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"Neocolonial" redirects here. For the architectural style, see Colonial Revival architecture.
"Economic imperialism" redirects here. For expansion of the applications of economic analysis, see Economics imperialism.

Neocolonialism (also Neo-colonialism) is the geopolitical practice of using capitalism, business globalization, and cultural imperialism to influence a country, in lieu of either direct military control or indirect political control, i.e. imperialism and hegemony.[1] The term neo-colonialism was coined by Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, to describe the socio-economic and political control that can be exercised economically, linguistically, and culturally, whereby promotion of the culture of the neo-colonist country facilitates the cultural assimilation of the colonised people and thus opens the national economy to the multinational corporations of the neo-colonial country.

In post-colonial studies, the term neo-colonialism describes the domination-praxis (social, economic, cultural) of countries from the developed world in the respective internal affairs of the countries of the developing world; that, despite the decolonisation occurred in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–45), the (former) colonial powers continue to apply existing and past international economic arrangements with their former colony countries, and so maintain colonial control. A neo-colonialism critique can include de facto colonialism (imperialist or hegemonic), and an economic critique of the disproportionate involvement of modern capitalist business in the economy of a developing country, whereby multinational corporations continue to exploit the natural resources of the former colony; that such economic control is inherently neo-colonial, and thus is akin to the imperial and hegemonic varieties of colonialism practiced by the empires of Great Britain, the United States, France, and other European countries, from the 16th to the 20th centuries.[2] The ideology and praxis of neo-colonialism are discussed in the works of Jean-Paul Sartre (Colonialism and Neo-colonialism, 1964)[3] and Noam Chomsky (The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, 1979).[4]

The term


The political-science term neo-colonialism became popular usage in reference to the continued European control — economic, cultural, etc. — of African countries that had been decolonized in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–45). Kwame Nkrumah, president of Ghana (1960–66), coined the term neo-colonialism in the book Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965)[5][6] As a political scientist, Nkrumah theoretically developed and extended, to the post–War 20th century, the socio-economic and political arguments presented by Lenin in the pamphlet Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), about 19th-century imperialism as the logical extension of geopolitical power to meet the financial investment needs of the political economy of capitalism.[7]

In Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism, Kwame Nkrumah said that:

In place of colonialism, as the main instrument of imperialism, we have today neo-colonialism . . . [which] like colonialism, is an attempt to export the social conflicts of the capitalist countries. . . .

The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment, under neo-colonialism, increases, rather than decreases, the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world. The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.[8]

The non-aligned world

"Neo-colonialism" became the standard term, describing a type of foreign intervention, because of its practical and historical application to the internal affairs (economic, social, political) of the countries of the Pan-Africanist movement and because of its like usage in the Bandung Conference (Asian–African Conference, 1955), from which derived the Non-Aligned Movement (1961). The formal definition of neo-colonialism was established by the All-African Peoples' Conference (AAPC) and published in the Resolution on Neo-colonialism of the organisation. At the Tunis conference (1960) and at the Cairo conference (1961), the AAPC specifically identified as neo-colonial behaviour, the actions of the French Community of independent states, which was organised by France.[9]

Throughout the decades of the U.S.–U.S.S.R. Cold War (1945–91), the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America defined neo-colonialism as the primary, collective enemy of the economies and cultures of their respective countries. Moreover, neo-colonialism was integrated to the national-liberation ideologies of Marxist guerrilla armies. During the 1970s, in the Portuguese African colonies of Mozambique and Angola, upon assuming government power, the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO, Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) and the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola — Labour Party (MPLA, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola — Partido do Trabalho), respectively, established policies to counter neo-colonial agreements with the (former) colonist country.


The representative example of European neo-colonialism is Françafrique, the "French Africa" constituted by the continued close relationships between France and its former African country colonies. In 1955, the initial usage of the "French Africa" term, by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, of Côte d'Ivoire, denoted positive social, cultural, and economic Franco–African relations. It was later applied by critics of neo-colonialism to describe an imbalanced international relation. The term Françafrique is derived from the essay La Françafrique, le plus long scandale de la République (French Africa: The Longest Scandal of the Republic, 1998), by François-Xavier Verschave, which critically analysed French neo-colonial policies towards the countries of Africa.[10] Moreover, Main basse sur le Cameroun, autopsie d'une décolonisation (Cruel Hand on Cameroon: Autopsy of a Decolonization, 1972), by Mongo Beti, is a critical history of contemporary Cameroon that reported the continued dependence — economic, social, cultural — of decolonised African nations and countries upon Metropolitan France, whose dependence was actively continued by the post-independence, national political élites of the given countries.

The politician Jacques Foccart, the principal advisor for African matters to the French presidents Charles de Gaulle (1958–69) and Georges Pompidou (1969–1974), was the principal proponent of neo-colonial Françafrique.[11] The French Africa works of Verschave and Beti reported a forty-year, post-independence relationship with the former colonial peoples of France, which feature colonial garrisons in situ and monopolies by French multinational corporations, usually for the exploitation of mineral resources. The African leaders with close ties to France — especially during the Russo–American Cold War (1945–91) — acted more as agents of French business and geopolitical interests, than as the national leaders of sovereign states,. Cited examples are Omar Bongo (Gabon), Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d'Ivoire), Gnassingbé Eyadéma (Togo), Denis Sassou-Nguesso (Republic of the Congo), Idriss Déby (Chad), and Hamani Diori (Niger).


The French Community (1958–95) and the seventy-five-country Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (International Francophone Organisation) have been criticized as agents of French neo-colonial African influence, especially by means of promoting the French language; however, in 1966, the Algerian intellectual Kateb Yacine said:

La Francophonie is a neo-colonial political machine, which only perpetuates our alienation, but the usage of the French language does not mean that one is an agent of a foreign power; and I write in French to tell the French that I am not French.

— Kateb Yacine biography, Arabesques[12][13]

Belgian Congo

After a hastened decolonization process of the Belgian Congo, Belgium continued to control, through the Société Générale de Belgique, an estimate of 70% of the Congolese economy following the decolonization process. The most contested part was in the province of Katanga where the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, part of the Société, had control over the mineral- and resource-rich province. After a failed attempt to nationalize the mining industry in the 1960s, it was reopened to foreign investment.

Neo-colonial economic dominance

In 1961, regarding the economic mechanism of neo-colonial control, in the speech Cuba: Historical Exception or Vanguard in the Anti-colonial Struggle?, the Cuban revolutionary Ché Guevara said:

We, politely referred to as "underdeveloped", in truth, are colonial, semi-colonial or dependent countries. We are countries whose economies have been distorted by imperialism, which has abnormally developed those branches of industry or agriculture needed to complement its complex economy. "Underdevelopment", or distorted development, brings a dangerous specialization in raw materials, inherent in which is the threat of hunger for all our peoples. We, the "underdeveloped", are also those with the single crop, the single product, the single market. A single product whose uncertain sale depends on a single market imposing and fixing conditions. That is the great formula for imperialist economic domination.

— Ché Guevara, 9 April 1961.[14]

Dependency theory

Main article: Dependency theory

Dependency theory is the theoretic basis of economic neo-colonialism, which proposes that the global economic system comprises wealthy countries at the center, and poor countries at the periphery. Economic neo-colonialism extracts the human and the natural resources of a peripheral (poor) country to flow to the economies of the wealthy countries at the center of the global economic system; hence, the poverty of the peripheral countries is the result of how they are integrated in the global economic system. Dependency theory derives from the Marxist analysis of economic inequalities within the world's system of economies, thus, the under-development of the Global South is a direct result of the development in the Global North; the theories of the semi-colony from the late 19th century.[15] The Marxist perspective of the Theory of Colonial Dependency is contrasted with the capitalist economics of the free market, which propose that such poverty is a development stage in the poor country's progress towards full, economic integration to the global economic system. Proponents of Dependency Theory, such as Venezuelan historian Federico Brito Figueroa, who has investigated the socio-economic bases of neo-colonial dependency, have influenced the thinking of the former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.

The Cold War

Main article: Cold War

During the mid-to-late 20th century, in the course of the Cold War (1945–91) ideological conflict between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., each country and its satellite states accused each other of practising neo-colonialism in their imperial and hegemonic pursuits.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22] The geopolitical conditions that defined the Russo–American Cold War led to proxy war, fought by client states in the decolonised countries; Cuba, the Warsaw Pact bloc, Egypt under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1956–70), et al. accused the U.S. of sponsoring anti-democratic governments whose régimes did not represent the interests of the majority of the populace, and of deposing Third-World elected governments (African, Asian, Latin American) who did not subscribe to the geopolitical interests of the U.S., as defined by the East–West Cold War.

In the 1960s, under the leadership of Chairman Mehdi Ben Barka, the Cuban Tricontinental Conference (Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America) recognised and supported the validity of revolutionary anti-colonialism as a means for colonised peoples of the Third World to achieve their self-determination, which policy angered the U.S. and France. Moreover, Chairman Barka headed the Commission on Neo-colonialism, which dealt with the work to resolve the neo-colonial involvement of colonial powers in decolonised counties; and said that the U.S., as the leading capitalist country of the world, was, in practise, the principal neo-colonialist political actor.

Multinational corporations

Critics of neo-colonialism also argue that investment by multinational corporations enriches few in underdeveloped countries, and causes humanitarian, environmental and ecological devastation to the populations which inhabit the neocolonies whose "development" and economy is now dependent on foreign markets and large scale trade agreements. This, it is argued, results in unsustainable development and perpetual underdevelopment; a dependency which cultivates those countries as reservoirs of cheap labor and raw materials, while restricting their access to advanced production techniques to develop their own economies. In some countries, privatization of national resources, while initially leading to immediate large scale influx of investment capital, is often followed by dramatic increases in the rate of unemployment, poverty, and a decline in per-capita income.[23] This is particularly true in the West African nations of Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Mauritania where fishing has historically been central to the local economy. Beginning in 1979, the European Union began brokering fishing rights contracts off the coast of West Africa. This continues to this day. Commercial unsustainable over-fishing from foreign corporations has played a significant role in the large-scale unemployment and migration of people across the region.[24] This stands in direct opposition to United Nations Treaty on the Seas which recognizes the importance of fishing to local communities and insists that government fishing agreements with foreign companies should be targeted at surplus stocks only.[25]

The International Monetary Fund

Main article: Criticism of debt

To alleviate some of the effects of neo-colonialism, the American economist Jeffrey Sachs recommended that the entire African debt (ca. 200 billion U.S. dollars) be dismissed, and recommended that African nations not repay the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF):

The time has come to end this charade. The debts are unaffordable. If they won't cancel the debts, I would suggest obstruction; you do it, yourselves. Africa should say: "Thank you very much, but we need this money to meet the needs of children who are dying, right now, so, we will put the debt-servicing payments into urgent social investment in health, education, drinking water, the control of AIDS, and other needs".

— Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute (Columba University), and Special Economic Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Sino–African relations

Historically, China and Somalia had a strong trading tie. In recent years, the People's Republic of China has built increasingly stronger ties with African nations.[26][27] China is currently Africa's largest trading partner.[28][29] As of August 2007, there were an estimated 750,000 Chinese nationals working or living for extended periods in different African countries.[30][31] China is picking up natural resources — petroleum and minerals — to fuel the Chinese economy and to finance international business enterprises.[32][33] In 2006, two-way trade had increased to $50 billion.[34]

Not all dealings have involved direct monetary exchanges. In 2007, the governments of China and Democratic Republic of the Congo entered into an agreement whereby Chinese state-owned firms would provide various services (infrastructure projects) in exchange for an equivalent amount of copper ore extracted from Congolese copper mines.[35]

Human rights advocates and opponents of the Sudanese government portray China's role in providing weapons and aircraft as a cynical attempt to obtain petroleum and natural gas just as colonial powers once supplied African chieftains with the military means to maintain control as they extracted natural resources.[36][37][38] According to China's critics, China has offered Sudan support threatening to use its veto on the U.N. Security Council to protect Khartoum from sanctions and has been able to water down every resolution on Darfur in order to protect its interests in Sudan.[39]

South Korea's land acquisitions

To ensure a reliable, long-term supply of food stuffs, the South Korean government and powerful Korean multinational corporations from have bought the exploitation rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in under-developed countries of the Third World. Thereby, South Korea no longer imports food, because said lands are effectively part of Korea; such agricultural imperialism might be considered a form of neo-colonialism.[40] South Korea's largely mountainous land area of just over 100,000 square kilometres supports a populace of some 50 million people, yet the industrialised economy (ca. $1,000,000,000,000) was almost the equal of the entire economy of Africa, in 2007.[41]

South Korea's RG Energy Resources Asset Management CEO Park Yong-soo stressed that "the nation does not produce a single drop of crude oil and other key industrial minerals. To power economic growth and support people's livelihoods, we cannot emphasize too much that securing natural resources in foreign countries is a must for our future survival."[42] The head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of "neo-colonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.

In 2008, the South Korean multinational Daewoo Logistics secured 1.3 million hectares of farmland in Madagascar, half the size of Belgium, to grow maize and crops for biofuels. Roughly half of the country's arable land, as well as rainforests of rich and unique biodiversity, were to be converted into palm and corn monocultures, producing food for export from a country where a third of the population and 50 percent of children under 5 are malnourished, using workers imported from South Africa instead of locals. Those living on the land were never consulted or informed, despite being dependent on the land for food and income. The controversial deal played a major part in prolonged anti-government protests on the island that resulted in over a hundred deaths.[40] Shortly after the Madagascar deal, Tanzania announced that South Korea was in talks to develop 100,000 hectares for food production and processing for 700 to 800 billion won. Scheduled to be completed in 2010, it will be the largest single piece of agricultural infrastructure South Korea has ever built overseas.[40]

In 2009, Hyundai Heavy Industries acquired a majority stake in a company cultivating 10,000 hectares of farmland in the Russian Far East and a wealthy South Korean provincial government secured 95,000 hectares of farmland in Oriental Mindoro, central Philippines, to grow corn. The South Jeolla province became the first provincial government to benefit from a newly created central government fund to develop farmland overseas, receiving a cheap loan of $1.9 million for the Mindoro project. The feedstock is expected to produce 10,000 tonnes of feed in the first year for South Korea.[43] South Korean multinationals and provincial governments have also purchased land in Sulawesi, Indonesia, Cambodia and Bulgan, Mongolia. The South Korean government itself announced its intention to invest 30 billion won in land in Paraguay and Uruguay. Discussions with Laos, Myanmar and Senegal are also currently underway.[40]

The South Korean government's strategy is quickly yielding results and despite predicting that farmland is shrinking on the country, the government announced in August 2009 that South Korea would enjoy a 10% increase in rice production in 2009, the first since 2005, and the government has begun purchasing large quantities of rice to keep prices stable.[40]

Other approaches to neo-colonialism

Although the concept of neo-colonialism was originally developed within a Marxist theoretical framework and is generally employed by the political left, the term "neo-colonialism" is also used within other theoretical frameworks.

Cultural theory

One variant of neo-colonialism theory critiques the existence of cultural colonialism, the desire of wealthy nations to control other nations' values and perceptions through cultural means, such as media, language, education and religion, ultimately for economic reasons.

Main article: Colonial Mentality

One element of this is a critique of "Colonial Mentality" which writers have traced well beyond the legacy of 19th century colonial empires. These critics argue that people, once subject to colonial or imperial rule, latch onto physical and cultural differences between the foreigners and themselves, leading some to associate power and success with the foreigners' ways. This eventually leads to the foreigners' ways being regarded as the better way and being held in a higher esteem than previous indigenous ways. In much the same fashion, and with the same reasoning of better-ness, the colonised may over time equate the colonisers' race or ethnicity itself as being responsible for their superiority. Cultural rejections of colonialism, such as the Negritude movement, or simply the embracing of seemingly authentic local culture are then seen in a post colonial world as a necessary part of the struggle against domination. By the same reasoning, importation or continuation of cultural mores or elements from former colonial powers may be regarded as a form of neo-colonialism.

Post-colonialism theory

Main article: Postcolonialism

Post-colonialism theories in philosophy, film, political science, and post-colonial literature deal with the cultural legacy of colonial rule; that is, the cultural identity of the colonised peoples, in which neo-colonialism is the background for the contemporary dilemmas of developing a national identity after colonial rule. Post-colonialism studies how writers articulate, present, and celebrate their post-colonial national identity, which often first must be reclaimed from the coloniser, whilst maintaining strong connections with the colonialist country; how knowledge of the sub-ordinated (colonised) people was generated, and applied against the colonised people in service to the cultural and economic interests of the colonial country; and how colonialist literature justified colonialism by misrepresenting the colonised people as an inferior race whose society, culture, and economy must be managed for them. Post-colonial studies comprehend Subaltern Studies of "history from below"; post-colonial manifestations of people outside the hegemony; the psychopathology of colonization (by Frantz Fanon); and the cinema of film makers such as the Cuban Third Cinema, e.g. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and the Filipino Kidlat Tahimik.

Critical theory

While critiques of postcolonialism/neo-colonialism are widely practiced in literary theory, also international relations theory has defined "postcolonialism" as a field of study. While the lasting effects of cultural colonialism are of central interest in cultural critiques of neo-colonialism, their intellectual antecedents are economic theories of neo-colonialism: Marxist dependency theory and mainstream criticism of capitalist neoliberalism. Critical international relations theory frequently references neo-colonialism from Marxist positions as well as postpositivist positions, including postmodernist, postcolonial and feminist approaches, which differ from both realism and liberalism in their epistemological and ontological premises.

Conservation and neo-colonialism

There have been other critiques that the modern conservation movement, as taken up by international organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, has inadvertently set up a neocolonialist relationship with underdeveloped nations.[44]

See also


  • Opoku Agyeman. Nkrumah's Ghana and East Africa: Pan-Africanism and African interstate relations (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992).
  • Bill Ashcroft (ed., et al.) The post-colonial studies reader (Routledge, London, 1995).
  • Yolamu R Barongo. neo-colonialism and African politics: A survey of the impact of neo-colonialism on African political behavior (Vantage Press, NY, 1980).
  • Mongo Beti, Main basse sur le Cameroun. Autopsie d'une décolonisation (1972), new edition La Découverte, Paris 2003 [A classical critique of neo-colonialism. Raymond Marcellin, the French Minister of the Interior at the time, tried to prohibit the book. It could only be published after fierce legal battles.]
  • Frédéric Turpin. De Gaulle, Pompidou et l'Afrique (1958-1974): décoloniser et coopérer (Les Indes savantes, Paris, 2010. [Grounded on Foccart's previously inaccessibles archives]
  • Kum-Kum Bhavnani. (ed., et al.) Feminist futures: Re-imagining women, culture and development (Zed Books, NY, 2003). See: Ming-yan Lai's "Of Rural Mothers, Urban Whores and Working Daughters: Women and the Critique of Neocolonial Development in Taiwan's Nativist Literature," pp. 209–225.
  • David Birmingham. The decolonization of Africa (Ohio University Press, 1995).
  • Charles Cantalupo(ed.). The world of Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Africa World Press, 1995).
  • Laura Chrisman and Benita Parry (ed.) Postcolonial theory and criticism (English Association, Cambridge, 2000).
  • Renato Constantino. Neocolonial identity and counter-consciousness: Essays on cultural decolonization (Merlin Press, London, 1978).
  • George A. W. Conway. A responsible complicity: Neo/colonial power-knowledge and the work of Foucault, Said, Spivak (University of Western Ontario Press, 1996).
  • Julia V. Emberley. Thresholds of difference: feminist critique, native women's writings, postcolonial theory (University of Toronto Press, 1993).
  • Nikolai Aleksandrovich Ermolov. Trojan horse of neo-colonialism: U.S. policy of training specialists for developing countries (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966).
  • Thomas Gladwin. Slaves of the white myth: The psychology of neo-colonialism (Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1980).
  • Lewis Gordon. Her Majesty's Other Children: Sketches of Racism from a Neocolonial Age (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).
  • Ankie M. M. Hoogvelt. Globalization and the postcolonial world: The new political economy of development (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).
  • J. M. Hobson, The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  • M. B. Hooker. Legal pluralism; an introduction to colonial and neo-colonial laws (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975).
  • E.M. Kramer (ed.) The emerging monoculture: assimilation and the "model minority" (Praeger, Westport, Conn., 2003). See: Archana J. Bhatt's "Asian Indians and the Model Minority Narrative: A Neocolonial System," pp. 203–221.
  • Geir Lundestad (ed.) The fall of great powers: Peace, stability, and legitimacy (Scandinavian University Press, Oslo, 1994).
  • Jean-Paul Sartre. 'Colonialism and neo-colonialism. Translated by Steve Brewer, Azzedine Haddour, Terry McWilliams Republished in the 2001 edition by Routledge France. ISBN 0-415-19145-9.
  • Stuart J. Seborer. U.S. neo-colonialism in Africa (International Publishers, NY, 1974).
  • D. Simon. Cities, capital and development: African cities in the world economy (Halstead, NY, 1992).
  • Phillip Singer(ed.) Traditional healing, new science or new colonialism": (essays in critique of medical anthropology) (Conch Magazine, Owerri, 1977).
  • Jean Suret-Canale. Essays on African history: From the slave trade to neo-colonialism (Hurst, London 1988).
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. Barrel of a pen: Resistance to repression in neo-colonial Kenya (Africa Research & Publications Project, 1983).
  • Carlos Alzugaray Treto. El ocaso de un régimen neocolonial: Estados Unidos y la dictadura de Batista durante 1958,(The twilight of a neocolonial regime: The United States and Batista during 1958), in Temas: Cultura, Ideología y Sociedad, No.16-17, October 1998/March 1999, pp. 29–41 (La Habana: Ministry of Culture).
  • Richard Werbner (ed.) Postcolonial identities in Africa (Zed Books, NJ, 1996).

External links

  • China, Africa, and Oil
  • Mbeki warns on China-Africa ties
  • "neo-colonialism" in Encyclopedia of Marxism.
  • , by Kwame Nkrumah (former Prime Minister and President of Ghana), originally published 1965
  • Comments by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs - BBC
  • Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs video (ram) - hosted by Columbia Univ.
  • by Tunde Obadina, director of Africa Business Information Services (AfBIS)
  • — IMF: Market Reform and Corporate Globalization, by Dr. Gloria Emeagwali, Prof. of History and African Studies, Conne. State Univ.

Academic course materials

  • University of Rochester, 2008.
  • Helsinki University, 2007.
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