"Cape to Cairo..."
Quoting Cecil Rhodes in the first sentence of a post portends doom and boredom but the thing has to be done. Since his day, the colonial dream of world powers to dominate dark continents lives on, indeed it is reality in part. Simply because the colony was permitted to fly a flag and choose a puppet leader, the fact of neocolonialism is obscured and denied hotly.
Armies were used in the olden days when commerce still followed the flag. The colonial enterprise in its initial stages had to engage official state powers in their efforts to create world-spanning empires. First the army went in and "pacified the natives," with clergy in tow. Only then did salesmen venture forth with merchandise. Since then, there has been a revolution in the colonial format such that the flag follows commerce. Today, while global corporates carry more financial clout than most individual third-world states, the flag merely represents a market for commerce to target. Global corporate firms bring their influence to bear upon their governments and international trade bodies (WTO comes to mind) to write trade policies and make economic and political alliances.
Hence, political alliances and their geopolitical ramifications are intertwined indivisibly with the economics of neocolonialism. Corporates want their raw materials and markets and are bent on getting them on their own terms. While the end justifies the means (in their estimation), the misuse of political clout for economic gains is not beneath them. One can be certain that at any one time there are any number of paid lobbyists agitating for any number of imaginable alliances because of the promise of lucre. Money makes the world go crazy.
The current tug of war between China and America over African states (read markets) leaves little to the imagination. No one is going to outright say "colonialism," because autonomous flags still fly and it's supposedly still a free market. If you chance to see a foreign army marching down your CBD, or an unmanned drone buzzing threateningly out of reach, that's just the War on Terror or KONY 2012 being operationalized. But the political pretext for such interventions always masks a more concretely lucrative inspiration underneath. Infrastructure development will also continue on such an ostentatious scale as to claim the territory for the political overlord to claim raw materials and markets. Keep your flag, though.
And they say the Cold War ended in 1990.