Past relations between Britain and Africa provide us with two possibilities. The first one is an opportunity to establish strong, transparent, and mutually beneficial relations. This is possible because we know each other through the long history we have shared. But for this to happen, the onus is on those who exploit to accept the need to establish respectful and equal relationships with those they have exploited. Despite Britain’s oppressive colonial role, the long term relationship between Britain and Africa provides a real opportunity for Britain – and indeed Europe – to forge a closer and more collaborative relationship that would result in a win-win for both sides. Europe has far stronger relations with Africa than China can pretend to have but Europe must be proactive – recognising Africa’s weaknesses and helping it to catch up with the rest of the world. This can only happen if trade relations between Africa and Europe are fairer and beneficial to all parties – and by ensuring greater transparency and accountability in the critical extractive sector.
The second possibility is the very opposite of the first one. If the mistrust bred in the past and present continues – and if British companies continue to operate as they have done for decades – then they will expose their investments to increasing insecurity as communities demand greater benefits from their mineral resources. And this will contribute to an increase in resource nationalism – threatening British and European access to a host of strategic minerals.