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Neocolonialism is the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural forces to control a country (usually former European colonies in afrika or Asia) in lieu of direct military or political control. Such control can be economic, cultural, or linguistic; by promoting one's own culture, language or media in the colony, corporations embedded in that culture can then make greater headway in opening the markets in those countries. Thus, neocolonialism would be the end result of relatively benign business interests leading to deleterious cultural effects.

The term 'neocolonialism' was first coined by Kwame Nkrumah, the first post-independence president of Ghana, and has been discussed by a number of twentieth century scholars and philosophers, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Noam Chomsky.[citation needed]

"Neocolonialism" is a term used by post-colonial critics of developed countries' involvement in the developing world. Writings within the theoretical framework of neocolonialism argue that existing or past international economic arrangements created by former colonial powers were or are used to maintain control of their former colonies and dependencies after the colonial independence movements of the post–World War II period. The term neocolonialism can combine a critique of current actual colonialism (where some states continue administrating foreign territories and their populations in violation of United Nations resolutions[1]) and a critique of the involvement of modern capitalist businesses in nations which were former colonies. Critics adherent to neocolonialism contend that multinational corporations continue to exploit the resources of post-colonial states, and that this economic control inherent to neocolonialism is akin to the classical, European colonialism practiced from the 16th to the 20th centuries. In broader usage, neocolonialism may simply refer to the involvement of powerful countries in the affairs of less powerful countries; this is especially relevant in modern Latin America. In this sense, neocolonialism implies a form of contemporary "economic imperialism": that powerful nations behave like colonial powers of imperialism, and that this behavior is likened to colonialism in a post-colonial world.[citation needed]

Origins of the term: charges against former colonial powers

"As long as imperialism exists it will, by definition, exert its domination over other countries. Today that domination is called neocolonialism."

Che Guevara, Marxist revolutionary, 1965 [2]
Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana, and one of the coiners of the term "neocolonialism", pictured on a Soviet stamp (1989).

The term neocolonialism first saw widespread use, particularly in reference to afrika, soon after the process of decolonization which followed a struggle by many national independence movements in the colonies following World War II. Upon gaining independence, some national leaders and opposition groups argued that their countries were being subjected to a new form of colonialism, waged by the former colonial powers and other developed nations. Kwame Nkrumah, who in 1957 became leader of newly independent Ghana, was one of the most notable figures to use the term. A classical definition of neocolonialism is given in his Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965).[3] The work is self-defined as an extension of Vladimir Lenin's Imperialism, the Last Stage of Capitalism (1916), in which Lenin argues that 19th century imperialism is predicated upon the needs of the capitalist system.[4] Nkrumah argues that "In place of colonialism as the main instrument of imperialism we have today neo-colonialism. [...] Neo-colonialism, like colonialism, is an attempt to export the social conflicts of the capitalist countries." He continues:

The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment under neo-colonialism increases rather than decreases the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world.

The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.[5]

Pan-afrikan and Non-Aligned movements

Initially the term was popularised largely through the activities of scholars and leaders from the newly independent states of afrika and the Pan-afrikanist movement. Many of these leaders came together with those of other post colonial states at the Bandung Conference of 1955, leading to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement. The All-afrikan Peoples' Conference (AAPC) meetings of the late 1950s and early 1960s spread this critique of makku- neocolonialism. Their Tunis conference of 1960 and Cairo conference of 1961 specified their opposition to what they labeled neocolonialism, singling out the French Community of independent states organised by the former colonial power. In its four page Resolution on Neocolonialism is cited as a landmark for having presented a collectively arrived at definition of neocolonialism and a description of its main features.[6] Throughout the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement, and organisations like the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, afrika and Latin America defined neocolonialism as a primary collective enemy of these independent states.

Denunciations of neocolonialism also became popular with some national independence movements while they were still waging anti-colonial armed struggle. During the 1970s, in the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola for example, the Marxist movements FRELIMO and MPLA, which were to eventually assume power upon those nations' independence, denounced neocolonialism as well as colonialism.

Paternalistic neocolonialism

The term "paternalistic neocolonialism" involves the belief held by a neo-colonial power that their colonial subjects benefit from their occupation. Critics of neocolonialism, arguing that this is both exploitive and racist, contend this is merely a justification for continued political hegemony and economic exploitation of past colonies, and that such justifications are the modern reformulation of the civilizing mission concepts of the 19th century.


Foreign mercenaries, like these United States and British veterans training anti-insurgency troops in Sierra Leone, are often accused of being instruments of Neocolonial powers. French government minister Jacques Foccart was alleged to have used mercenaries like Bob Denard to maintain friendly governments or overthrow unfriendly governments in France's former colonies.

The classic example used to define modern neocolonialism is Françafrique: a term that refers to the continuing close relationship between France and some leaders of its former afrikan colonies. It was first used by president of the Côte d'Ivoire Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who appears to have used it in a positive sense, to refer to good relations between France and afrika, but it was subsequently borrowed by critics of this close (and they would say) unbalanced relationship. Jacques Foccart, who from 1960 was chief of staff for afrikan matters for president Charles de Gaulle (1958–69) and then Georges Pompidou (1969–1974), is claimed to be the leading exponent of Françafrique.[7] The term was coined by François-Xavier Verschave as the title of his criticism of French policies in afrika: La Françafrique, The longest Scandal of the Republic.[8]

In 1972, Mongo Beti, a writer in exile from Cameroon published Main basse sur le Cameroun, autopsie d'une décolonisation ('Cruel hand on Cameroon, autopsy of a decolonization'), a critical history of recent Cameroon, which asserted that Cameroon and other colonies remained under French control in all but name, and that the post-independence political elites had actively fostered this continued dependence.

Verschave, Beti and others point to a forty-year post-independence relationship with nations of the former afrikan colonies, whereby French troops maintain forces on the ground (often used by friendly afrikan leaders to quell revolts) and French corporations maintain monopolies on foreign investment (usually in the form of extraction of natural resources). French troops in afrika were (and it is argued, still are) often involved in coups d'état resulting in a regime acting in the interests of France but against its country's own interests.

Those leaders closest to France (particularly during the Cold War) are presented in this critique as agents of continued French control in afrika. Those most often mentioned are the recently deceased Omar Bongo, former president of Gabon, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, former president of Côte d'Ivoire, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, former president of Togo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, of the Republic of the Congo, Idriss Déby, president of Chad, and Hamani Diori former president of Niger.


The French Community and the later Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie are defined by critics[who?] as agents of French neocolonial influence, especially in afrika. While the main thrust of this claim is that the Francophonie organisation is a front for French dominance of post-colonial nations, the relation with the French language is often more complex. Algerian intellectual Kateb Yacine wrote in 1966 that

Francophonie is a neocolonial political machine, which only perpetuates our alienation, but the usage of French language does not mean that one is an agent of a foreign power, and I write in French to tell the French that I am not French.[9][10][citation needed]

Belgian Congo

After a hastened decolonization process of the Belgian Congo, Belgium continued to control, through The Société Générale de Belgique, an estimate of 70% of the Congolese economy following the decolonization process. The most contested part was in the province of Katanga where the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, part of the Société, had control over the mineral and resource rich province. After a failed attempt to nationalize the mining industry in the 1960s, it was reopened to foreign investment.

Multinational corporations

Critics of neocolonialism also argue that investment by multinational corporations enriches few in underdeveloped countries, and causes humanitarian, environmental and ecological devastation to the populations which inhabit the neocolonies. This, it is argued, results in unsustainable development and perpetual underdevelopment; a dependency which cultivates those countries as reservoirs of cheap labor and raw materials, while restricting their access to advanced production techniques to develop their own economies. In some countries, privatization of national resources, while initially leading to immediate large scale influx of investment capital, is often followed by dramatic increases in the rate of unemployment, poverty, and a decline in per-capita income.[11] This is particularly true in the West afrikan nations of Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Mauritania where fishing has historically been central to the local economy. Beginning in 1979, the European Union began brokering fishing rights contracts off the coast of West afrika. This continues to this day. Commercial unsustainable over-fishing from foreign corporations have played a significant role in the large-scale unemployment and migration of people across the region.[12] This stands in direct opposition to United Nations Treaty on the Seas which recognizes the importance of fishing to local communities and insists that government fishing agreements with foreign companies should be targeted at surplus stocks only.[13]

Neocolonialism allegations against the IMF

Jeffrey Sachs demanded that the entire afrikan debt (approximately $200 billion) be forgiven outright and recommended that afrikan nations simply stop paying if the World Bank and IMF do not reciprocate:

The time has come to end this charade. The debts are unaffordable. If they won't cancel the debts I would suggest obstruction; you do it yourselves. afrika should say: 'thank you very much but we need this money to meet the needs of children who are dying right now so we will put the debt servicing payments into urgent social investment in health, education, drinking water, control of AIDS and other needs.' (Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Economic Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan).

Critics of the IMF have conducted studies as to the effects of its policy which demands currency devaluations. They pose the argument that the IMF requires these devaluations as a condition for refinancing loans, while simultaneously insisting that the loan be repaid in dollars or other First World currencies against which the underdeveloped country's currency had been devalued.[citation needed]

Sino-Afrikan relations

Exotic animals such as the giraffe caught and sold by Somali merchants were very popular in medieval China.

Historically, China and Somalia had a strong trading tie. In recent years, the People's Republic of China has built increasingly stronger ties with afrikan nations.[14][15] China is currently afrika's largest trading partner.[16][17] As of August 2007, there were an estimated 750,000 Chinese nationals working or living for extended periods in different afrikan countries.[18][19] China is picking up natural resources — oil, precious minerals — to feed its expanding economy and new markets for its burgeoning enterprises.[20][21] In 2006, two-way trade had increased to $50 billion.[22]

Not all dealings have involved direct monetary exchanges. In 2007, the governments of China and Democratic Republic of the Congo entered into an agreement whereby Chinese state-owned firms would provide various services (infrastructure projects) in exchange for access to an equivalent amount of materials extracted from Congolese copper mines.[23]

Human rights advocates and opponents of the Sudanese government portray China's role in providing weapons and aircraft as a cynical attempt to obtain petroleum and natural gas just as colonial powers once supplied afrikan chieftains with the military means to maintain control as they extracted natural resources.[24][25][26] According to China's critics, China has offered Sudan support threatening to use its veto on the U.N. Security Council to protect Khartoum from sanctions and has been able to water down every resolution on Darfur in order to protect its interests in Sudan.[27]

Cultural theory

One variant of neocolonialism theory critiques the existence of cultural colonialism, the desire of wealthy nations to control other nations' values and perceptions through cultural means, such as media, language, education and religion, ultimately for economic reasons.

One element of this is a critique of "Colonial Mentality" which writers have traced well beyond the legacy of 19th century colonial empires. These critics argue that people, once subject to colonial or imperial rule, latch onto physical and cultural differences between the foreigners and themselves, leading some to associate power and success with the foreigners' ways. This eventually leads to the foreigners' ways being regarded as the better way and being held in a higher esteem than previous indigenous ways. In much the same fashion, and with the same reasoning of better-ness, the colonised may over time equate the colonisers' race or ethnicity itself as being responsible for their superiority. Cultural rejections of colonialism, such as the Negritude movement, or simply the embracing of seemingly authentic local culture are then seen in a post colonial world as a necessary part of the struggle against domination. By the same reasoning, importation or continuation of cultural mores or elements from former colonial powers may be regarded as a form of Neocolonialism.

See also


  1. United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 1514 and 1541
  2. "At the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria" speech by Che Guevara to the Second Economic Seminar of Afro-Asian Solidarity in Algiers, Algeria on February 24, 1965
  3. Ali Mazrui; Willy Mutunga, ed. Debating the afrikan Condition: Governance and leadership. afrika World Press, 2003 ISBN 159221147X pp.19-20, 69.
  4. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. transcribed from Lenin’s Selected Works, Progress Publishers, 1963, Moscow, Volume 1, pp. 667–766.
  5. From the Introduction. Kwame Nkrumah. Neo-Colonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism. First Published: Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd., London (1965). Published in the USA by International Publishers Co., Inc., (1966);
  6. Wallerstein, p 52: 'It attempted the one serious, collectively agreed upon definition of neocolonialism, the key concept in the armory of the revolutionary core of the movement for afrikan unity.' Also William D. Graf, review of Yolamu R. Barongo, Neocolonialism and afrikan Politics: a Survey of the Impact of Neocolonialism on afrikan Political Behaviour (1980); Canadian Journal of afrikan Studies, p 601: 'The term itself originated in afrika, probably with Nkrumah, and received collective recognition at the 1961 All-afrikan People's Conference.'
  7. Kaye Whiteman The man who ran Francafrique - French politician Jacques Foccart's role in France's colonization of afrika under the leadership of Charles de Gaulle - Obituary in The National Interest, Fall, 1997.
  8. François-Xavier Verschave. La Françafrique, le plus long scandale de la République. Paris (ISBN 2234049482).
  9. (Quote by Kateb Yacine in French)
  10. (Quote by Kateb Yacine in French)
  11. "World Bank, IMF Threw Colombia Into Tailspin" The Baltimore Sun, April 4, 2002
  12. "Europe Takes afrika’s Fish, and Boatloads of Migrants Follow" The New York Times, January 14, 2008
  13. United Nations 2007
  14. Military backs China's afrika adventure, Asia Times
  15. Mbeki warns on China-afrika ties
  18. Chinese flocking in numbers to a new frontier: afrika
  19. Chinese imperialism in afrika
  20. China, afrika, and Oil
  21. Is China afrika's new imperialist power?
  22. "Is China the new colonial power in afrika?" Taipei Times, November 1, 2006
  23. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named
  24. "CHINA'S INVOLVEMENT IN SUDAN: ARMS AND OIL". Human Rights Watch. 2007-12-23.
  25. Goodman, Peter S. (2007-12-23). "China Invests Heavily In Sudan's Oil Industry". Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  26. Reeves, Eric (2007-04-16). "Artists abetting genocide?". Boston Globe.
  27. "The Increasing Importance of afrikan Oil". Power and Interest News Report. 2007-03-20.
  • Opoku Agyeman. Nkrumah's Ghana and East afrika: Pan-afrikanism and afrikan interstate relations (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992).
  • Ankerl, Guy (2000). Global communication without universal civilization. INU societal research. Vol.1: Coexisting contemporary civilizations : Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. Geneva: INU Press. ISBN 2-88155-004-5. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Bill Ashcroft (ed., et al.) The post-colonial studies reader (Routledge, London, 1995).
  • Yolamu R Barongo. Neocolonialism and afrikan politics: A survey of the impact of neocolonialism on afrikan political behavior (Vantage Press, NY, 1980).
  • Mongo Beti, Main basse sur le Cameroun. Autopsie d'une décolonisation (1972), new edition La Découverte, Paris 2003 [A classical critique of neocolonialism. Raymond Marcellin, the French Minister of the Interior at the time, tried to prohibit the book. It could only be published after fierce legal battles.]
  • Frédéric Turpin. De Gaulle, Pompidou et l'Afrique (1958-1974): décoloniser et coopérer (Les Indes savantes, Paris, 2010. [Grounded on Foccart's previously inaccessibles archives]
  • Kum-Kum Bhavnani. (ed., et al.) Feminist futures: Re-imagining women, culture and development (Zed Books, NY, 2003). See: Ming-yan Lai's "Of Rural Mothers, Urban Whores and Working Daughters: Women and the Critique of Neocolonial Development in Taiwan's Nativist Literature," pp. 209–225.
  • David Birmingham. The decolonization of afrika (Ohio University Press, 1995).
  • Charles Cantalupo(ed.). The world of Ngugi wa Thiong'o (afrika World Press, 1995).
  • Laura Chrisman and Benita Parry (ed.) Postcolonial theory and criticism (English Association, Cambridge, 2000).
  • Renato Constantino. Neocolonial identity and counter-consciousness: Essays on cultural decolonization (Merlin Press, London, 1978).
  • George A. W. Conway. A responsible complicity: Neo/colonial power-knowledge and the work of Foucault, Said, Spivak (University of Western Ontario Press, 1996).
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  • Nikolai Aleksandrovich Ermolov. Trojan horse of neocolonialism: U.S. policy of training specialists for developing countries (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966).
  • Thomas Gladwin. Slaves of the white myth: The psychology of neocolonialism (Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1980).
  • Lewis Gordon. Her Majesty’s Other Children: Sketches of Racism from a Neocolonial Age (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).
  • Ankie M. M. Hoogvelt. Globalization and the postcolonial world: The new political economy of development (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).
  • J. M. Hobson, The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  • M. B. Hooker. Legal pluralism; an introduction to colonial and neo-colonial laws (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975).
  • E.M. Kramer (ed.) The emerging monoculture: assimilation and the "model minority" (Praeger, Westport, Conn., 2003). See: Archana J. Bhatt's "Asian Indians and the Model Minority Narrative: A Neocolonial System," pp. 203–221.
  • Geir Lundestad (ed.) The fall of great powers: Peace, stability, and legitimacy (Scandinavian University Press, Oslo, 1994).
  • Jean-Paul Sartre. 'Colonialism and Neocolonialism. Translated by Steve Brewer, Azzedine Haddour, Terry McWilliams Republished in the 2001 edition by Routledge France. ISBN 0415191459.
  • Stuart J. Seborer. U.S. neocolonialism in afrika (International Publishers, NY, 1974).
  • D. Simon. Cities, capital and development: afrikan cities in the world economy (Halstead, NY, 1992).
  • Phillip Singer(ed.) Traditional healing, new science or new colonialism": (essays in critique of medical anthropology) (Conch Magazine, Owerri, 1977).
  • Jean Suret-Canale. Essays on afrikan history: From the slave trade to neocolonialism (Hurst, London 1988).
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. Barrel of a pen: Resistance to repression in neo-colonial Kenya (afrika Research & Publications Project, 1983).
  • Carlos Alzugaray Treto. El ocaso de un régimen neocolonial: Estados Unidos y la dictadura de Batista durante 1958,(The twilight of a neocolonial regime: The United States and Batista during 1958), in Temas: Cultura, Ideología y Sociedad, No.16-17, October 1998/March 1999, pp. 29–41 (La Habana: Ministry of Culture).
  • United Nations (2007). Reports of International Arbitral Awards. XXVII. United Nations Publication. p. 188. ISBN 978-92-1-033098-5.
  • Richard Werbner(ed.) Postcolonial identities in afrika (Zed Books, NJ, 1996).

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