Why are we in Africa?

Photo by Arpit Rastogi on Unsplash

Colonialism and its effects are present in every part of the world. Its shadow casts over all aspects of life and its presence and effects on the world are impossible to ignore. The fact that I am writing this in English is evidence of that. The continent of Africa is no exception. One could argue that much of the collective legacy of Africa is inextricably tied to the practice. The effects of colonialism are endless and include the deaths of millions, stunted technological and economic development to this day and dependence on monocultural economies through natural resource extraction. Attempts have been made at bringing stability and growth to Africa with leaders like Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara and Kwame Nkruma. All of them delivered extensive public services to their populations. All three of them were also the victims of western-backed regime changes. 

All of these problems continue to plague the region as many of the colonial practices have not ended, but have merely been adjusted. Western powers have always had some sort of vested interest in the continent since at least the 19 century. While the United States’ “partnership” with Africa is relatively new, its interest and control of the region have undergone an unmistakable intensification, especially with the introduction of AFRICOM (United States Africa Command). Ostensibly, the purpose of AFRICOM exists to aid in the development and peacekeeping of the notoriously destabilized continent. It is essential to know that AFRICOM is one of the United States’ seven geographical combatant command systems. AFRICOM is the newest of which, founded in 2008, and unsurprisingly, the command is in charge of Africa. The command has military relationships with 53 of the 54 countries in Africa and has set up over 40 military bases in the region.

Despite the program’s goal, the African continent has not seen any real development or upward mobility since 2008. Instead, the miserable conditions of many of the nations in Africa have intensified, with the US government taking advantage of corrupt leadership in the region, who are installed by the United States and other western powers. In the case of Libya, the NATO-backed removal of Gaddafi claimed the need to end the human rights abuses of the Gaddafi government in Libya. In the 11 years after the intervention, the United States stands to the side as thousands of Libyans are killed due to civil war and sold into slavery. Outside of Libya, AFRICOM has overseen everything from a coup in Guinea in 2021 to drone strikes in Somalia.

AFRICOM’S benefits to the people of Africa are questionable at best, not only due to the condition we see the continent in since its introduction but because its very structure facilitates the domination of the countries it involves itself with. The primary method of engagement with this part of the world for the US is through the use of increased militarism, arming these corrupt governments against their people in the form of the 1033 program which transfers millions of dollars to militarize the police forces of these countries. 

The primary focus on pushing the military in these countries ensures that conflict is always present in some way. More damagingly, it pushes the idea that African countries are not deserving of their own national sovereignty. The United States’ concern for the African continent begins and ends with how much influence it can exert over it. This was confirmed by AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend who stated that military relations with Africa would be beneficial in mitigating Chinese and Russian influence in the region, ensuring that the United States has a monopoly on Africa’s resources, wealth, and freedom. The power structure of the United States seems to believe that the nations of Africa are too poor and underdeveloped to operate on their own. The truth of the matter is that all of these respective countries have been ravaged by colonialism and have had their collective potential robbed from them for centuries. To say that these countries are underdeveloped only distracts from the fact that they have been over-exploited.