Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 46 Number 21, September 10, 2016 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

New Scramble for Africa

End Britain's Domination and Exploitation of the Human and Material Resources of the African Continent

Part 2: Stop Imperialist Intervention in Africa

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The recently published War on Want report "The New Colonialism" highlights the extent of British monopoly control of Africa's major resources and the fact that the monopolies operate with total impunity. They are, of course, not answerable to the people and governments of Africa but are able to openly flout international law to exploit the human and material resources of the African continent with full support of the British government and the major international institutions.

There are numerous examples. Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975 and its people denied the right to self-determination. Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara is not recognised by the International Court of Justice, nor by the African Union, which supports the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. As several oil and gas monopolies sought to take advantage of Morocco's illegal occupation, the UN Security Council also provided a legal opinion which declared that exploration and exploitation activities which proceeded contrary to the will and interests of the Saharawi people "would be in violation of the principles of international law". The people of Western Sahara have voiced their opposition to such activities, and one leading member of the Polisario Front described drilling operations in an occupied country as tantamount to a "war crime".

Nevertheless, several British monopolies are illegally prospecting for oil in Western Sahara's territorial waters, including Glencore and Cairn Energy, the latter being part of a consortium led by Kosmos Energy, a US monopoly that includes Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, as one of its board members. Cairn Energy has been in the news recently since Norway's Norges Bank, which administers the country's Government Pension Fund Global, has now banned further investments in the monopoly because of concerns over "serious violations of fundamental ethical norms". It is to be noted that the British government has made no statement and taken no action over the illegal actions of Cairn Energy in Western Sahara.

For its part, Glencore has also been in the news recently, since it was forced to temporarily suspend mining activities in its Mopani mine in Zambia as they led to the deaths of four African miners. Glencore, which is described as Anglo-Swiss, is the world's tenth largest monopoly. It controls 60% of the global production of zinc and 50% of the world's copper. In 2013 it had revenue of $233 billion, around ten times the size of Zambia's GDP. The fact that Glencore is a monopoly registered in both Jersey and Switzerland allows it to avoid taxation on its revenue and profits.

The mining of copper and cobalt account for about 65% of all Zambia's export earnings. In 2010 the country produced $5.7 billion of copper but only received $633 million in revenue. Glencore paid no corporation tax at all on one of its mines and at its Mopani mine has been accused of tax evasion by "transfer pricing" - that is selling copper at artificially low prices to a tax-haven-based subsidiary in order to resell and avoid taxation. Officially Mopani Copper Mine is 90% owned by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, which company is majority owned by Glencore Finance, registered in Bermuda. This is a common practice and allows a massive illicit transfer of wealth from the African continent. It is estimated that this practice deprived Zambia of some $127 million, in one year alone - more than it receives from Britain in so-called aid.

In most instances the British government's "aid" acts as a subsidy to the big monopolies and financial institutions. In Mozambique, for example, the government simply loaned $53m and underwrote a further $145m of loans through the Commonwealth Development Corporation and other institutions to build Mozal, a major aluminium smelting plant owned largely by BHP Billiton, an Anglo-Australian monopoly, reputed to be the world's largest mining company. The British government acted alongside the World Bank, the EU Investment Bank and a host of private investors to raise $2.2bn for this project. According to a report in 2013, the British government had received back its loan plus a further $83m in interest payments. It estimated that the government and other official lenders made $120m a year from the smelter, eight times more than the government of Mozambique, which receives no taxes on profit or VAT. BHP Billiton alone made profits of $112m per year from the smelter which uses 45% of all the electricity produced in Mozambique, a country which in 2013 was fourth from bottom of the UN's human development index.

British monopolies have also been responsible for, or implicated in, major human rights and environmental violations, the most infamous of which are the activities of Shell in Nigeria and Lonmin (the owner of the Marikana mine) in South Africa. They are responsible for pollution of land and waterways, displacement of local populations, the use of under-age workers and many other crimes in addition to the exploitation of Africa's human and material resources. In all this activity they have the support of successive British governments which have acted and continue to act on their behalf.

The War on Want report highlights the fact that in the context of the new scramble for Africa's resources, British monopolies and the British government remain major players and therefore major enemies of the African people. The facts show that there can be no illusions about enslaving "aid" nor about the various government "development" bodies which are rather the opposite, mechanisms for under-development, dependency and exploitation in Africa and elsewhere, in the service of the big monopolies and financial institutions.

The times cry out for an end to such intervention in Africa and for all out opposition to monopoly right. It is therefore the responsibility of all who recognise this necessity to find the means to bring this about. There must be an end to the domination and exploitation of the human and material resources of the African continent carried out in the interests of the most powerful global monopolies. The fight against Britain's imperialist and neo-liberal global exploitation in this regard must be consciously stepped up by the working class and people.


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