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Is China late to the party in Africa?

18 February 2012, 16:19
With over one million Chinese living and working in Africa, is China making up for lost time in acquiring what it needs from decolonised Africa? One can't argue against the fact that Chinese influence on the 'dark continent' wouldn't be coming and with such intensity as it did.

As far back as 1873, Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin,a pioneer of eugenics research and an explorer himself, wrote this regarding China:

"My proposal is to make the encouragement of Chinese settlements of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race... I should expect that the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order-loving Chinese, living either as a semidetached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law."

Many years ahead of its time, China's influence on African soiled had been predicted by this man Galton, but is it a little to late? In the 18th and 19th centuries,Western Powers imperial push for Africa was seen as too very dramatic and determined in its scale, almost as if they wanted to make sure black Africans knew the Europeans were there as their kind of show off's.

China on the other hand had done their business in Africa a little more quieter and discreet, almost secretively and most notably never forcing Africa's "big man mentality" despots into something they don't want to do, unlike Western Rulers and Western Institutions. This was a strategy carefully devised by officials in Beijing you'd have to say.

From Nigeria in the northwest, to Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola in the west, across Chad and Sudan in the east, and south through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa, China has taken a vice-like grip on the African continent.

China accounts for logging 75% of all of Africa's pristine tropical forests, paying African workers around 0.88 cents for a day' work. Cargo loads of cheap toys and manufactured good lined African seaports waiting to bring these onto waiting African hands.

In return cargo loads of gold,diamonds,platinum,oil and other commodities gets shipped out of Africa and into Beijing.

As Mugabe says: 'We have turned East, where the sun rises, and given our backs to the West, where the sun sets.' For that China has built Mugabe a 25-bedroom pagoda-style mansion and given him $1billion(US) in loan deals,guaranteeing Mugabe had enough money to buy the loyalty from his Army. Even ZANU-PF's new headquarter building was built by the Chinese.

To African despots,China is much easier to business with as they don't care about human rights,all the care for is African commodities and making money for themselves. After grappling for years against the Western Colonial Powers of Britain, France, Belgium and Germany, it seems African leaders can finally do business the way they always liked with China in a straightforward way namely: CASH.

No more the loan deals from the IMF or World Bank where the persistence of democratic reforms and a need for transparency keeps being harped on by these lenders. The Chinese don't bother with that,they "so relaxed" when it comes to diplomatic language for rulers says Gabon's President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba.

Question is though: What happens when Africa runs out of minerals and oil to extract from? Then what with 410million people still living in abject poverty in Africa? Thirty years ago Britain pulled out of Zimbabwe,as it did in most of Africa,and left a commendable colonial legacy of a network of roads, railways,medical facilities and schools.

There is no sign of China doing the same is there? Instead China is paying Congo more than £2billion in loan deals in exchange for copper-for-infrastructure barter deals, Angola £3 billion has been paid in exchange for oil and Nigeria £5billion had been handed over by the Chinese.

China also employ its own chinese people instead of black Africans. Because of this riots broke out in Zambia, Angola and Congo because chinese immigrant workers were taking cheap African labour jobs. China is undercutting African labour as they see Africans as to lazy and unskilled to be employed.

What is China's true motive for its extensive involvement with African countries? Is it part of the economic outreach programme in Africa, a desire to help develop the infrastructure essential to accommodate economic advances and enlarge Africa's role as a contributing member of the global society? Or is it far too late for China to be thinking about that?


1.The Economist,

3.The Diplomat.

4.AFP news.

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