Many expected the dawn of Independence from the late 1950s to dismantle the colonial regime of the extraction and transportation of the continents’ natural resources to Europe and exploitation of its people as “cheap labour” in plantations, mines and other economic sectors and the reverse the status of African countries as monopolistic markets for European industrial products.
However, despite the resultant “flag” independence, the economic fundamentals of colonialism survived almost intact as the keystone of the “neo-colonial” system in which Africa continued to serve as a source of raw materials, cheap labour and market for the erstwhile western powerhouses.
The imperative of the Cold War geopolitics reinforced Africa’s status as an arena of completion for resources between the “Capitalist West” and the “Communist East”.
The “new scramble for Africa” in the 21st Century may not be fundamentally different from the “old”, at least in regard to focus on the continent’s natural resources. But the 21st Century scramble for Africa exhibits some unique features:
• A Multi-polar world exists.
• It is fuelled by unprecedented global demand for energy resources by the powerhouses, particularly China. Phenomenal discovery of oil, coal, natural gas, has turned the spotlight on Africa as a new arena of competition for these resources by the powerhouses. The global campaign for “green energy” has also refocused attention on Africa’s fertile agricultural land, huge potential in geothermal, hydro and wind energy as new frontiers of the nuclear energy technology.
Breaking old chains
• Third, and perhaps most important difference is that more than at any other time in history, Africa has a rare opportunity to exploit the competition by the various powerhouses to leverage its resources and status in the global economy to propel its own social-economic transformation and development, pull the mass of its population from poverty and join club of the wealthy.
• Africa now has access to new affordable technology that can be used to add value to its products, thus increasing their worth and its incomes and breaking the old chains of being an exporter of lowly valued raw-materials.
My own country Kenya has adopted a new constitution, now being implemented, and holds elections next year to launch it on the path to realising Kenya Vision 2030, the country’s blueprint to joining the league of the world’s middle-income industrial economies.
Excerpts of keynote address by the Minister for Energy at World Political Forum 2012 in Istanbul Turkey, yesterday.