Africa at Crossroads: China as Friend and Foe

The world saw Africa as Dark Continent, Poverty, Instability, Migration, Terrorism, blood diamonds, civil war, child soldiers but one Country stood and try to change that perception into Business Opportunity that was China.  It saw Africa as Mineral Resources Country, Copper, Cobalt, Iron Ore, Gold, Uranium,  Ivory investment in dams, roads, bridges, buildings, airports, ports, market for their goods and services and to ultimately dump their old machinery to infrastructure.

Chinese president Xi Jinping $60 billion loans and aid package to Africa, to develop infrastructure, improve agriculture and reduce poverty on the continent by Chinese state-owned enterprises, political leaders, diplomats and entrepreneurs have put Africa in Chinese neck. Investment in Africa has however been structured around Chinese ownership, with roughly 90% of firms either majority controlled or owned outright by Chinese nationals. There are estimated to be over 10,000 Chinese firms in Africa.

China has become by far Africa’s biggest trading partner, exchanging about $160 billion-worth of goods a year. China’s ambitions are bigger than winning business or seeking access. Yet Africans are increasingly suspicious of Chinese firms, worrying about unfair deals and environmental damage.

The opposition is emerging from Africa’s thriving civil society, which demands more transparency and an accounting for human rights. This can be an unfamiliar challenge for authoritarian China, whose foreign policy is heavily based on state-to-state relations, with little appreciation between African rulers and their people. Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s former central bank governor, says Africa is opening itself up to a “new form of imperialism”, in which China takes African primary goods and sells it manufactured ones, without transferring skills.

Six years ago, in January 2012, the African Union inaugurated its new headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The $200 million building was funded and largely built by China, even using building materials imported from China. Now comes the allegation that confidential data on the IT network of the Chinese-built African Union headquarters in Ethiopia was being siphoned off to Shanghai every night between 2012 and 2017. Accessing internal AU data to gain the upper hand in negotiations with African leaders outweighed the soft power benefits that came with building them a headquarters.

Despite denials from China and the African Union, Beijing’s preferred narrative of benevolent relations with African states is questioned? Shocking is African Union kept the Chinese surveillance secret for a year after discovering it, suggesting that African leaders believed such information, if public, could have explosive consequences for their relationship with China.

The Chinese are often accused of a lack of transparency or uneven partnerships (e.g., privately demanding outsize commodities concessions or exclusive use of Chinese materials and workers on projects). China is also hammered for not pressing democracy and human rights in Africa deals and for shoddy labour standards applied to the Africans.

At a time when the world is becoming inwards China is becoming outward. When President Trump says America First or India says India First  President Xi Jinping, is styling himself as a defender of globalization the One Belt, One Road initiative, The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to name few.

For India, the happenings in Africa is very important as we See Africa as Partners for Development then as Market. India has now developed ties with most of the African nations. In 2015 trade between India & Africa stood at US$ 90 billion making India the fourth largest trading partner of Africa. In  2006 itself India launched its flagship aid initiative in Africa by constructing the $125 million Pan-African e-Network, the continent’s largest tele-education and telemedicine initiative. The network links 47 African countries with schools and hospitals in India through satellite and fiber-optic links. Trade has seen a five-fold increase from USD 11.9 billion in 2005-2006 to 56.7 billion in 2015-16.1 India had pledged USD 10 billion in concessional lines of credit to African countries. India’s engagement with the continent is consultative and is, to a large extent, driven by the demands of the African countries. Further, India postulates that its partnership is an amalgam of African development priorities in keeping with the African Union’s long term plan and the Africa Agenda 2063.

At last, I can say that World is in threat of Cheap Products, anti-dumping , no respect for Human Rights, working with Military Dictators and debt trap. Now doing surveillance to African Countries understanding their mind and market pose a grave risk for future negotiations too, for now, Africa is under run?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

 

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