A Frontier comment
Frontier | Vol. 49, No.25, Dec 25 – 31, 2016
Old Colonialism is ‘gone’. No, it has just reappeared with vengeance, under the banner of corporate culture. It’s still the banner of a company. But it is a ‘multi-national’ company. It’s corporate colonialism now. The way British Colonialism is plundering Africa through their multi-nationals will soon make this ‘dark contiment’ even darker. In the forties and fifties it was somewhat easy to launch national liberation against white rule and exploitation. But the case is totally different today. Black rulers have made it difficult to raise the slogan of ‘national liberation’. It’s now the question of how to raise the same slogan against corporate power. Strangely, political forces on the left look totally directionless. Nor have they managed to formulate any concrete agenda to fight corporate menace so far. Living without corporates should be the only way out. No, all are trying to adjust with corporates and live with them.
Africa is facing a new and devastating colonial invasion driven by a determination to plunder the natural resources of Africa, especially its strategic energy and mineral resources. That’s the message from a damning new report from War On Want ‘The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources’ that highlights the role of the British government in aiding and abetting the process.
Written and researched by Mark Curtis, the report reveals the degree to which British companies now control Africa’s key mineral resources, notably gold, platinum, diamonds, copper, oil, gas and coal. It documents how 101 companies listed oh the Lordon Stock Exchange (LSE)—most of them British—have mining operations in 37 sub-Saharan African countries and collectively control over $1 trillion worth of Africa’s most valuable resources.
The UK government has used its power and influence to ensure that British mining companies have access to Africa’s raw materials. The report exposes the long-term involvement of the British government (Labour and Conservative) to influence and control British companies’ access to raw materials. Access has been secured through a revolving door between the political establishment and British mining companies, with at least five British government officials taking up seats on the boards of mining companies operating in Africa.
Augmented by WTO rules, Britain’s leverage over Africa’s political and economic systems has resulted in a company like Glencore being able to show revenues 10 times that of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Zambia.
Under the guise of the UK helping Africa in its economic development (a continuation of the colonial paternal narrative), $134 billion has flowed into the continent each year in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid, while British government has enabled the extraction of $192 billion from Africa mainly in profits by foreign companies, tax dodging and the cost of adapting to climate change.
The report highlights the roles played by major companies, such as Rio Tinto, Glencore and Vedanta. From the displacement of people and killings to labour rights violations, environmental degradation and tax dodging, Africa appears to have become a free for all. In only a minority of mining operations do African governments have a shareholding in projects. And even if they do, it tends to be small at 5-20%.
One of the case studies in the report is the scramble for gas and oil in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Morocco has occupied much of Western Sahara since 1975. Most of the population has been expelled by force, many to camps in the Algerian desert where 165,000 refugees still live. Morocco’s occupation is a blatant disregard for international law, which accords the Saharawi people the right to self-determination and the way in which their resources are to be used.
Over 100 UN resolutions call for this right to self-determination but UN efforts to settle the conflict by means of a referendum have been thwarted by Morocco. The International Court of Justice has stated that there are no ties of sovereignty between Morocco and Western Sahara, and no state in the world recognises Morocco’s self-proclaimed sovereignty over the territory. Despite this, six British and/or LSE-listed companies have been handed permits by the Moroccan government to actively explore for oil and gas resources, making them complicit in the illegal and violent occupation of Western Sahara.
Cairn Energy, based in Edinburgh and LSE listed, is one such company. It is part of a consortium, led by US company Kosmos Energy, that in December 2014 became the first to drill for and later discover oil off the coast of Western Sahara. The former Director of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, has been a member of the Kosmos Board of Directors since 2012.