After suffering for a protracted time from the imperialistic tendencies of the West, Africa entered a period of decolonization in the mid-20th century whereby it was granted partial freedom, which came as a result of long-suffering liberation struggles. Unfortunately, the granting of independence did not result in the African continent securing its economic freedom, as the economic means of production were retained by the West.
They never left Africa but continue to be active on the continent in all spheres. As Kwame Nkrumah indicated, neo-colonialism is the highest stage of imperialism, and thus whatever trials and tribulations Africa is going through in contemporary times are inextricably linked to the legacies of imperialism by the hegemonic westerns.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a colonial institution being used by modern-day imperialists to execute political decisions behind closed doors. The United States of America’s activities within the United Nations Security Council indicate the aggressive nature of the globalists towards the weaker regions. The United States of America itself is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, yet under the powers invested in them through the Security Council, they can still refer any member to the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression, and crimes of impunity, as emphasized by Article 8 of the Rome Statute.
All these injustices in the international legal order expose the hegemonic dominance of the West and the misguided notion by the westerners that they are always superior to the Africans.
As most cases involve African governments and the law primarily applies to Africa and not to hegemonic states, imperial institutions have persisted in oppressing Africa. Perhaps with less concern for the diverse interests of African governments, western legal systems were established in response to demands made by western commerce, business, and politics. As a result, this is what led to the creation of the African Court on Justice and Human Rights.
Humans are self-centred and egoistic by nature, as emphasized by Hobbes, and national interest always supersedes states’ push for absolute gains. Thus, the presence of Chinese, Westerners, or Arabs in Africa in the 21st century is for the purpose of their own personal achievements and not for the development of Africa. The manner in which the whole world is flooding Africa is a telling phenomenon that there is a contemporary global rush for African resources. The current worldwide scramble for African resources is because of the global actors flooding Africa. This has made it clear that Africa has not been able to free itself from the shackles of neo-colonialism.
Resources are at the centre of global industrialization, and thus Africa becomes a target and playing field for the leaders of global industries in the 21st century. Global states desperately need the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) cobalt and Zimbabwe’s lithium for the upcoming 5th industrial revolution, which is the internet of things in the era of the 5G network, and these are found in Africa. Ironically, in every African country where a substance of importance seems to exist, unrest becomes the norm.
Mozambique’s Calbo Delgado has turned into a resource-rich war zone. Neo-colonial projects are centralized around resources. ExxonMobil, Eni, TotalEnergies, and other Western gas operations add to the disruptions created by this resource case. As per Mukpo, such massive multinational corporations have the dual advantage of enriching themselves at the expense of the poor while rendering poverty deeper. Conflicts over resources have destabilized states and have granted the West the opportunity to maintain plundering African resources. The legacy of such instability has been the same in Mali with its oil and gold reserves and in DRC with Western companies like Glencore and Apple mining cobalt and gold.
“Everyone, right from traditional allies to new entrants, is looking to make partnerships with Africa because of the opportunities they see,” Dirk Kotze, a political scientist at the University of South Africa, told Anadolu Agency. The global rush of African resources has given the likes of Western companies control over Africa’s key mineral resources, securing their economic national interest while threatening African sovereignty.
Hegemonic interest in Africa’s resources has also left the continent facing land degradation amidst its problems. This has gone against the Section 24A of the 1996 Constitution of South Africa and section 73 of the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe whereby everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being; b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable measures that i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation.
Western perceptions have exacerbated global racism and have rendered their imperialism in Africa justifiable as a ‘mission of civilization’. The West put forward an inferiority complex on Africa. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally, the African continent witnessed ‘vaccine apartheid,’ wherein Westerners denied developing nations’ requests for temporary waivers to enable them to use cost-effective means to fulfill pandemic demands, which had the unfortunate consequence of not attempting to prevent racial equality and human rights.
“As of June 2022, 72.09% of people in high-income countries had been vaccinated with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, whereas only 17.94% of people in low-income countries had been vaccinated,” said E.T Achiume in an open letter to the World Trade Organization’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference, the United Nations Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism. Intellectual property protection laws under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement prevented counties in the Third World from delivering COVID-19 vaccines, which ultimately resulted in cash flow for Northern companies at the expense of people’s lives. Hence, states in the developing world lacked reasonable access to life-saving treatments.
This superpower imbalance can indeed be related to worldwide racist acts and exploitation. Additional instances of racism are seen in South Africa and the further division of the continent into North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Initial racism of the West during the colonial era has greatly extended throughout Africa and other continents, deepening the racial tensions and divide and such are distractions on Africa towards prosperity. Racial inequalities control Africa from completing Sustainable Developmental Goals said Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) Director Kelvin Govender and his fellow Tawando Chingozha in an article based on ‘Impact for Breakfast’. The African Union Agenda 2063 and African National Strategies could potentially be analogous in this regard.
Western imperialism in Africa has been tactically efficient, it has provided a foundation for all hegemonic countries, including China, to solidify their geopolitics there. They have set up a framework to progress their economic and national security on the continent. As a consequence, it is a prerequisite that African member states move towards solidarity while decolonizing the African perspective in order to get rid of racial connotations and subductions.
International policymakers as well as implementers must reimagine international law in a manner that encompasses African cultural and traditional interpretations of the law. For the continent to harness significant prosperity and surpass capacity and technological restrictions, it requires unprecedented policy flexibility and state capacity to dismantle imperialist colonial legacies.
This article was written by Nicole Chiguware, and Mereese Mauru who are International Relations Jnr Researchers