New Era of Colonialism is Unfolding right before our eyes. Should Africa tolerate that?

By Phenyo Butale, former Member of Pan-African Parliament

It’s no secret that the wealth of the West was built on the exploitation of Africa. Millions of Africans were killed, tens of millions were enslaved, and many African nations were brought to ruin. Meanwhile, profits from slave trading, cheap slave labor, and abundant African natural resources were benefiting and transforming the Western economy for centuries.

During the last twenty years, Western officials have been speaking a lot about the West’s responsibility for the crimes of colonialism. Recently, they have even raised the question of reparations owed to Africa for the large-scale atrocities perpetrated during colonial rule. But it looks like in reality, nothing has changed in their minds since the colonial times – the same old white supremacy story is still there.

Take the case of the recent G7 initiative to implement a diamond tracking system.

Under this system, all African diamonds would be mandated to acquire certification in Antwerp, Belgium, several thousand miles away from where they were mined.

The G7 says this tracking system is aimed at curbing Russian diamonds from their markets. Yet it says nothing about what it means for Africa.

Meanwhile, Africa is the largest contributor to global diamond production. Over 60% of the world’s rough diamonds originate from African soil – namely Botswana, Angola, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and several other countries. According to the new G7 initiative, African countries will not be allowed to certify their own mined diamonds anymore. Instead, they will have to deliver them to Antwerp to get an origin confirmation before sending them for polishing or selling.

A white “G7 diamond bureaucrat” in Antwerp, several thousand miles away from Africa, now decides whether an African diamond has the “right origin,” i.e., not Russian, or not.

For many African countries, proceeds from diamond mining represent a significant share of state revenues. Tens of millions of people across Africa are involved in the industry, working in harsh conditions and putting their lives and health at risk every day for as little as 2 dollars per day. Under the new G7 initiative, their fate is poised to be dictated by a distant white man ensconced in the comfort of an Antwerp office. Beyond ethical concerns, this arrangement carries significant cost implications and delays in diamond processing.

This G7 initiative clearly undermines African countries’ sovereignty. At a critical juncture when the diamond market is poised for growth amidst tighter supply, promising increased wealth and prosperity for Africa, the G7 seeks to seize control and strip Africa of its rightful treasures and profits. It’s the same old story. They are trying to take control of our resources and thus enslave new generations of Africans.

Let’s make it clear – according to the proposed tracking system, whites, i.e., G7 countries, will control the trade and rules of diamond circulation, while blacks, i.e., African countries, will take over all the hard rough diamond mining work for less than 2 dollars per day.

Whites will have the margins and control over the markets, while blacks will have the mines and the responsibility to prove that nothing has been violated, i.e., the diamonds are not of Russian origin.

Only a white man from Antwerp can decide on the origin of diamonds – an African can never be trusted in this.

Isn’t that modern-day slavery? Is there really a big difference for Africans between the proposed system and the slave camps created by white supremacist Cecil Rhodes in the late 19th century in the Cape Colony, where thousands of Africans died in diamond mines?

The G7 initiative has already been publicly questioned by De Beers and other diamond producers, as well as by the Kimberley Process, the international certification scheme for conflict diamonds.

Moreover, in an open letter addressed to the G7, presidents and members of 27 diamond bourses worldwide expressed apprehension, highlighting potential adverse effects on the industry. But while the G7 has yet to provide public feedback, Antwerp customs and the diamond office have unilaterally initiated restrictions, leading to the blocking and detainment of African shipments entering Belgium until proper evidence of origin is provided.

It is clear that the implications of the proposed diamond tracking system extend far beyond the world of commerce – it’s a moral and ethical issue that demands attention and action from all African countries. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, a key architect of the new tracking system, stands poised to be remembered in Africa as a modern-day adherent of King Leopold II of Belgium, infamous for his brutal regime in the Congo.

Some African leaders have already called the new tracking system what it is – a direct attack on African independence – while others still have no guts to say that.

It’s imperative for African nations to resist this encroachment on their sovereignty and resources. The exploitation of Africa’s wealth to fuel the prosperity of Western nations is a recurring narrative, and the G7’s diamond tracking system risks exacerbating this exploitation under the guise of international regulation.

Phenyo Butale (PhD)

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