Black Panther and Neocolonialism in Africa
Although Black Panther’s joke about the film’s only Caucasian main character being a “colonizer” was decidedly humourous, the Western world’s long history of colonialism in Africa is tainted by slavery, oppression, bloodshed and abuse. Now, this same battle to control African resources, and exploit African people, has silently taken to the shores of the Motherland in the form of an economic tug of war between China and the United States. Though Western powers such as France, Britain, Spain, and the US have previously dominated African nations, China is now scrambling for economic control of the continent, and unfortunately, it’s winning.
Anybody who keeps tabs on economics and international relations knows that Africa’s economy is expanding rapidly, as McKinsey & Company reports. Not only is the continent as a whole experiencing a massive boom in the size of its workforce, but more and more people are turning to entrepreneurship, running their own companies and becoming increasingly financially stable and self sufficient. Though the primary narrative in regards to Africa may be that it is a destitute and poverty-stricken continent with no capacity for economic expansion, astute businessmen and women know that this is not the case. That’s why Africa has become such a target for foreign direct investment (FDI). In recent years, China reaped the vast majority of the monetary reward as a result of FDI in Africa.
The new Silk Road
In 2016, The Market Mogul seriously questioned whether or not China’s more recent pledge to contribute a 124 billion dollar investment to the New Silk Road could effectively end US hegemony in China. In Ethiopia alone, China has built entire neighborhoods, and a 475 million dollar light railway system. As The Los Angeles Times suggested in a 2017 article, China’s persistent efforts to further development and improve infrastructure in Africa may not be completely altruistic.
When China invests, trades, and pledges hundreds of billions of dollars to Africa, it is effectively buying the continent. It is buying African resources. It is establishing itself as the dominant power in a land that is not its own. It is asserting control and exploiting African workers. Instead of allowing Africa to simply exchange hands from one imperialist power to another, Black Americans should intercept this economic jump ball.
The largely unprecedented worldwide response to Black Panther exhibits something beautiful about the state of Blacks around the world. Although separated by historical, cultural, economic and geographical factors, the common ground that Blacks found as a result of Black Panther demonstrates the Pan-Africanist mentality, and the yearning for a cross-cultural sense of community that rests somewhere in the hearts of Black people. While this expression of a unified Black identity came at the perfect time, what is even more necessary in 2018, as Western and Chinese powers battle for control of Africa, is an organized economic effort that takes the form of Black people investing in Black nations. According to Black Enterprise, Black American spending power topped 1.2 trillion dollars in 2016.
Therefore, Black people do have the economic means to reach out towards Africa, and play a role in the continent’s budding economic future. Black unity can’t start and end with a “Wakanda forever” greeting. It’s fun, and it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. If Black Lives Matter, then Black spending power matters too. Investing in Africa isn’t some social media movement: it’s a necessary action.