Of Neocolonialism and Other Cruelties of the World (and How to Deal With It)

Shannon Yuen - Senegal


November 29, 2017

’So — how’s Senegal? Are your eyes finally being opened to the cruelties of the world? The global north expunge the world's resources while the south scrimps for what little is left behind.” This Facebook message popped up on the screen of my phone as I plopped down in an internet cafe, ready to indulge in my weekly dose of Wifi. I shoved the rest of the hamburger in my mouth, jingled the change in my pocket as I thought long and hard:

It is true. It is undeniable that our world is divided — that we are divided into two: The “global north” and the “global south”. The “global north”, in quantitative terms, produces 80% of the world’s wealth each year and is composed of some forty rich countries (representing a mere 20% of the world population). The “global south” stretches more than over 120 countries (representing the remaining 80% of the world’s population), producing 20% of the world’s wealth each year. 

Our world’s division of labour is split into two: nations with the role specialized in winning and nations with the role specialized in losing. The special role in losing is granted to the “global south” ever since Renaissance Europeans freely roamed across prairies and sailed over oceans and sunk their teeth in the throats of African, Indian, and Asian civilizations. Of course, these growing disparities wouldn’t have achieved its present-day glory without the bold, winning acts from our “first world” colonizers. It is undebatable that they are deserving of the debt paid by their post-colonies as a small token of gratitude for the infrastructure, development and protection that are left behind. 

Hence, up till this day, 14 “sovereign” African countries are still under the “protection” of France. (In technical terms, they are under a system of “compulsory solidarity” that was formulated since the 1960s.) Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Togo and Senegal of West Africa; Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad of Central Africa are showing their utmost gratitude for the French treasury’s “service” by using the CFA (Communauté Financière d'Afrique or ”Financial Community of Africa") as their currency. In the name of “security”, so that the convertibility of the CFA franc is secure, 65% of these countries’ foreign exchange are deposited in France. And in order to ensure that there is the total balance of $500 billion n its treasury per year (collected from African countries), it only makes sense for the contributors to access 15% of the money each year. Don’t forget — add another 20% to the sum to cover for financial liabilities. And one last thing, if taking more than 15% of your own money ever comes across as a need for development, you’ll have to borrow your own money from the French treasury at an international commercial rate. 

“Hold on a second. Then what are they left with?” You may ask. “How is it realistic and fair for us to expect actual development from these countries when the issue of monetary sovereignty (better word:bankruptcy) remains unresolved and unknown to the rest of the world?”

This is, actually, a tad bit messed up. Even French former president Jacques Chirac agrees. 

“We have to be honest and acknowledge that a big part of the money in our banks comes precisely from the exploitation of the African continent”. In March 2008, he claimed that “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.”

Admittance to one’s problem is admirable and undeniably a step forward, but it is the action of solving the problem that marks its defining importance. When will France be ready to eradicate the system that is providing for the bases of their economy? Will they do this in the name of sustainable international development, respect and empathy — like what is advertised on their foreign aid websites? 

 

It’s hard to swallow the fact this is the human world that we are living in today; that this is the human world that we have created as the result of greed and short-sightedness; that the more capitalism rots the more ferociously it thrives; that the Global South is stuck in limbo of foreign aid and self-sufficiency, of dependence and development, of survival and dignity.

But as a hot-headed optimist (who would occasionally act anterior to reason), I would quite literally slap you if you asked me to accept this as a fact for our world that has yet to exist. Though I understand that change is slow, I my dream to witness a new, different form of world dynamics within my lifetime.) 

So here I am — to entreat you to ponder and act upon the following for the sake of “making the world a better place” 

  1. Challenge the status quo. Do it often and do it quick — before it challenges you instead.
  2. Encourage the articulation of ideas. Talk about things that make you angry and passionate. It may seem futile at times but it must be understood that change ultimately starts with the exchange of dialogue. 
  3. Stay hopeful. It is not naivity that I encourage, but the mindset of sustained impact. It is so easy to justify our inactions by blaming the world cruelties of the world. Don’t undermine the power of collective action. 

Shannon Yuen