The new colonialism



As its wealth is seized by foreign interests, Africa faces a colonial invasion as devastating in scale and impact as that which the continent suffered in the nineteenth century.

The largest island in the Indian Ocean, the fourth largest in the world and one of the poorest countries, Madagascar is famous for its biodiversity. Yet, the QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) project (80% owned by Rio Tinto, 20% by the Madagascan government) is wrecking lives and livelihoods and doing irreparable damage to the area’s rich and unique natural environment.

When a new government came to power in Mozambique last year, it raised questions about the prices that the country was paying oil trader Vitol.

Protests in Morocco; LakeMalawi drilling …

‘The continent (Africa) may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.’ Boris Johnston, writing in the Spectator in 2002.



A new report by War on Want,  ‘The new colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s mineral resources’, reveals that as many as 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange – many of them British companies – have mining operations in Africa. Combined they control, for instance, 6.6 billion barrels of oil, 3.6 billion tonnes of coal, 80 million ounces of gold, platinum and diamonds, gas – a booty worth in excess of $1 trillion.

African countries are being treated as mere enclaves, subservient to a global economy that favours business and the super-rich ahead of ordinary (indigenous) peoples and our fragile planet. Trade relationships ensure that the winners are foreign, private interests, chiefly Western organisations and companies. Global losers are most of Asia, much of Latin America and all of Africa, as its wealth in natural resources is seized; there is no sign of this stopping. This is the ‘new colonialism’, and it’s time British companies and the British government were held to account.


The QIT Madagascar Minerals mine is extracting ilmenite, used in titanium and as a pigment in toothpaste, paint and sunscreen. Already thousands of people have been affected by the mine, in many ways, including being forced from their land. Farmers and fisher folk have seen their livelihoods disrupted as agricultural land has been flooded and subjected to dust pollution. Meanwhile, precious coastal forest habitat is lost to dredging. Predictably, mining companies talk about ‘safeguarding’ the local environment; at the same time as their bulldozers line up, ready to trash precious natural habitats. At Fort Dauphin the local communities already affected by the construction of the mine are now confronted with a ‘conservation zone’, denying them access to the natural resources of the forest on which they depend for food, firewood, and much else. A way of life passed down for generations is being destroyed. The local community and environmental activists are fighting back.   ‘The New Colonialism’ pdf: full report.


Mozambique is another one of the poorest countries in the world. Affordable fuel is crucial to its attempts to develop its economy. When a new government came to power last year, it raised questions about the prices that the country was paying oil trader Vitol, and shifted the supply contract to Vitol’s rival Trafigura. Mozambique is demanding Vitol refund $80 million in alleged excess charges. Vitol counters that Mozambique actually owes it money for breach of contract. If no agreement is reached, Mozambique plans to take Vitol to court.  A report this month by CIP, an anti-corruption NGO, alleged that overcharging for fuel was rife by multinational traders such as Vitol. It claimed illicit profits may have been shared in the past with officials in the country. Vitol says that it has ‘zero tolerance of corruption as a company and is upfront about contracts’.

Separately, the CIP report reckoned that Vitol had won extensions to supply contracts in the country twice between 2013 and 2014 despite being eliminated in the tender process after rivals beat them on price. The CIP claimed senior politicians had intervened. A document for the supply of unleaded petrol, jet fuel and diesel in 2013 shows Vitol quoting 32% more than Trafigura. Vitol was still chosen to supply the contract, and says that contracts are not always awarded to the lowest bidder. Invoices from Vitol’s gas and oil deliveries show it converting metric tons to barrels at a ratio of 8.2 barrels per ton rather than the 7.45 which had been agreed. Using the lower conversion rate would have saved Mozambique $2 million on one gas/oil shipment alone. Vitol deny using the higher ratio, saying that it only looks higher because of ‘various specifics’ in the contract terms agreed by Mozambique. The G.N.P. of Mozambique doesn’t come close to nearing Vitol’s annual turnover.

Vitol is run by Scot Ian Taylor, who during the 2014 Scottish referendum campaign threatened to take National Collective pro-independence media activists to court for exposing Vitol’s links to a Serbian warlord (plus other dodgy practices). Taylor had donated £250,000 to Better Together for their anti-independence campaign funds.

Vitol said to win €1bn pre-pay oil deal with Iran

Vitol – turnover 250billion a year


_   Morocco: Massive protests against neoliberalism


Drilling for oil around Lake Malawi will threaten a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Africa’s most iconic lakes as well as driving more climate change in a country that’s already bearing the brunt of it. The lake supports the livelihoods of more than 1.5 million people living on its shores – it’s also home to Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, monkeys and African fish eagles.   Greenpeace post and petition.

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