The term ‘neocolonialism’ has been both embraced and rejected, and continues to be a highly debated, somewhat touchy subject. It is generally used by post-colonial critics of the involvement that developed countries have in the workings of those countries that are still in the developing process.
The original period of colonialism was characterised, in Africa, by the acquisition and domination of European powers (such as Portugal, England and France) over Africa and its countries. While this system introduced various policies, infrastructural developments and industries to Africa, the African people that once owned and lived off of the land certainly experienced much oppression and persecution. Therefore, when they could, these countries fought for and gained their independence. This was not easy and had huge implications regarding how they functioned and their quality of life.
However, some argue that the developed countries granted only a measure of independence to these African countries and that the economic arrangements that exist between the developing and developed lands are in place to maintain control of these African lands. This is referred to as neocolonialism; a sort of modern control. This, in turn, maintains a certain level of dependency on the part of the formerly-colonised on the ‘superior’ powers. However, there are still some countries that are actually administered by foreign territories, despite the fact that this flies in the face of the ideals and resolutions held by the United Nations Organisation. In both of these cases, the term neocolonialism is used to describe the situation.
The major problem with neocolonialism, according to critics, is that the colonisers, or dominant states, are exploiting the colonised and taking advantage of their resources for their own gain. These developing lands are, by this theory, not benefitting at all from what is really theirs. If this is true, then these countries really are no better off than when they were colonised in the formal, political sense of the word.
When neocolonialism is made manifest, it is usually through the financial or economic state of the country under such control. One of the ways in which this is particularly clear is the fact that these neocolonial places are so often the target markets for importation from the neo-colonisers.
Neocolonialism also puts the subordinate state or country in a position to be “passed on” to another imperial body, such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom or a significant financial organisation. This is viewed as another form of perpetual control by these bodies, preventing developing land from rising to their own level of independence and financial and political ‘success’.
In particular, Nkrumah makes the following points about neocolonialism in 1965:
It continues to actively control the affairs of the newly independent state
In most cases neocolonialism is manifested through economic and monetary measures. For example the neocolonial territories become the target markets for imports from the imperial centre(s)
While neocolonialism may be a form of continuing control by a state’s previous formal colonial master, these states may also become subjected to imperial power by new actors. These new actors include the United States or may be international financial and monetary organizations
Because of the nuclear parity between the superpowers, the conflict between the two take place in the form of “limited wars.” Neocolonial territories are often the places where these “limited wars” are waged.
As the ruling elites pay constant deference to the neocolonial masters, the needs of the population are often ignored, leaving issues of living conditions like education, development, and poverty unresolved.