Protecting the French Investor Abroad: Expropriation, Diplomacy, and Sugar in the Congo, 1970-1978
23 Pages Posted: 9 May 2018
Date Written: May 9, 2018
This article examines the methods and mechanics, the scope and the limitations, of France’s efforts to protect its investors abroad during the post-colonial period. The article tells the story of the Republic of Congo’s nationalization in 1970 of the Société industrielle et agricole du Niari (SIAN). At the time of independence, the company, controlled by the powerful Vilgrain family, was the Congo’s largest private employer. The SIAN episode provides fertile ground for exploring the theme of post-colonial entanglements from a political-economic perspective. It especially illustrates how those entanglements provided both obstacles to and opportunities for neo-imperial influence, just as they provided obstacles to and opportunities for acts of authentic sovereign independence. The article suggests that France’s, the Congo’s, and the Vilgrain family’s mutual interdependence served to insulate the effects of the SIAN nationalization on the larger Franco-Congolese relationship while also providing, eventually, a certain measure of compensation for the despoiled investor.
Keywords: Post-colonial, France, Congo-Brazzaville, Société industrielle et agricole du Niari (SIAN), Legal History, Foreign Direct Investment, Expropriation, Nationalization
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