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Neocolonialism, neo-colonialism or neo-imperialism is the practice of using capitalism, globalization and cultural imperialism to influence a developing country in lieu of direct military control (imperialism) or indirect political control (hegemony). Neo-colonialism is discussed in the works of Jean-Paul Sartre (Colonialism and Neo-colonialism, 1964) and Noam Chomsky (The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, 1979). Some neocolonial ideas, like charter cities, are popular among economists.



Neocolonialism labels European countries' continued economic and cultural relationships with their former colonies, African countries that had been liberated in the aftermath of Second World War. Kwame Nkrumah, former president of Ghana (1960–66), coined the term, which appeared in the 1963 preamble of the Organization of African Unity Charter, and was the title of his 1965 book Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965). 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). The pamphlet frames 19th-century imperialism as the logical extension of geopolitical power, to meet the financial investment needs of the political economy of capitalism. In Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism, Kwame Nkrumah wrote:

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.

Non-aligned world

Neocolonialism was used to describe a type of foreign intervention in countries belonging to the Pan-Africanist movement, as well as the Bandung Conference (Asian–African Conference, 1955), which led to the Non-Aligned Movement (1961). Neocolonialism was formally defined by the All-African Peoples' Conference (AAPC) and published in the Resolution on Neo-colonialism. At both the Tunis conference (1960) and the Cairo conference (1961), AAPC described the actions of the French Community of independent states, organized by France, as neocolonial.

Throughout the decades of the Cold War, the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America defined neocolonialism as the primary, collective enemy of the economies and cultures of their respective countries. Moreover, neocolonialism was integrated into 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 neocolonial agreements with the (former) colonist country.


The representative example of European neocolonialism is Françafrique, the "French Africa" constituted by the continued close relationships between France and its former African colonies. In 1955, the initial usage of the "French Africa" term, by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Ivory Coast, denoted positive social, cultural and economic Franco–African relations. It was later applied by neocolonialism critics to describe an imbalanced international relation. The politician Jacques Foccart, the principal advisor for African matters to French presidents Charles de Gaulle (1958–69) and Georges Pompidou (1969–1974), was the principal proponent of Françafrique. The works of Verschave and Beti reported a forty-year, post-independence relationship with France's former colonial peoples, which featured colonial garrisons in situ and monopolies by French multinational corporations, usually for the exploitation of mineral resources. It was argued that the African leaders with close ties to France — especially during the Soviet–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 (Ivory Coast), 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 neocolonial African influence, especially by promoting the French language; however, in 1966, Algerian intellectual Kateb Yacine said:

La Francophonie might be 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.

Belgian Congo

After the decolonization of Belgian Congo, Belgium continued to control, through the Société Générale de Belgique, an estimated 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, controlled the mineral-resource-rich province. After a failed attempt to nationalize the mining industry in the 1960s, it was reopened to foreign investment.

Neocolonial economic dominance

In 1961, regarding the economic mechanism of neocolonial control, in the speech Cuba: Historical Exception or Vanguard in the Anti-colonial Struggle?, Argentine 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.

Dependency theory

Dependency theory is the theoretical description of economic neocolonialism. It proposes that the global economic system comprises wealthy countries at the center, and poor countries at the periphery. Economic neocolonialism extracts the human and natural resources of a poor country to flow to the economies of the wealthy countries. It claims that 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, under-development of the periphery is a direct result of development in the center. It includes the concept of the late 19th century semi-colony. It contrasts the Marxist perspective of the Theory of Colonial Dependency with capitalist economics. The latter proposes that poverty is a development stage in the poor country's progress towards full integration in the global economic system. Proponents of Dependency Theory, such as Venezuelan historian Federico Brito Figueroa, who investigated the socioeconomic bases of neocolonial dependency, influenced the thinking of the former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.

Cold War

During the mid-to-late 20th century, in the course of the ideological conflict between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., each country and its satellite states accused each other of practising neocolonialism in their imperial and hegemonic pursuits. The struggle included proxy wars, fought by client states in the decolonised countries. Cuba, the Warsaw Pact bloc, Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser (1956–70), et al. accused the U.S. of sponsoring anti-democratic governments whose régimes did not represent the interests of their people and of overthrowing elected governments (African, Asian, Latin American) that did not support U.S. geopolitical interests.

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 self-determination, which policy angered the U.S. and France. Moreover, Chairman Barka headed the Commission on Neocolonialism, which dealt with the work to resolve the neocolonial 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 neocolonialist political actor.

Multinational corporations

Critics of neocolonialism also argue that investment by multinational corporations enriches few in underdeveloped countries and causes humanitarian, environmental and ecological damage to their populations. They argue that this results in unsustainable development and perpetual underdevelopment. These countries remain reservoirs of cheap labor and raw materials, while restricting access to advanced production techniques to develop their own economies. In some countries, privatization of natural resources, while initially leading to an influx of investment, is often followed by increases in unemployment, poverty and a decline in per-capita income.

In the West African nations of Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Mauritania, fishing was historically central to the economy. Beginning in 1979, the European Union began negotiating contracts with governments for fisheries off the coast of West Africa. Commercial, unsustainable, over-fishing by foreign fleets played a significant role in large-scale unemployment and migration of people across the region. This violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, which recognizes the importance of fishing to local communities and insists that government fishing agreements with foreign companies should target only surplus stocks.

International borrowing

To alleviate the effects of neocolonialism, 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".

Sino–African relations

Historically, China and Somalia had strong trade ties. Giraffes, zebras and incense were exported to the Ming Empire of China, which established Somali merchants as leaders in the commerce between Asia and Africa. The People's Republic of China has built increasingly strong ties with African nations, becoming Africa's largest trading partner. As of August 2007, an estimated 750,000 Chinese nationals were working or living for extended periods in Africa. China is purchasing natural resources — petroleum and minerals — to fuel the Chinese economy and to finance international business enterprises. In 2006, two-way trade had increased to $50 billion.

In 2007, 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 Congolese copper.

South Korea's land acquisitions

To ensure a reliable, long-term supply of food, the South Korean government and powerful Korean multinationals bought farming rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in under-developed countries.

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." The head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jacques Diouf, stated that the rise in land deals could create a form of " neocolonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.

In 2008, South Korean multinational Daewoo Logistics secured 1.3 million hectares of farmland in Madagascar to grow maize and crops for biofuels. Roughly half of the country's arable land, as well as rainforests 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 South African workers instead of locals. Local residents were not 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 that resulted in over a hundred deaths. This was a source of popular resentment that contributed to the fall of then-President Marc Ravalomanana. The new president, Andry Rajoelina, cancelled the deal. Tanzania later 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 was to be the largest single piece of overseas South Korean agricultural infrastructure ever built.

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 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 new central government fund to develop farmland overseas, receiving a loan of $1.9 million. The project was expected to produce 10,000 tonnes of feed in the first year. South Korean multinationals and provincial governments purchased land in Sulawesi, Indonesia, Cambodia and Bulgan, Mongolia. The national South Korean government announced its intention to invest 30 billion won in land in Paraguay and Uruguay. As of 2009 discussions with Laos, Myanmar and Senegal were underway.

Other approaches

Although the concept of neocolonialism was originally developed within a Marxist theoretical framework and is generally employed by the political left, the term " neocolonialism" is found in other theoretical frameworks.


"Coloniality" claims that knowledge production is strongly influenced by the context of the person producing the knowledge and that this has further disadvantaged developing countries with limited knowledge production infrastructure. It originated among critics of subaltern theories, which, although strongly de-colonial, are less concerned with the source of knowledge.

Cultural theory

One variant of neocolonialism theory critiques 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. One impact of this is "colonial mentality", feelings of inferiority that lead post-colonial societies to latch onto physical and cultural differences between the foreigners and themselves. Foreign ways become held in higher esteem than indigenous ways. Given that colonists and colonizers were generally of different races, the colonised may over time hold that the colonisers' race was responsible for their superiority. Rejections of the colonizers culture, such as the Negritude movement, have been employed to overcome these associations. Post-colonial importation or continuation of cultural mores or elements may be regarded as a form of neocolonialism.


Post-colonialism theories in philosophy, political science, literature and film deal with the cultural legacy of colonial rule. Post-colonialism studies examine how once-colonised writers articulate their national identity; how knowledge about the colonised was generated and applied in service to the interests of the colonizer; and how colonialist literature justified colonialism by presenting the colonised people as inferior whose society, culture and economy must be managed for them. Post-colonial studies incorporate subaltern studies of "history from below"; post-colonial cultural evolution; 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 Kidlat Tahimik.

Critical theory

Critiques of postcolonialism/neocolonialism are evident in literary theory. International relations theory defined "postcolonialism" as a field of study. While the lasting effects of cultural colonialism are of central interest The intellectual antecedents in cultural critiques of neocolonialism are economic. Critical international relations theory references neocolonialism from Marxist positions as well as postpositivist positions, including postmodernist, postcolonial and feminist approaches. These differ from both realism and liberalism in their epistemological and ontological premises. The neo-liberalist approach tends to depict modern forms of colonialism as a Benevolent imperialism.

Conservation and neocolonialism

Wallerstein and separately Frank claim that the modern conservation movement, as practiced by international organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, inadvertently developed a neocolonial relationship with underdeveloped nations.


Neocolonialism Wikipedia