The process of underdevelopment in Africa started with Portugal's colonization in the 15th century and it has continued in the last five centuries. The only difference in the political economy and socioeconomic conditions in colonial Africa versus conditions today is the fact that Africans on the surface appear to be in charge of their own destiny and enjoy national sovereignty. Beneath the surface, however, the neo-colonial machinery continues to thrive based on legal and illegal appropriation in the continent that has the world's lowest living standards.
Not only have non-continental corporations (European, Chinese, Japanese, US, and others) invaded Africa to exploit its natural resources, everything from oil to precious metals and rich agricultural land, but it is now apparent that Europeans are literally stealing the fish stock from African waters. Considering that Africa has historically survived on subsistence agriculture, animal husbandry and subsistence fishing, any external intrusion to deprive Africa of its land and sea natural resources entails forcing the people into even lower living standards.
Overfishing in the Mediterranean Sea and tight enforcement has forced large corporate fishing companies using trawlers to invade Africa's waters from the Ivory Coast to Guinea. In what amounts to a multi-billion dollar business, large European and Chinese vessels are capable of catching as much fish in a single day (15 million meals) as the small coastal African fishing boats in a year, thus depleting the fish stock and doing so illegally. African countries do not have the money to patrol the seas, but the US is the one that has blown the whistle on EU and China stealing Africa's fish stock.
The gross losses owing to illegal fishing in the world are estimated at $24 billion, which entails 11-26 million tons of fish, or 10-20% of the world's stock. The majority of illegal fishing takes place in waters of Third World countries, especially in West Africa where fish catches are 40 percent higher than reported.
Besides stealing fish, there are reports that the EU has been using African waters to dump various toxic substances. And the situation is not much better in East Africa, and it is also the case that besides EU and China, Russia, Japan and other countries have been involved in illegal fishing in Africa that is deemed the worst maritime violation in the world.
The irony of illegal fishing in Africa, is that the EU subsidizes the corporations, mostly French ans Spanish, carrying out.The additional irony of all this is that European Parliament has decided that fishing in Western Saharan waters by vessels flying European flags is illegal. Not only does EU and Chinese illegal fishing violate international agreements, but it is detrimental to the natural balance of seas and oceans. Environmental groups have brought this issue to world headlines, but mainstream media will not give it the attention it merits. Moreover, many of the vessels use cheap labor from Third World countries, including child labor.
The ultimate irony in the chronic stealing of Africa's natural resources is that the EU and US are constantly exercised about piracy in East Africa, while the EU and China subsidize fishing companies to engage in fishing piracy in African waters. This is not to excuse piracy, but illegal fishing is a far more serious threat to the people of Africa and the ecosystem than Somali pirates. After all, piracy started because legal activities such as fishing were undercut by foreign illegal activities that advanced countries carried out in Africa.