International commercial rivalries & the Zaïrian copper nationalisation of 1967

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8 Scopus citations


Research on the international relations of the African continent has generally eschewed the phenomenon of rivalry among the advanced capitalist powers for commercial and political influence south of the Sahara. Most studies of Africa's international relations, especially from a critical perspective, have tended to emphasize the unity of the northern, capitalist powers in opposing challenges from third world countries. During the 1970s, research emphasized the efforts of multinational corporations and their home governments to prevent or undermine efforts at economic nationalism in third world countries. While such studies did recognize the potential for somewhat varied responses to rationalistic 'threats', there was a widespread assumption that the rich nations would exhibit a significant degree of unity in preserving international property rights and the free flow of capital. More recently, critical studies have emphasized the salience of the international financial community and the International Monetary Fund in reestablishing political and economic hegemony over peripheral areas, including Africa (Mohan & Zack-Williams, 1995). Such approaches tend to overlook the phenomenon of conflict and competition among these powers. This article will examine the historical basis of international rivalries in Zaïre, focusing on the rise of General Mobutu's regime, primarily during the late 1960s. During this period, the United States was seeking to expand its commercial and political influence in Zaïre, generally at the expense of established European interests. The principal protagonist of the US was the former colonial power, Belgium. In essence, it will be argued, inter-capitalist rivalries in Zaïre were an inevitable outgrowth of decolonization. The European powers had always used colonialism as a method to maintain exclusive or quasi-exclusive trading and investment opportunities for home country interests and to exclude potential interlopers - such as the United States. During the 1960s, the US viewed the circumstances of decolonization as an opportunity for political and commercial expansion, sometimes at the expense of European interests. European-US conflicts, some of which continue to the present day, were the result. Historical conflicts such as these are highly relevant to understanding present-day international relations in Central Africa when once again, rivalries among the western powers - this time between the US and France - are apparent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-184
Number of pages14
JournalReview of African Political Economy
Issue number72
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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