Africa is undergoing a new wave of colonization that is being spurred by its recent new economic growth. The documentary, “Empire: The New Scramble for Africa” by Marwan Bishara is a welcome perspective on the global political economy and how nations are once again rushing in to Africa in the back drop of the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative.
As ‘neo-colonizers’ China, the US and France and other nations race to carve the continent, Bishara draws parallels with this new scramble that is eerily reminiscent of the first scramble for Africa that occurred in the 1800s. He poses some pertinent questions about the future of the continent and its people.
There is renewed interest in Africa where countries from the Global North are carving up the continent by areas of interest. The US, China, and France all have their own interests in Africa. The U.S. is getting its foothold on the continent through the militarisation of Africa and the infiltration of AFRICOM troops.
Although AFRICOM ran over 400 missions on the continent, the level of terrorism in Africa is criticized for being a gross exaggeration. The war on terror is being outsourced to the continent in order for the U.S to protect its interests in Africa. In practice it is being used as a front to suppress civil opposition against US backed allies and to outsource the war on to African soil. China’s contracts with Africa use Chines materials, workers, designs and loans to complete infrastructure projects.
Bishara also problematizes China’s infrastructure projects that help extract minerals from Africa just as the colonizers did in the 1800s. The role of old colonizers such as France are also examined. France continues to see Francophone Africa as its back yard and have a financial interest in Africa. They hold the reserves of many of francophone African countries. Therefore the economic agenda of the Global North is outlined as well as their interests.
One of the primary themes in this documentary it to answer the question, Cui bono? Or “Who benefits?” from Africa’s recent economic growth. The documentary addresses the neo-liberal agenda in Africa where free trade is privileged over access to social benefits for Africans. It makes it clear from the analysis that the majority of people of Africa are not benefiting from this new growth. Whilst there is economic growth, there is little money trickling down to the people that need it the most.
There is a new comprador elite which consists of those linked up to global financing and a few oligarchs that are benefiting from Africa’s remarkable 7-10% growth. It highlights that development is not just about awarding mining contracts and attracting foreign business. Development is about the distribution of wealth to benefit as much of the population as possible.
Whilst the documentary makes it clear that neo-liberal policies, economic interest and extraction of resources are the causes of Africa’s troubles, it does not absolve Africa from responsibility. Bishara poses a very important question that is key for Africa’s future – What is Africa’s interest in Africa? Whilst Africa is being forced to live the dreams of other nations – USA’s dreams for Africa to build “security”; France wants to build “democracy”; and China wants to build “infrastructure” – Africa needs to have its own goal and agenda.
This is certainly not a new idea. Kwame Nkrumah summed up the direction he wants to see for Africa in a single statement: “We face neither East nor West; we face Forward”. Africa must decide its own agenda, then work collectively and decisively to achieve this if it wants to benefit.
Bishara keeps the idea of Africa’s agenda as a central focus that Africans should not lose sight of if they want to benefit from their own resources. It is important to note that Bishara lets Africans have a voice throughout the in his documentary by letting them speak about what they want to see for Africa. He empowers young African voices in the documentary so that we hear from those living in Africa who will take the reins of leadership on the continent and drive its future. It is documentary worth watching for those seeking to really understand the intricacies of relationship between Africa, global politics, money and power.