Those who are of the view that Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism is Kwame Nkrumah’s most important book are in the sound company of many.
The independence leader and Ghana’s first-ever president was an intellectual whose expertise on politics, ideologically and practically, outweighed all of his African counterparts. At least, so said a BBC Africa poll in 2000 that said Nkrumah was the “Man of the Millenium”.
Neo-Colonialism certainly adds to this widely-held opinion. This is one of the 15 books authored by Nkrumah but it is the only one that spoke exhaustively to a situation transcending Blackness and African identity. Rather, what Neo-Colonialism offered was an introduction to a novel sociopolitcal concept and an explanation of the material conditions that permit this concept.
That is to say before 1965, global political lexicography had not registered the term ‘neocolonialism’. It has since become an idea not only prevalent among those on the global left but also those interested in postcolonial studies. Neocolonialism was defined as such in the introduction of the book:
“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.”
Neocolonialism was in effect, theorized as a critique of the way in which colonized countries seemed to view the end of their independence struggle as an end in itself. ‘Mere’ independence did not sit well with Ghana’s first leader because as he thought foreign capital would still be used “in such a way as to impoverish the less developed”. Richer countries were still dependent on poorer countries for so much even if the picture was drawn as if colonizers had attained self-sustenance.
Nkrumah’s book was premised on two simple axioms namely, the eternal cooperation of polities i.e. global affairs, and the recognition that the mighty would always look to have its way as Thrasymachus said in Plato’s Republic.
The book took into cognizance the ideological Cold War between the West and the East and the fight to have influence over underdeveloped nations. This meant that Nkrumah, despite his leftist leanings, realized that it was possible for the USSR to victimize formerly colonized peoples.
Ever the evangelist, Nkrumah shared his book to African leaders and other who attended the 1965 conference of the Organization of African Unity in Ghana’s capital Accra. But this bid to teach his fellows what he felt was in store after independence angered the United States.
The US thus withdrew a hitherto agreed $25 million aid it had promised Ghana.