The Intellectual and Political Legacies of Kwame Nkrumah

By Biney, Ama | Journal of Pan African Studies, January 15, 2012 | Go to article overview
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The Intellectual and Political Legacies of Kwame Nkrumah


Biney, Ama, Journal of Pan African Studies


The first intellectual legacy Nkrumah bequeathed is his employment of the conceptual tool of neo-colonialism and its corollary of class analysis. Nkrumah defined neo-colonialism as follows:

"The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside." (1)

He went on to expound that "More often, however, neo-colonialist control is exercised through economic or monetary means." (2) Nkrumah was certainly ahead of this time for as far back as in April 1958, during the Conference of Independent States (CIAS), he had warned of "new forms of colonialism which are now appearing in the world, with their potential threat to our precious independence." (3)

The concept of neo-colonialism remains as valid now as it was in 1965. There is ample evidence of the anti-democratic manifestations and operations of neo-colonialism on the continent, in which an African neo-colonial elite has collaborated and continues to collaborate with Western finance capital, the IMF and the World Bank. Such operations continue to remain a fundamental obstacle to creating Pan-Africanism in the 21st century.

Nkrumah's book, Neo-colonialism: The Highest Stage of Imperialism offended the American government to the extent that the US Ambassador, Mennen Williams, registered a formal protest of the Ghanaian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Accra in 1965. (4) Nkrumah writes that, "The State Department followed up its protest with the rejection of a request from my government for 35 million dollars' worth of surplus food shipments." (5) Neo-colonialism was a book replete with details on the operations of Western multi-national companies and institutions in Africa and the extent of the imperialist economic stranglehold over African economies that were weighted against African interests and therefore sustained the continuing economic poverty and degradation of African societies. To cite Nkrumah at some length, he wrote in Neo-colonialism:

"American and European companies connected with the world's most powerful banking and financial institutions are, with the consent of African governments, entering upon major projects designed to exploit new sources of primary products. In some cases these are allied to long-term ventures for the establishment of certain essential industries. In the main, however, they are confirming themselves to the production of materials in their basic or secondary stages, with the object of transforming them in the mills and plants owned and run by the exploiting companies in the metropolitan lands. Africa has failed to make much headway on the road to purposeful industrial development because her natural resources have not been employed for that end but have been used for the greater development of the Western world." (6)

Nkrumah proceeded to examine in detail some of the primary resources such as phosphates, coal, zinc, diamonds, copper, tin, manganese and gold that have been exploited by Swedish, French, American, Belgian, British and West German companies, in many African countries, including the Congo and South Africa where the Union Miniere du Haut Katanga and the Ango-American De Beers groups operated respectively. (7)

He illustrated the complex interlocking commercial links between Western multi-national companies in Africa such as Union Miniere du Haut Katanga, which was a conglomeration of numerous companies such as Compagnie du Katanga, Societe de Recherche Miniere du SudKatanga (SUDAT), Katganga Special Committee, Societie General, Anglo-American and many others. (8)

Nkrumah ends chapter 6, which is entitled "Primary Resources and Foreign Interests" with the following prophetic words:

"Africa is still paramountly an uncharted continent economically, and the withdrawal of the colonial rulers from political control is interpreted as a signal for the descent of the international monopolies upon the continent's natural resources.

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