Nigeria in the third scramble for Africa, By Majeed Dahiru



As no nation on earth is truly endowed with an abundance of human and natural resources, the need to look beyond national boundaries to make up for these essential economic wants becomes inevitable. Throughout the history of mankind, nations have struggled among themselves to shore up their internal resources from external sources through military conquest, colonialism and diplomacy.

To ease the pressure among its constituents peoples over the struggle for its meagre internally endowed resources and the excruciating condition of economic wants, European nations will explore other parts of the world for extra sources of convertible to revenue resources. Beginning from the 15th century, European nations will navigate the great waters of the earth in search of viable external sources of both human and natural resources. This search will lead to the discovery of new lands in America, Africa and Asia pacific that were explored, expropriated through military conquest and exploited for their rich human and natural resources.

These newly acquired overseas territories will usher into continental Europe, a period of national prosperity from increased access to vast extra sources of human and natural resources. The human resources needed to work on the vast agricultural and mineral resources of the New World that was the Americas, and convert same to enormous wealth of nation for the now emergent European powers were sourced from Africa through the trans-Atlantic human transhipment.

The advent of the industrial revolution in 18th century Great Britain, the subsequent decline of slave trade under a British sanctioned abolition and the rise of legitimate trade will result into the colonization of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions by European powers. From this period, Africa will emerge the frontline territory of economic playground for European nations. The fierce competition among rival European powers to acquire more territories beyond the coastal areas on the shores of the Atlantic and penetrate deeper into interior of the continent, will result into the scramble for Africa. Following a diplomatic resolution of conflicting territorial interests among rival European powers at the Berlin conference of 1885, at the instance of German statesman Otto Von Bismarck, all of continental Africa except for two pre-existing nations of Ethiopia and Liberia will be shared and possessed as overseas territories for several decades into the second quarter ofthe20th century.

The 19th century scramble for Africa will not be the last. Following flag independence granted most of the newly carved out countries in Africa, their fledging economies remained largely dependent of their colonial masters and the expertise of their legacy corporate entities operating in the mostly earth mineral exploitation industries. The end of the Second World War in 1945 and the subsequent portioning of defeated Germany into East and West in 1961 with the erection of a physical wall across the historic city of Berlin into two spheres of politico-economic ideological bloc between victorious but now rival allied nations of the United States [capitalist] and Soviet Union [communist], will have a reverberating economic consequence across the globe. As the world entered a cold war era with a sharp polarisation into East [Soviet Communist] bloc and West [US Capitalist] bloc, African countries that just attained flag independence will once more be caught up in the whirlwind of struggle for dominance by rival world powers.

The erection of the Berlin wall will signal the beginning of the cold war era with a second scramble for Africa as a direct consequence but this time not for the purpose of direct re-colonization. The second scramble for Africa will be a race between rivals Soviet Union and the United States for politico-economic alliances with African countries that are strategic to the advancement of their national security as well as economic interests.

In the third scramble for Africa, the German city of Berlin will feature as significantly as it did in the first and second. If the erection of the Berlin wall in 1961 signalled the beginning of the cold war era, its fall in 1989 brought it to an end. The fall of the Berlin wall and the re-unification of Germany, which was quickly followed by the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, signalled the triumph of capitalism over communism. Thenceforth, the new world politico-economic order was reshaped a long a unipolar power bloc of modern capitalist mercantilism. The concept of modern capitalist mercantilism, which seeks to grow the wealth of nations by the mechanism of an imbalance multilateral trade relationship between the developed and undeveloped world has triggered a renewed scramble for Africa under the guise of Foreign Direct Investments, FDIs.

Interestingly, Europe and America will not be the major drivers of the third scramble for Africa. The current players on the African turf are the economies of Asia; China, a country that was once humiliated by European powers, Japan, a defeated nation in the Second World War and India, a former British colony. These nations have learnt from European and American powers, the economics of national wealth creation through the mechanism of capitalist mercantilism by strategic geo-political positioning in the fierce race for global resources. In addition to flooding African markets with manufactured consumer goods through massive exports and a very predatory form of Foreign Direct Investments that targets Africa’s most vital mineral resources; these new economic masters of the African continent appropriate large swaths of land and exploit same for the benefits of their fledging industries at home. And when they set up industries in Africa, it is usually for the purpose of manufacture of locally consumed goods mostly paid for by host country’s meagre revenue from rents and royalties of mineral exploration in further depression of balance of trade to the disadvantage of African countries. This most vicious form of exploitation has pushed African countries deeper into the abyss of underdevelopment with poverty and mounting debt, while the so-called investor nations phenomenally grow their national wealth in geometric proportions.

Whereas, the first and second scramble for Africa, which resulted into colonialism and neo-colonialism of the African continent, was done without consultation of the constituent peoples, this time around the third scramble is being done with the full participation of the African people. Posturing as friends and development partners, Africa’s new economic masters now routinely summon African leaders to such events as Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Tokyo International Conference on African Development and India-Africa Forum Summit.  If ancient African rulers were not on the table in 1885 at the Berlin conference where their kingdoms were carved up among European colonial masters, their modern day descendants are present on the table at the different conferences/summits in Beijing, Tokyo and New Delhi, where they willingly exchange their economic sovereignty for aid and loans.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has learnt nothing from its pre-colonial and post-colonial experiences. That Nigeria gleefully heeded the recent summons of Russia, the latest entrant into the race for Africa’s resources and markets to a Chinese style Russia-Africa summit in Sotchi is indicative of its failure to appreciate the real economic motives of these so-called development partners in the contemporary times.  Nominally known as the giant of Africa because of its size and population but in a reality a big for nothing never do well country, Nigeria is the crown jewel in the third scramble for Africa. Plagued by sustained acute leadership failure, Nigeria’s considerable mineral deposits and nearly 200 million people are an investor’s delight. Nigeria is particularly made vulnerable to exploitation by preying external economic scavengers by its inability to evolve a cohesive national agenda for global engagement from a disparate array of conflicting local interests resulting from seemingly irreconcilable internal contradictions along ethno-geographic fault lines. Nigeria lacks a strong economic oriented and realist foreign policy thrust that allows it access to a larger share of global resources but is strong on the politics of internal resource sharing through zoning and rotation of political leadership positions. Consequently, Nigeria will continue to be scrambled along with other African countries as they remain at the bottom of the global economic food chain.    

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