Decades after the European powers carved up the African continent for their own imperial interests in the infamous Scramble for Africa, there is a new wave of resource and strategic invasion. Some have termed this new foray as the new scramble for Africa.
Many observers agree that in the past decade or so Africa has witnessed the most comprehensive and sustained period of economic growth since the 1950s. As a result, there is a surge of foreign direct investment in Africa by many developed and developing nations. In particular, China has rapidly increased its investment in the region, even surpassing those of the traditional investors such as Britain, France and the USA.
But equally in the battle for a piece of Africa are India, Brazil and Russia who have all invested in Africa’s present and future. The Middle East nations are similarly expanding their territory on several fronts in this continent. In short, Africa has suddenly become a treasure that is being diligently sought after by shrewd merchants.
It brings to mind the parable of the merchant who went out on a treasure hunt. Jesus said of him, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” When this merchant discovered the treasure, he took the strategic measure to purchase the land instead. In all probability, the land was of much less value than the treasure underneath. The New Scramble for Africa looks similar. But what are the merchants coming for? I see basically three things: Soil, Sweat, and Soul.
First, the merchants are coming for Africa’s soil – a vast treasure of minerals such gold, diamonds, oil, coal, and such other valuables. The demand for these has seen multinationals strategically set up camp in various nations of Africa. Second, the merchants are coming for Africa’s sweat. This comprises cheap labour, brilliant minds, and unpatented innovations. Apart from a major brain drain, many Africans are working in near slave conditions for some of these merchants.
Thirdly, and perhaps the worst of them, is that the merchants are coming for Africa’s soul. Whereas Africa’s soil is precious and we cannot afford to lose it; and whereas losing Africa’s sweat pains the heart; the shrewd purchase of our soul is our greatest loss to these merchants! Jesus once posed a very profound question: What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? The implication is that, in terms of value, the soul is of greater worth than any treasure that we may ever pursue or any pearls we may ever acquire. That is why the new scramble for Africa is deeply troubling.
Unlike the nineteenth century scramble for Africa when European colonial powers forcibly took control of the continent’s land, resources and people; the new battle for Africa is now a soft power game involving economic and humanitarian aid, interest-free loans, preferential trade agreements and investments in infrastructure.
But, like the merchant in Jesus’ parable, the new merchants have done their survey; they have discovered treasure; they have sealed it back, and they have set out to purchase the field rather than the treasure. That is why the new merchants shrewdly supplement their trade with ideological and philosophical underpinnings that are aimed at transforming Africa’s general worldview on many fronts. Their real intent is to purchase Africa’s soul. They know that if they can get Africa’s soul, they will have purchased our soil and our sweat too!
This is clearly demonstrated by the increased focus by these “partners” on demolishing our morality and our value systems. The things we have held sacrosanct for years are systematically being dismantled and replaced with new ideologies and strange philosophies. When you see courts readily rule in favour of abortion; when betting and gambling is supported with great fervour by our representatives; when explicit material is legally protected in the name of freedom of expression, and cremation gets on the rise, then you know that the merchants have purchased our land cheaply – and with it, our soul.
Sadly, some of these merchants can be ferocious if they realise that you are standing on their way to the treasure field. When President Museveni once tried to outlaw homosexuality, the threat of sanctions had him make a quick about turn. The reality therefore is that Merchants are among us but nor for us. We must stand and battle for the soul of Africa!
- The writer is the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]
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