West African Cocoa Industry in the 1960s



Colonialism marked the expansion and power of countries like Britain and France. The British and French had substantial influence and power in places like Cameroon, Chad, Congo, and South Africa. After some time passed, these former colonies gained independence and attempted to stabilize their respective economies. However, most gained no ground and remained dependent on things like foreign aid to survive. Such hardship brought in a new form of power dynamics, neocolonialism. Neocolonialism is a stark reminder of the power developed nations have over former colonies; West Africa’s cocoa industry demonstrates how poorer nations remain poor through the limited export of raw resources that maintain dependence and diminish innovation.




Neocolonialism is a situation of infringed national sovereignty and intrusive influence by external elements (Langan, 2018, p. 1). While countless scholars may feel squeamish if someone invokes the term, it rings true for the various situations African countries face that were former colonies. These individual African states have endured colonization and economic destabilization all while attempting to circumvent past certain obstacles. It is important that scholars not ignore the very real actions by developed nations to maintain African dependence on foreign countries. …development interventions in Africa by external elements, both corporate and donoris the continuation of external control over African territories by newer and more subtler methods than that exercised under formal Empire (Langan, 2018, p. 4).


Things like foreign aid for example, are high interest loans that do nothing but keep African governments in crippling debt. Even if foreign aid does not come in the form of loans, it comes with strings. indicated that aid monies would not only be used to bring about economic policy change conducive to the extraction of raw material wealth but would also be used to fund infrastructure projects conducive to this robbery (Langan, 2018, p. 63). This helps introduce the cocoa industry in West Africa. Raw resources like food and minerals has become the main export of many African nations. They cannot subsist unless they farm certain crops or allow the mining of their vast reserves of minerals thus leading to a stifling of innovation and continued inability to achieve economic prosperity.


West African Cocoa Industry in the 1960s


The 1960s brought a production boom of cocoa in several African countries. This led to overproduction and reduction of selling price of cocoa around the world. Cocoa while easily sold can only earn so much for African nations and thus these countries cannot hope to develop a robust economy. Value-added prices can only be done on manufactured goods.


If for example, Ghana manufactured its own chocolate bars and sold them as organic and fair-trade, they would make more money from their product than just selling cocoa beans. However, changes within these countries and trading agreements between them and their former colonizers generated a different environment away from manufacturing. Furthermore, the rapid industrialization of the time, made it easier and cheaper to grow cocoa beans allowing developed nations like Britain and the United States to offer cheap buying prices. All combined it made it easier for exploitation of raw materials to occur and stifle African manufacturing and processing. The decade 1960-69 created a new kind of demand for agricultural products of West African countries of Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Rapid industrialization in these countries created an additional load of satisfying the intermediate input demands of domestic industry (Acquaah, 1999, p. 152).


West African Cocoa Industry Now


The cacao bean grows mainly in West Africas tropical climates in countries like the Ivory Coast and Ghana. They supply up to 70% of the global supply of cocoa. Major chocolate companies like Hersheys, Nestle, and Mars buy the harvested cocoa (FEP, 2018). What some may not know is that the means of producing, growing, and harvesting cocoa in those regions include child labor. There is rampant government corruption in those countries from the cocoa industry.


But why is there so much corruption and why are there child laborers? Put simply, child labor allows for the price of cocoa to remain low, so these countries can sell their product.


In Western Africa, cocoa is a commodity crop grown primarily for export; 60% of the Ivory Coasts export revenue comes from its cocoa. As the chocolate industry has grown over the years, so has the demand for cheap cocoa. On average, cocoa farmers earn less than $2 per day, an income below the poverty line (FEP, 2018).


Due to the abject poverty experienced by people in these countries, children willingly begin working early on to support their families. Some are kidnapped or sold to traffickers where they begin working on farms as early as 5 years of age (FEP, 2018). This is the negative effect neocolonialism has on African nations.


For example, as Langan notes tariffs on cocoa beans and powdered cocoa are starkly different, forcing African states to continue producing raw materials rather than create their own chocolate products. EEC tariffs on 5.4% on raw cocoa beans from Africa, compared with a tariff of 22% on processed powdered cocoa- as evidence that European powers sought to maintain African states in a subordinate position (Langan, 2018, p. 12). Even with inclusion of potential tariff decreases through trading blocs, the competition of European and American products that are lower cost flood the market with competitive pricing most African countries cannot compete with; hence resorting to slavery and cheap labor to make profit. It is through these subtle ways neocolonialism remains a real threat to the economic stability of African states.


The cocoa industry in West Africa is a prime example of neocolonialism as it shows what continues to be reinforced now even after African nations achieved formal political independence. Back when countries like Ghana were colonies, they were economically exploited and had their raw materials taken. Now, their raw materials are still being taken, except through other means like imposing higher tariffs on manufactured or processed goods and maintaining low tariffs on raw materials. Because most of the buyers of exported raw materials from Africa are these former colony holders, they can dictate the price, keeping profits for Africans very low. This means control over the economies of African countries and the subsequent slavery and human trafficking seen in them.




Neocolonialism is at its heart of form of exploitation. The United States is the main importer of cocoa from West Africa. (Hauser, 2017) The supply of cocoa and its prices are based on what poor and middle-class Americans can afford. On top of that, rural farms in West Africa that grow cocoa are not familiar with the global price of cocoa and therefore, cannot price cocoa accordingly. The food conglomerates gain the upper-hand and buy up these raw materials selling their processed goods (chocolate bars) for cheap prices and making higher profit margins in return. It perpetuates a cycle that produces increasingly lower prices and forcing these farmers to cut costs. the vast majority of trafficking victims in Cote d’Ivoire are women and children (Hauser, 2017, p. 89).


One article provides the story of a child working on cocoa farms. Ibrahim moved with his father to Ivory Coast when he was littlehes not sure exactly how old he wasand hes been working on cocoa farms ever since. What about school? No, he says, hes never been to school. (Keefe, 2016). These children are often not paid, do not receive an education, go hungry, and do not see their families. These are the effects of neocolonialism and the demands of developed countries to maintain places like Ghana to export only raw materials. It is a serious problem that only continues due to refusal for change and continued unfair tariffs (Keefe, 2016).




In conclusion, the West African cocoa industry represents what can happen when former colonies attempt to re-stabilize in a world that does not support it. Even though former colony owners like Britain are no longer in power, they still have influence in what these former colonies produce and what they can export. Neocolonialism exists and will continue to exist allowing for the maintenance of a persistent political and economic hold that developed nations have over underdeveloped former colonies. While there may be a change in the distant future, it must begin with understanding the deleterious effects of neocolonialism and how to circumvent the obstacles created through it.


Child slavery is a reality in places like Ghana that produce cocoa. The constant need for supply and the low prices forced on African countries growing and exporting the cocoa perpetuate human trafficking. Children may work for these cocoa farms or are forced into slavery, enduring harsh conditions. While African nations have gained their independence, they have not truly gained their freedom. Colonialism may be done, but neocolonialism is here to stay.




Acquaah, B. (1999). Cocoa development in West Africa: The early period with particular reference to Ghana. Accra: Ghana universities Press.


FEP. (2018). Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry | Food Empowerment Project. Retrieved from http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/


Hauser, W. K. (2017). Invisible Slaves: The Victims and Perpetrators of Modern-Day Slavery. Chicago: Hoover Institution Press.


Keefe, B. (2016, March 1). Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/


Langan, M. (2018). Neo-colonialism and the poverty of ‘development’ in Africa (1st ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

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