle the Sahel.

However, a reactionary force constantly seeks to prevent the change necessary for Africa’s autonomous and profound development. Over the past 30 years, many parties with a history dating back to national liberation movements and even socialist movements have transformed themselves into representatives of their elites, who, in turn, are drivers of a Western agenda.

The entry of al-Qaeda smuggling forces gave local elites and the West the justification to further oppress the political environment, reducing already limited trade union freedoms and eliminating the left from the ranks of established political parties. The central issue is that the leaders of the main political parties, regardless of their ideological orientation, still do not have real independence in relation to the will of Paris and Washington. They have become puppets of the West.

* The text above was composed based on excerpts from articles from Indian historian and journalist Vijay Prashad, director general of the Tricontinental Institute of Social Research, published during 2023 by Brasil de Fato.

Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho

Source: www.brasildefato.com.br

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