Stealing Africa

The documentary, Stealing Africa, depicts the system of taxation, in addition to the role of international institutions, employed by multinational companies in Africa. In the opening scenes of the documentary, the focus turns to a small village in Switzerland, Rüschlikon, which has an extremely low tax rate and more tax revenue than it can efficiently use. This is all courtesy of one resident in particular: Ivan Glasenburg, CEO of Glencore. Glencore, a multinational commodity trading and mining company, owns a 73% stake in the Mopani Copper Mines, making it one of the largest mining operations in Zambia.

Although Zambia has the third largest copper reserves in the world, 60% of the country’s population continues to live off less than $1 a day, while an additional 80% are unemployed. This is a prime example of neocolonialism taking root in a developing, impoverished country, even in our current society. Neocolonialism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural dominance to influence a developing country instead of the use of direct military control or indirect political control (hegemony).

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Despite the appearance of wealth, Zambia’s copper mines have not made the country rich; essentially all of Zambia’s copper mines are owned by large, international corporations, such as Glencore. In the last 10 years, Zambia’s copper mines have produced an estimated $29 billion worth of product; however, Zambia remains one of the twenty poorest countries in the world. This is due largely in part to the influence these large corporations have on the political and economic environment in Zambia.

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It is through the capital invested in the copper mines, the connections that Glencore has internationally, and the cultural impact these large industries have on developing nations that makes the relationship between Glencore and the Zambian copper mines an optimum example of modern-day neocolonialism. Modern-day neocolonialism labels regressive political tactics under the disguise of unregulated aid, trade, and direct foreign investment (with the pseudo-intention of poverty reduction and increased well-being for citizens). In Zambia, in particular, these backsliding investments accentuate how developing sovereign nations can be reduced by external policies and foreign economic control of resources.

Although this control does not fully deny Zambian elites the right to exercise their power—whether that be in corruption or any other form of wrong doing— it does allow for speculation in terms of how outside influences, like international organizations (Glencore), can sanction certain actions with the intention of protecting their economic interests in the country (in this case the copper mines). Many developing nations, like Zambia, generally do not have the funds on their own accord to extract and develop their own natural resources, which explains the extreme gap between potential capital Zambia possess and the actual profit they receive. This provides an ample opportunity for wealthy, well-developed countries, like Switzerland, to offer to acquire these resources in exchange for a high percentage of the profits. It is the international institution’s ability to attain such substantial profits from large shares of the capital that manifests the relationship between Glencore and Zambia into the definition of a neocolonistic state. This is one of the most obvious impacts that international institutions, such as Glencore, have on their extractive states while pursuing their mission to gain large amounts of wealth and maintain economic control, whilst avoiding any violation of international law banning imperialism.

While wealth does accumulate in Zambia as a result of the development in Glencore’s copper mines in Mopani, this wealth is not nearly enough to trickle down to the individual worker or lift the country out of the “lower income” category. The effective use of neo-colonialistic tactics, such as the exploitation of resources in Zambia, allows outsides countries, like Switzerland, to acquire large sums of money and ensue indirect economic control. Neocolonialism alone does not fully explain Zambia’s developmental challenges and economic difficulties; however, it does provide significant reasoning behind at least some of the economic turmoil caused by the abundance of copper. Foreign capital is exploited, rather than used for developmental purposes, further supporting the idea that the investment made by Glencore has caused an increased gap between the wealthy and poor citizens in Zambia, as well as the extreme gap between potential capital Zambia possess and the actual profit they receive. Many African states do not have much capital in which they can initiate any form of sustained industrialization. Even with agriculture remaining vital to society, industrialization remains equally, if not more, important in a society advancing as fast as it is today. Many African states endure the same fate as Zambia, independent of traditional colonialism (at least currently), yet still heavily dependent and exploited under large international institutions and controlled externally by economic monopolies.

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Stealing Africa. (2022, Apr 26). Retrieved from

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