Africa’s Riches: The New Scramble and Core Causes for Conflict


By: Josephus Moses Gray


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 28, 2013


Moving from a trivial status to the most dynamic role in international relations has placed the African continent which was once considered as inferior to other continents especially to Europe, North and South America on the world stage.  Africa existing role in the context of global politics and international relations is becoming lively and of interest to the world. In the framework of a contemporary international politics, Africa is in motion, moving away from the periphery of the international system to a dynamic one, prompting calls for the continent to occupy a seat on the Security Council with an equal veto, but the question is which of the three?. Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco are all vying and not ready to allow either one of the three to represents Africa if the occasion arises. The continent in recent time has been repositioning in the international system as far as international relations and politics are concerned. However,  against the backdrop of a newly emerging world order in international relations, the continent position and role of emerging key actors on the continent need to reconsider emerging markets, good governance and democracy, economic policymaking, equitable distributions of wealth, young demographics, youth employment, jobs creation,  international security and peace, and food security, sound environmental policy, and resource abundance contrast with fixed tales of failed states, poverty, huge unemployment,  war and political assassinations.

In the post-independence eras, African states became weak pawns in the world economy. More recently, the West has choked Africa with an onerous debt regime, forcing many nations to pay more in interest on debts. The legacy of Western domination has left Africa devastated with crippling rates of poverty, hunger, and disease. The continent today has a gross per-capita yearly below that of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in most African countries, and an average life expectancy of only fifty years.

According to the latest UN report, seventy-six percent of Africans have no access to standard pipe born water, good health care, electricity, social security benefits, sanitation facilities and good meals a day. The report further indicates that 25.8 million people of the two-thirds of the total world population suffering from HIV/AIDS live in Africa. Africa remains a continent abundant in human and natural resources, but these riches managed to enrich only a handful of African leaders and the family members, corrupt bureaucrats and their relatives and close friends, privileged individuals and foreign capitalists.

In the face of these appalling practices, if we are to single out one factor which has led to the transformation of Africa as it has done elsewhere in the world; this will be certainly contemporary international relations. It is international relations which has been the gateway to link the continent to other continents, helping Africa to get in touch with other parts of the world and influential multilateral institutions and organizations to establish its status among the comic of nations on the world stage. Africa has succeeded speedily in pushing and occupying key positions in the world. A great deal has already been written about African international relations and the contributions of African countries and their governments.  This century perhaps more than any other period in human record has looked upon international relations and democracy as the vehicle of progress to establish ties with other countries and the best approach to resolve conflict calmly.

However, this article one of several published recently, present in-depth, incisive analysis of critical issues in Africa and beyond such as Africa in International Relations, the new scramble for the continent’s richer resources, and the core causes for poverty, corruption, bad governance and violence, thus using various moral lessons drawn concerning the present-day realities of violence and wars, among some of the critical issues. Political assassinations and massacres of some of the leaders and heads of governments, bureaucrats in Africa is inimical to democracy and  fact of life, as such, we need to stop this barbarism, we cannot continue to live within such an repugnant  circumstances if we are to compete with the West. From the 1950 to 2000s, Africa has experienced lots of assassinations either by coups d'etat or by political detentions, thus depriving Africa of the men and women who would perhaps have built a better future. Each assassination, each coup d'etat, each detention and each political exile dealt a blow to Africa. All these disgusting tricks are direct results of bad governances which reduced the largest population to extreme poverty at the detriment of few corrupt bureaucrats and capitalists.

Battling to overcome its own created tribulations, Africa throughout the Cold War and until the 2000s, played only an insignificant role in international relations. This is not to say that Africa was inconsequential or even an entity apart from the international system but the big developments of the Cold War somewhat overshadowed the continent on the world stage. During the Cold War period, most of Africa continent remained within the spheres of influence of the former colonial powers, which made use of the relative freedom they were given by the Great Powers to materialize their interests in Africa.

This situation perpetuated the hierarchical structures of the colonial past (Nohra 2011), not necessarily against the will of the African ruling influential leaders and political bureaucrats. The view of Africa as a subordinated entity in the international system was even further reinforced by the continent’s marginalization within the discipline of International Relations. Intrinsically linked to the concept of post-colonialism, the image of Africa’s subordination had to be redefined once the post-colonial period came to an end. Some political pundits and commentaries argue that the continent was described less important by the big powers in the face of international relations and diplomacy but now a day the situation has proven otherwise. Africa's bilateralism in relation to the world in recent time has been successful while bad governances still remain a critical issue of a major concern.

As the new nations emerged, the problems of nation building, economic reconstruction loomed on the horizon and that one cannot ignore the impact of the 1960s. This was the first decade of independent Africa and it has been characterized by violence from north to south, from east to west. What we saw at the beginning of the 1960s was a precursor of what was to come. The Congo crisis, the secessions of Katanga and Kasai were symptoms of the malady of the continent. At the beginning of the 1960s it was fashionable then to look upon the Congo tragedy as the unique example of Belgian colonial ineptitude. Now with years of bitter experience behind us, we can say that the Congo situation pointed to all the issues which would afflict Africa from the 60 to 2000s. The Congo gave us also the first real taste of the cold war involvement in Africa.

As the Congo became a battle sound of international strife, it was unfortunately the African who bore the brunt. It was once again the Congo which gave Black Africa the first indication of the importance of diplomacy in African politics. This has become a fact of life and no one in Africa today can think of resolving conflict without a diplomatic intervention and leave out militarism, which is the last course of action. After the end of the Congo-Brazzaville war, the continent experienced dozen of brutal wars in several countries including Nigeria’s Biafra war, Democratic Republic of Congo (formally Zaire), Angola, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopian-Eritrea war, Rwanda war between the Hutu and the Tutsi, Senegal-Casamance Region, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Northern and Southern Sudan’s war, Kenya Libya, and now Mali, just to name few. All these wars were direct results of abused of state resources and national wealth, bad governances, corruption, class system and abused of state power and authority by handful of African leaders and capitalists.

  But farsighted political figures, however, agree that Africa has entered a new phase of history, which is characterized by increased African actors on the world stage, with greater influences. For instance, a good marker of this change is the greater interest that the continent has received from Asian and other emerging countries and the resulting competition between well-established and new actors on the African continent. Another critical juncture that contributed to the repositioning of Africa in world politics was the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Virtually overnight the African continent gained new significance in relationship to the global war on terror (Olsen 2005b, 6).

 In light of the political instability across the Middle East and North Africa,  Africa has come to be ‘of major geo-strategic importance to the oil-dependent industrialized economies’, and giving an attention that Africa receives from actors all over the international system, the idea of an African  rebirthseems to be finding more and more acceptance within international relations. Referring to the colonial scramble, which hit its peak at the end of the 19th century and the partition of the entire African continent along borders brokered between a handful of European colonial powers, some scholars see a ‘new scramble for Africa’ emerging.  However, this ‘new scramble’ differs in at least two regards from its colonial predecessor. First, the pool of actors has widened and Europeans are no longer the dominant outside actors in Africa. China, for instance, has emerged as one of the most active players in Second, while African governmental elites currently are key players with considerable bargaining leverage.

More cautionary thinkers whose read international politics point to the prevailing poverty and corruption, the lack of infrastructure, bad governance and the weak political parties and institutions in Africa, while other analysts predict the continent will have a promising future. Most likely the truth lies somewhere in between. Evaluating the international actors’ performances, many observers see China taking the lead, while others regard tales of a successful Sino-African future with suspicion and point to the robustness of US–African ties (Taylor 2012). Nowadays more than ever, as Jean-François Bayart wrote rather provocatively a decade ago, the ‘discourse on Africa’s marginality is nonsense. The economic, demographic, and political developments on the African continent suggest that Africa is moving away from the periphery of the international system, not without consequences for the traditional international actors in the region.

The governance crisis in the Gulf of Guinea and elsewhere on the continent is fuelled by oil corruption and inadequately distributions of wealth, this is because unlawful behavior flourishes when governments’ agents have exclusive power over something; when they have at their disposal a wide margin of discretionary power; and when they are not held accountable for their acts. A common view is that the point of departure for any antidote to corruption is transparency and good governance, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), like Transparency International, Global Witness and Publish What You Pay, have all proposed governance initiatives to fight corruption in the African oil sector.

Moreover, the World Bank generated a set of indicators to measure voice and accountability; political stability; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; rule of law; and control of corruption. This initiative can only become a reality only if governments put into place sound political actions. Also there is another correlation between oil and conflict that suggests causation.  Moreover, the big success stories of rich oil-producing countries like Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Brunei, seem to prove that the oil curse does not always materialize.  To conclude, some of these sub-hypotheses of the resource curse theory are not true in Africa’s biggest oil producer, Nigeria. No single factor like oil can ever be sufficient to explain the complex social phenomena of an entire nation: ‘The natural resource curse is not destiny.’ However, there are several theories about how oil fuels conflict that emerged out of large-number quantitative studies that found strong correlations between oil dependency and various kinds of violence.

Let me turn my attention to Beijing current engagement in Africa. China‘s recent engagement in Africa has attracted a lot of attention and become a major economic force in Africa with a big amount of trade, investment and aid. Some critics especially from the West often use a double-standard to measure the Chinese engagement in Africa compared with the Western one. But also many people from different standpoints believe Chinese action to be beneficial to African development and help to empower the huge population on the continent. But from a critical point of views, China serves as both an opportunity and a challenge. The opposite side claims Chinese-African relations were established long before China‘s need for raw materials on the basis of mutual sympathy and common development instead of colonization.

To achieve mutual benefits and to develop the China-Africa relationship in a sustainable way, both China and Africa need to standardize the collaboration, and that African countries should get motivated. At present, some people recognize that Sino-African relations are processes not of colonization but of globalization, involving the reintegration of China into the global economy- a project that has hitherto enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the capitalist west. On the pragmatic level, China has been seeking for mutual benefit with Africa as a development partner. The investment by Chinese enterprises in this field has expanded the financial sources for African development, raised the value of such resources, and facilitated local infrastructure construction and economic development (Chinese State Council, 2010). For instance, Chinese and Malaysian enterprises have cooperated with Sudan in oil exploitation, and helped that country establish a modern petroleum industry featuring integrated upstream and downstream operation, which substantially increased Sudan's financial revenue and playing an essential role in improving the livelihood of the local people.

China has also cancelled billion of dollars in bilateral debt from African countries, and for China, energy security is one of its primary motives for its involvement in Africa, but it has been shown that it is not the only one. According to studies, the Chinese government’s engagement with Africa is thought to have several benefits primarily diplomatic and economic. On a Diplomatic front, Beijing seeks African support for its status as a key power in world affairs and enhances its relationship with African countries and Economically, China’s rapid economic boom requires African raw materials and a market for its goods.

According to unconfirmed reports, China accounted for 40 percent of total growth in global demand for oil in the last six years. In 2003, China ranked second just after the United States and ahead of Japan in oil consumption. It seems that the United States and China are competing to secure access for the oil riches of Africa. Consequently, it was a somewhat different motive that brought together the world’s two most powerful states to get actively involved on the African continent. But undoubtedly, the continent’s riches natural resources are indisputably a key motive.
Part Two fellows in subsequent edition.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Josephus Moses Gray holds BA and MA Degrees in Communications and International Relations. He formerly worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Assistant Minister for Public Affairs. He is a graduate of the ICFA Global Journalism Program, Washington D.C., USA. He holds dozens of certificates and post-graduate diplomas in Journalism, international affairs, political, peace studies and diplomacy from abroad including the Chinese Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, Cape Town, South Africa and Atlanta, Georgia, USA.  He has authored two books and has written extensively and published 31 articles on contemporary issues. He can be contacted at Email: or 0776824437(Liberia) and 0033661191739(France)


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