Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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There is no doubt that US and China are competing ferociously on the global scene for economic dominance.  China has made some pretty good encroachment in the global share of American market place. For instance China has surpassed United States as the largest African trading partner. And US did not take it lying down and have just concluded US-Africa Summit that brought nearly 50 African Heads of States to Washington DC.

 

 

Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project has just concluded its research and came up with a data and map showing countries with most favorability on China or United States. The map denotes and shows the nations that prefer either the U.S. or China. At the bottom and shaded black are the countries that have comparable opinions of the two countries.

 

35 percent Chinese favorable view

As African leaders gathered in Washington DC on the invitation by President Obama for US-Africa summit, the focus of the summit was centered on trade not aid. But the elephant in the room or in the minds of the summit participants is China. It is there for everybody to see that China’s business and commercial tempo in Africa is rising and rising. China is now the largest trading partner to Africa. Five years ago China surpassed the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner, with Beijing’s trade quantifying at the excess of $200 billion (150 billion euros).


“In 1980, the total Sino-African trade volume was US$1 billion. In 1999, it was US$6.5 billion and in 2000, US$10 billion. By 2005, the total Sino-African trade had reached US$39.7 billion before it jumped to US$55 billion in 2006, making China the second largest trading partner of Africa after the United States, which had trade worth US$91 billion with African nations. The PRC also passed the traditional African economic partner and former colonial power France, which had trade worth US$47 billion. In 2010, trade between Africa and China was worth US$114 billion and in 2011, US$166.3 billion. In the first 10 months of 2012 it was US$163.9 billion.


There are an estimated 800 Chinese corporations doing business in Africa, most of which are private companies investing in the infrastructure, energy and banking sectors. Unconditional and low-rate credit lines (rates at 1.5% over 15 years to 20 years) have taken the place of the more restricted and conditional Western loans. Since 2000, more than $10bn in debt owed by African nations to the PRC has been canceled.”


In addition “One-third of China's oil supplies comes from the African continent, mainly from Angola.[33] Investments of Chinese companies in the energy sector have reached high levels in recent years.[when?] In some cases, like in Nigeria and Angola, oil and gas exploration and production deals reached more than $2 billion.[clarification needed Many of those investments are mixed packages of aid and loan in exchange for infrastructure building and trade deals.”


Economist magazine reported, “When it comes to trade, America trails in second place to China, which has long held summits with African leaders and hosted individual meetings (unlike President Obama). Still, America hands out about five times more aid to the continent than China, and invests considerably more too. Meanwhile, European countries still enjoy colonial ties, as the healthy level of trade, aid and investment attests. In recent years emerging powers like India and Brazil have increased their links to the region—but only in terms of commercial flows, not philanthropic ones.”


Bill Clinton spoke with Aliko Dangote (right), CEO of Dangote Group, and Jeff Immelt, the head of General Electric (left) after a panel discussion at the US-Africa Business Forum.Former President Bill Clinton exchange ideas with Aliko Dangote (right), CEO of Dangote Group, and Jeff Immelt, the head of General Electric (left) after a panel discussion at the US-Africa Business Forum

 

Although aid maybe needed now and then, but the key for Africa’s growth must be centered on trade and not aid.  Trade is the engine of commercial, economic and industrial development. No industrial nation has emerged on the global stage because of aid. Africa must shunned aid and must focus primarily on trade.


“No nation has been more aggressive in Africa than China. Its direct investment in sub-­Saharan Africa has jumped from virtually nothing in 2002 to $18.2 billion in 2012. China is hungry for oil, coal and other resources and eager to develop the roads, bridges and ports needed to pull them out of Africa.


Africans tend to favor doing business with China in part because it’s less likely than Western nations to demand economic and political reforms to accompany trade and development deals.


“Investors from the U.S. and Europe have tended to be large investors who demand all kinds of facilitation, who expect all kinds of conditions,” says Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a Rwanda-based researcher and honorary fellow at the University of Manchester. “I do not see Europe and the U.S. catching up with China.”


Indeed, this week’s summit is seen as an American effort to regain some of the influence lost in the region to China over the past decade. Next year, the United States hopes to expand a 14-year-old free-trade deal with Africa.


On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced $14 billion in commitments from U.S. businesses to invest in Africa — money to be plowed into construction, clean energy, banking, information technology and other sectors. The money includes a $2 billion investment by General Electric by 2018, $200 million by Marriott and a $66 million commitment by IBM to provide technology services to Ghana’s Fidelity Bank.” – Associated Press


In addition, "Coca-Cola and its African bottling partners announced an investment of $5 billion, rising to $17 billion Coca-Cola’s investment in Africa from 2010 to 2020.”

 

Credits: AP, Wikipedia

 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Ethiopia Sunday for the start of a four nation Africa tour, his first visit to the continent since assuming his position a little over a year ago.

 

Li is scheduled to also visit Nigeria, Angola and Kenya during the week-long trip, and give a keynote speech on Monday at the Chinese-built headquarters of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

 

The trip follows one Chinese President Xi Jinping made to the continent last year, shortly after taking office, a journey that underscored resource-rich Africa's importance to the world's second-largest economy.

 

"Ethiopia is the first stop because there is a deep friendship between our two countries and Ethiopia is a major country in Africa and the seed of African union," Li said in a news conference after his arrival and talks with Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn.

Chinese Premier Li and Ethiopian Prime Minister Desalegn address a meeting at Ethiopian capital Addis AbabaAFP

 

"The relationship between China and Ethiopia is not only a relationship for one year or two years. China and Africa have destinies that are closely linked," he added.

 

Officials said the two premiers signed a number of legal accords covering diplomatic visa exemptions, cultural corporation and extradition, plus agreements on economic, trade and technical cooperation.

 

China's economic growth has been partially fuelled by African natural resources, including oil.

 

"China and Ethiopia have agreed on enhancing Ethiopia's industrialisation and on supporting Ethiopia's great vision to become Africa manufacturing house," Dessalegn said, hailing "many decades of strong economic and diplomatic relations".

The continent's nations appear more enamoured by the mainland's willingness to deal in hard currency than Barack Obama's pledges

 

US President Barack Obama may be trying to woo Africa but the continent's leaders seem more attracted by China's cold, hard cash. With Obama's African tour barely over at least three African leaders have rushed to China to sign deals worth billions of US dollars.

 

Obama visited Africa from late June to July 2, pledging US$7 billion to upgrade electricity infrastructure. But China's growing financial might appears to be holding sway over US influence.

 

During Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's visit to Beijing last week, US$1.1 billion of loan deals were signed, including a US$500 million Chinese loan for the construction of four new international airports in Abuja, Lagos, Harcourt and Kano.

 

China's investment in Africa has increased 30-fold since 2005, with 2,000 Chinese firms now present in 50 African countries.

 

Over the past 10 years, Britain has invested the most in Africa, with 437 deals totalling US$30.5 billion, law firm Freshfields Bruckhaud Deringer said in a report this month. France came in second with 141 deals totalling US$30.5 billion. China was the third-largest investor with 49 deals worth US$20.8 billion.

 

"The various MOUs (memorandums of understanding) signed between Chinese and Nigerian companies will lead to stronger economic ties between the two countries," said Jonathan in Beijing last week.

 

In recognition of the strategic trade link between China and Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria recently converted part of Nigeria's foreign reserves from US dollars to yuan, Jonathan announced last week. During Jonathan's visit, Beijing agreed to expand tenfold its demand for Nigerian oil from the current 20,000 barrels per day to 200,000 barrels per day by 2015.

 

Chinese companies are already building roads across Nigeria in contracts valued at US$1.7 billion. On July 11, state-owned China Machinery Engineering Corp (CMEC) signed a US$201 million agreement to build a 120-megawatt power station, oil storage tanks and other infrastructure in the Nigerian city of Bauchi in 33 months, the Hong Kong-listed firm announced.

 

On the same day, CMEC signed a US$420 million contract to build a 500MW power station within 31 months in Benin City, Nigeria.

 

Nigeria is not the only African nation lining up for mainland funding. During a trip to China this month, Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi visited CMEC's headquarters in Beijing, where he said: "Our government is concentrating on a few priorities due to insufficient funding and China is to fund a number of these."

 

Uganda would offer most of its infrastructure projects to Chinese companies, because they could be repaid from Uganda's future oil revenue, unlike Western businesses that expected advance payment, Bloomberg quoted the office of the Ugandan prime minister as saying.

 

On July 8, China Harbour Engineering, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction, signed a US$700 million contract to build a new airport in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, in 40 months. The project will be financed by a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China.

 

Sierra Leone President Ernest Koromo last month said he signed US$8 billion of infrastructure deals on his visit to China.

 

This includes a US$1.7 billion contract with China Kingho Energy Group for the construction of a port, mine, power facilities and a 250-kilometre railway; and a US$300 million contract with China Railway International for a new international airport 60km from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

 

Dam builder Sinohydro on July 2 signed 13 contracts to build 3,482 flats in Algeria, said Sinohydro's website.

 

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition.

 

Bilateral relations between China and Nigeria will likely take one of two paths in the long term: either China will remain the overwhelmingly dominant actor or Nigeria will become a regional superpower, evening out the playing field. If China remains the stronger player it will shape Nigeria in its own interests (commonly referred to as "Chinese Imperialism"). If, however, Nigeria rises to reach its economic and political potential, Beijing may one day find Abuja a potential rival in Africa.

 

China has only recently started to play an important role in Nigeria. During the first eleven years of its independence, Nigeria and China had no diplomatic relations. The Nigerian government's view of China grew especially sour after Mao officially supported the secessionist state in Biafra by supplying the Biafran administration with weapons. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, China was not a trading partner of Nigeria, as its international trade was conducted primarily with European and North American countries.

 

During the period of General Abacha's military rule (1993-1998), Beijing's no-strings-attached development projects were increasingly well received. Nigeria's leaders grew resentful of Western conditions for aid and investment, and many Nigerians began to question what a generation of economic dependence on the West achieved for Nigeria.

 

Abuja subsequently adopted a new approach to international trade, balancing traditional Western partners and China. The evolution of Nigerian-Chinese relations mirrors that of China's relationship with other African states (such as Angola, Sudan, and Zimbabwe) that sought alternative forms of aid and development packages following the imposition of sanctions by Western nations based on alleged human rights violations.

 

Between 2000 and 2010 annual Nigerian-Chinese trade increased nine-fold, from $2 billion to $18 billion. Ten major bilateral agreements concerning commerce, agriculture, tourism and security were signed during that period. Nigeria imported more goods from China in 2012 than it did from the U.S. and India combined (Nigeria's number two and three import partners, respectively). Today, more than 200 Chinese firms operate in Nigeria. While in Beijing last week, Nigerian President Jonathan signed nine memoranda of understanding with the Chinese government. China agreed to provide Nigeria with a soft loan of $1.1 billion loan in exchange for Nigeria agreeing to increase its daily supply of oil to China ten-fold (from 20,000 barrels per day to 200,000) by 2015.

 

However, in spite of the skyrocketing growth of Nigerian-Chinese trade over the past decade, the U.S. remains Nigeria's top trading partner. Total Nigeria-U.S. trade reached $38.6 billion in 2012, and France (Nigeria's number nine export partner) is a larger export partner of Nigeria than China. So China has a long way to go before it will replace Western nations as one of Nigeria's main trade partners.

 

Economics is the obvious driver of Beijing's agenda in Nigeria, but China recently embraced a new foreign policy in West Africa that contrasts with its traditionally passive approach to the spread of Islamic terrorism and extremism in Africa. Last year a Chinese diplomat in Mali pledged support for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)'s military campaign to dislodge Al Qaeda-affiliate groups in northern Mali. In May of this year, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong spoke before the UN Security Council and asserted that African nations should not combat extremism without foreign support. He noted that Beijing "resolutely supports" West African governments and international organizations (such as ECOWAS) in their battle against militant Islamist extremism.

 

While China's number one concern in West Africa is access to natural resources and new consumer markets - as it is in the rest of Africa and the world -- Beijing sees the rise of groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) as a threat to energy corridors and regional stability, and thus, a threat to vital Chinese national interests. As Nigeria is the dominant military force within ECOWAS, a growing partnership between Beijing and Abuja may be expected, and will clearly contain political undertones.

 

Yet several factors threaten the prospects for deeper ties between Nigeria and China. Although Chinese investors maintain a reputation for being less risk-averse than most, the conflict between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram increases political risk for all foreign investors there. The violence has thus far been contained to Nigeria's Muslim-majority regions in the north; the bloodshed has not yet spread to Lagos. If the turmoil spills into Lagos and other southern areas, Chinese investors may well adjust their calculus.

 

During the presidency of Ọbasanjọ (1999-2007), many "oil-for-infrastructure" contracts were implemented, yet when his successor (Yar'Adua) came to power, some of these were canceled or suspended, as the two administrations pursued different approaches toward China. While many Nigerians consider China's growing presence to be nothing short of a God send, others have raised concerns about Nigerian sovereignty, bearing in mind the impact Chinese trade and investment has had on other African countries. The Chinese model of importing its own workers to build infrastructure projects, for example, does not sit well with many Nigerians.

 

A number of Nigerians have also voiced objections to the "slave-like" labor conditions in Chinese-operated factories across Nigeria. Attention was first brought to these conditions when 37 Nigerian workers died after being trapped inside a locked Chinese-owned factory that caught fire in 2002. Nigeria's trade unions have similarly complained that the ramp up in Chinese imports have eliminated more than 350,000 manufacturing jobs, primarily in the textile sector. Much of the bilateral trade is also "off the record", given that many Chinese imports arrive in Nigeria via the porous borders that Nigeria shares with its neighbors. This exacerbates the already problematic level of corruption in Nigeria.

 

In spite of all this, Nigerian-Chinese economic ties can be expected to continue to grow. China's dependency on Middle Eastern oil and gas is a grave concern for Beijing, given the rising political uncertainty in the region, and rising political risks for foreign investors. In this context, a deeper partnership with Nigeria, the world's 13th biggest producer of crude oil, provides China with a more diverse set of options for acquiring oil and gas.

 

Despite all the concerns voiced by certain constituencies within Nigeria, most Nigerians recognize that China's growing presence is likely more beneficial than harmful. Western powers that claim a desire to help Nigeria develop are often perceived as insincere, with their own aid being viewed as an infringement on Nigeria's sovereignty, since it often comes with strings attached. In this respect, China is seen as non-hypocritical and more respectful of the African peoples' aspirations to manage their own affairs without fear of meddling by a foreign power.

 

The Nigerian government also understands that China's growing presence in the country will not inevitably provide solutions to the plethora of domestic challenges Nigeria faces, from grinding poverty to indigenous violent political movements. In the end, it accepts that China's number one objective is meeting China's strategic interests. At least China is up front about saying so.

 

An old Nigerian proverb states that "a man cannot sit down alone to plan for prosperity". The growing economic partnership with China provides average Nigerians with reason for optimism about their own plans for prosperity. It is President Jonathan's job to successfully direct the influx of Chinese money and resources to the benefit of Nigeria's masses, rather than to a powerful and influential few. His chances of doing so are not good, however, until the political culture changes in Abuja and beyond. But Beijing knows it has a strengthening relationship with one of Africa's most important countries. The bilateral relationship between the two may yet serve as a model for China's growing influence throughout Africa.

 

*Daniel Wagner is CEO of Country Risk Solutions, a cross-border risk advisory firm, and author of the book "Managing Country Risk". Giorgio Cafiero is a research analyst with CRS based in Washington, D.C.

President Mahama has urged Ghanaians to shun any xenophobic sentiments harboured against illegal Chinese miners in Ghana.

 

According to President Mahama, the laws of Ghana should be allowed to function as far as dealing with the illegal miners is concerned.

 

Hundreds of Chinese are in Ghana doing illegal mining. They have, in several instances, clashed violently with their local hosts.

 

Some of those conflicts have been bloody in the past resulting in deaths and injuries on either side.

 

The Ghana Immigration Service recently deported some Chinese and also prevented more of them from entering the country as a result of some of these illegal mining activities.

 

Detained Chinese in Ghana


At a meeting with a delegation from China at the Flagstaff House in Accra on Wednesday, President Mahama said inasmuch as Ghana frowns on the illegal activities of the Chinese, the laws must be left to work.

 

He added that xenophobia against the Chinese is not the way to go.

 

“We should not stereotype and target or prejudice, the thing is we shave laws that need to be obeyed”

 

“It doesn’t matter who it is, whether it is an Eskimo, Nigerian or a Chinese, it is not about who it is; it is about what the law says and how we implement it”. President Mahama said.

GNA

Only 11 days since taking over as Chinese president, Xi Jinping is already in Africa.

 

He spent Monday in Tanzania and will next attend the BRICS summit in seaside Durban, South Africa, before winding up his tour in Congo-Brazzaville. Speaking in a new Chinese-built conference hall in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, Xi conveyed a continuation of China's policy toward Africa under the previous top leadership.

 

"China will continue to offer, as always, necessary assistance to Africa with no political strings attached," according to Reuters. He added, "We get on well and treat each other as equals."

 

Xi hailed Africa as the "continent of hope and promise," and spoke of Beijing's "sincere friendship" with Africa. He also indirectly addressed the criticism that China is only interested in exploiting Africa's natural resources.

 

"Africa belongs to the African people," he said, according to Agence France-Presse. "In developing relations with Africa, all countries should respect Africa's dignity and independence."  Xi is no newcomer to the continent—this is his sixth visit to Africa, the last being in 2010.

 

Throughout the trip, Xi and his team will be announcing an array of trade and development deals. At the BRICS summit, the Chinese are expected to jointly back a development bank along with fellow members Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. Xi is scheduled to sign around 20 trade, development and cultural agreements, before journeying to Durban.

 

He renewed an offer of $20 billion in loans to Africa between 2013 and 2015 and noted that trade between China and Africa had reached some $200 billion in 2012. However, much of the attention may be focused not on Xi but rather on his glamourous wife Peng Liyuan, a famous folk singer in China who stole the show during the first stop on the trip, in Russia.

China imports many raw materials, including minerals, from resource-rich Africa. Chinese imports from the continent reached $113 billion last year, a 20-fold increase over a decade. GlobalPost senior correspondent Benjamin Carlson called Xi's visit Africa "a fascinating, intriguingly symbolic second choice for a foreign visit after Russia."

Carlson added:

Xi's visit may be a sign that China's primarily economic interest in the continent may be extending to political influence as well. "Chinese media is filled with glowing reports about China's harmonious relationship with African countries now, so clearly there's a propaganda imperative to portray relations as improving now," Carlson said.

Source: Global Post

 

 

 

 

New President Xi Jinping has hailed the strength of China's ties with African nations. Mr Xi described Africa as "a continent of hope and promise".

 

He was speaking in Tanzania - the second country he has visited since taking power 11 days ago. Addressing leaders at a conference hall built by China in Dar es Salaam, he said trade between China and Africa topped $200bn (£130bn) last year.

 

Mr Xi and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete signed 16 different trade agreements including improvements to Tanzania's hospitals and ports, and the building of a Chinese cultural centre. The Chinese leader is expected to arrive in South Africa on Tuesday to take part in a summit of the emerging economies, known as Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

 

He will wrap up his African tour with a visit to Congo-Brazzaville.

Outlining China's policy on Africa, Mr Xi pledged to help the continent achieve "independent and sustainable development"

 

He said Beijing is "not only interested in shipping out raw materials but wants a relationship of equals that would help the country develop", Reuters reports.

 

China has become one of Africa's major trading partners in recent years, largely based on the trade in mineral products, including oil.

 

 

Wednesday, 13 March 2013 04:03

Africa must get real about Chinese ties

It is time for Africans to wake up to the realities of their romance with China.


Nigeria, a country with a large domestic market of more than 160m people, spends huge resources importing consumer goods from China that should be produced locally. We buy textiles, fabric, leather goods, tomato paste, starch, furniture, electronics, building materials and plastic goods. I could go on.

 

 

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The Chinese, on the other hand, buy Nigeria’s crude oil. In much of Africa, they have set up huge mining operations. They have also built infrastructure. But, with exceptions, they have done so using equipment and labour imported from home, without transferring skills to local communities.

 

 

So China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism. The British went to Africa and India to secure raw materials and markets. Africa is now willingly opening itself up to a new form of imperialism.

 

 

The days of the Non-Aligned Movement that united us after colonialism are gone. China is no longer a fellow under-developed economy – it is the world’s second-biggest, capable of the same forms of exploitation as the west. It is a significant contributor to Africa’s deindustrialisation and underdevelopment.

 

 

My father was Nigeria’s ambassador to Beijing in the early 1970s. He adored Chairman Mao Zedong’s China, which for him was one in which the black African – seen everywhere else at the time as inferior – was worthy of respect.

 

 

His experience was not unique. A romantic view of China is quite common among African imaginations – including mine. Before his sojourn in Beijing, he was the typical Europhile, committed to a vision of African “progress” defined by replicating western ways of doing things. Afterwards, when he became permanent secretary in the external affairs ministry, the influence of China’s anti-colonial stance was written all over the foreign policy he crafted, backing liberation movements in Portuguese colonies and challenging South Africa’s apartheid regime.

 

 

This African love of China is founded on a vision of the country as a saviour, a partner, a model. But working as governor of Nigeria’s central bank has given me pause for thought. We cannot blame the Chinese, or any other foreign power, for our country’s problems. We must blame ourselves for our fuel subsidy scams, for oil theft in the Niger Delta, for our neglect of agriculture and education, and for our limitless tolerance of incompetence. That said, it is a critical precondition for development in Nigeria and the rest of Africa that we remove the rose-tinted glasses through which we view China.

 

 

Three decades ago, China had a significant advantage over Africa in its cheap labour costs. It is losing that advantage as its economy grows and prosperity spreads. Africa must seize the moment. We must encourage a shift from consuming Chinese-made goods to making and consuming our own. We must add value to our own agricultural products. Nigeria and other oil producers need to refine crude; build petrochemical industries and use gas reserves – at present often squandered in flaring at oil wells – for power generation and gas-based industries such as fertiliser production.

 

 

For Africa to realise its economic potential, we need to build first-class infrastructure. This should service an afro-centric vision of economic policies. African nations will not develop by selling commodities to Europe, America and China. We may not be able to compete immediately in selling manufactured goods to Europe. But in the short term, with the right infrastructure, we have a huge domestic market. Here, we must see China for what it is: a competitor.

 

 

We must not only produce locally goods in which we can build comparative advantage, but also actively fight off Chinese imports promoted by predatory policies. Finally, while African labour may be cheaper than China’s, productivity remains very low. Investment in technical and vocational education is critical.

 

 

Africa must recognise that China – like the US, Russia, Britain, Brazil and the rest – is in Africa not for African interests but its own. The romance must be replaced by hard-nosed economic thinking. Engagement must be on terms that allow the Chinese to make money while developing the continent, such as incentives to set up manufacturing on African soil and policies to ensure employment of Africans.

 

 

Being my father’s son, I cannot recommend a divorce. However, a review of the exploitative elements in this marital contract is long overdue. Every romance begins with partners blind to each other’s flaws before the scales fall away and we see the partner, warts and all. We may remain together – but at least there are no illusions.


Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At a recently held meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, China’s leaders unveiled a dramatic long-term plan to integrate some 400 million countryside dwellers into urban environments by concentrating growth-promoting development in small and medium sized cities.

 

In stark contrast to the neglected emphasis placed on infrastructure development in the United States and Europe, China spends around $500 billion annually on infrastructural projects, with $6.4 trillion set-aside for its 10-year mass urbanization scheme, making it the largest rural-to-urban migration project in human history. China’s leaders have mega-development in focus, and realizing such epic undertakings not only requires the utilization of time-efficient high-volume production methods, but also resources - lots and lots of resources. It should come as no surprise that incoming Chinese president Xi Jinping’s first trip as head of state will take him to Africa, to deepen the mutually beneficial trade and energy relationships maintained throughout the continent that have long irked policy makers in Washington.

 

The new guy in charge - who some analysts have suggested could be a populist reformer that empathizes with the poor - will visit several African nations with whom China has expressed a desire to expand ties with, the most prominent being South Africa. Since establishing relations in 1998, bilateral trade between the two jumped from $1.5 billion to 16 billion as of 2012.

 

Following a relationship that has consisted predominately of economic exchanges, China and South Africa have now announced plans to enhance military ties in a show of increasing political and security cooperation. During 2012’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation meeting, incumbent President Hu Jintao served up $20 billion in loans to African countries, which were designated for the construction of vital infrastructure such as new roads, railways and ports to enable higher volumes of trade and export. In his address to the forum, South African President Jacob Zuma spoke of the long-term unsustainability of the current model of Sino-African trade, whereby raw materials are sent out and manufactured commodities are sent in.


Zuma also stated, "Africa's past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies. We certainly are convinced that China's intention is different to that of Europe, which to date continues to attempt to influence African countries for their sole benefit." Xi’s visit highlights the importance China attaches to Sino-African ties, and during his stay, he will attend the fifth meeting of the BRICS, the first summit held on the African continent to accommodate leaders of the world’s most prominent emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The BRICS group, which accounts for around 43% of the world's population and 17% of global trade, is set to increase investments in Africa’s industrial sector threefold, from $150-billion in 2010 to $530- billion in 2015, under the theme "BRICS and Africa: partnership for development, integration, and industrialization".

 

With focus shifting toward building up the continent’s industrial sector, South Africa is no doubt seen as a springboard into Africa and a key development partner on the continent for other BRICS members. Analysts have likened the BRICS group to represent yet another significant step away from a unipolar global economic order, and it comes as no surprise. As Eurozone countries languish with austerity cuts, record unemployment and major demand contraction, the European Union in South Africa's total trade has declined from 36% in 2005 to 26.5% in 2011, while the BRIC countries total trade increased from 10% in 2005 to 18.6% in 2011. The value and significance of the BRICS platform comes in its ability to proliferate South-South political and economic ties, and one should expect the reduction of trade barriers and the gradual adoption of economic exchanges using local currencies. China’s ICBC paid $5.5 billion for a 20% stake in Standard Bank of South Africa in 2007, and the move has played out well for Beijing - Standard has over 500 branches across 17 African countries which has drastically increased availability of the Chinese currency, offering yuan accounts to expatriate traders.

 

It looks like the love story that has become of China and Africa will gradually begin shifting its emphasis toward building up a viable large-scale industrial base. Surveys out of Beijing cite 1,600 companies tapping into the use of Africa as an industrial base with manufacturing's share of total Chinese investment (22%) fast gaining on that meted out to the mining sector (29%). Gavin du Venage, writing for the Asia Times Online, highlights how Beijing’s policy toward Africa aims to be mutually beneficial and growth-promoting, “Chinese energy firm Sinopec teamed up with South African counterpart PetroSA to explore building a US$11 billion oil refinery on the country's west coast. Refineries are notoriously unprofitable, with razor-thin margins. Since South Africa has no significant oil or proven gas reserves itself, the proposed plant would depend on imports, and would have to serve the local market to be viable. The plant will therefore serve the South African market and not be used to process exports to China. This is only the latest of such investments that demonstrate a willingness by Chinese investors to put down roots and infrastructure in Africa. It also shows that China's dragon safari is about more than just sourcing commodities for export.”

 

Indeed, and Beijing’s dragon safari is loaded with a packed itinerary, with Mao-bucks flying everywhere from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Nigeria and Angola. Xi Jinping will also grace the Angolan capital of Luanda, where China had provided the oil-rich nation with some $4.5 billion in loans since 2002. Following Angola’s 27-year civil war that began in 1975, Beijing played a major role in Angola's reconstruction process, with 50 large-scale and state-owned companies and over 400 private companies operating in the country; it has since become China's largest trading partner in Africa with a bilateral trade volume at some $20 billion dollars annually. Chinese Ambassador Zhang Bolun was quoted as saying how he saw great potential in further developing Sino-Angolan relations and assisting the nation in reducing its dependence on oil revenues while giving priority to the development of farming, service industries, renewable energies, transport and other basic infrastructure.

 

Chinese commercial activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have significantly increased not only in the mining sector, but also considerably in the telecommunications field. In 2000, the Chinese ZTE Corporation finalized a $12.6 million deal with the Congolese government to establish the first Sino-Congolese telecommunications company, while the Kinshasa exported $1.4 billion worth of cobalt to Beijing between 2007 and 2008. The majority of Congolese raw materials like cobalt, copper ore and a variety of hard woods are exported to China for further processing and 90% of the processing plants in resource-rich southeastern Katanga province are owned by Chinese nationals. In 2008, a consortium of Chinese companies were granted the rights to mining operations in Katanga in exchange for $6 billion in infrastructure investments, including the construction of two hospitals, four universities and a hydroelectric power project, but the International Monetary Fund intervened and blocked the deal, arguing that the agreement between violated the foreign debt relief program for so-called HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) nations.

 

China has made significant investments in manufacturing zones in non-resource-rich economies such as Zambia and Tanzania and as Africa’s largest trading partner, China imports 1.5 million barrels of oil from Africa per day, approximately accounting for 30 percent of its total imports. In Ghana, China has invested in Ghanaian national airlines that serve primarily domestic routes, in addition to partnering with the Ghanaian government on a major infrastructural project to build the Bui Hydroelectric Dam. China-Africa trade rose from $10.6 billion in 2000 to $106.8 billion in 2008 with an annual growth rate of over 30 percent. By the end of 2009, China had canceled out more than 300 zero-interest loans owed by 35 heavily indebted needy countries and least developed countries in Africa. China is by far the largest financier on the entire continent, and Beijing’s economic influence in Africa is nowhere more apparent than the $200 million African Union headquarters situated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - which was funded solely by China.

 

China’s deepening economic engagement in Africa and its crucial role in developing the mineral sector, telecommunications industry and much needed infrastructural projects is creating "deep nervousness" in the West, according to David Shinn, the former US ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. During a diplomatic tour of Africa in 2011, former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton insinuated China’s guilt in perpetuating a creeping “new colonialism”. When it comes to Africa, the significant differences in these two powers' key economic, foreign policy strategies and worldviews are nowhere more apparent. Washington has evidently launched its efforts to counter China's influence throughout the African continent, and where Beijing focuses on economic development, the United States has sought to legitimize its presence through counterterrorism operations and the expansion of the United States Africa Command, better known as AFRICOM - a outpost of the US military designated solely for operations on the African continent.

 

During an AFRICOM in 2008, Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller cited AFRICOM’s guiding principle of protecting “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market,” before emphasizing how the increasing presence of China is a major challenge to US interests in the region. Washington recently announced that US Army teams will be deployed to as many as 35 African countries in early 2013 for training programs and other operations as part of an increased Pentagon role in Africa - primarily to countries with groups allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. Given Mr. Obama’s proclivity toward the proliferation of UAV drone technology, one could imagine these moves as laying the groundwork for future US military interventions using such technology in Africa on a wider scale than that already seen in Somalia and Mali. Here lays the deep hypocrisy in accusations of Beijing’s purported “new colonialism” - China is focused on building industries, increasing development, and improving administrative and well as physical infrastructure - the propagation of force, which one would historically associate with a colonizer, is entirely absent from the Chinese approach.

 

Obviously, the same cannot be said of the United States, whose firepower-heavy tactics have in recent times have enabled militancy and lawlessness, as seen in the fallout of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 2011 bombing campaign in Libya with notable civilian causalities. As Xi Jingping positions himself in power over a nation undertaking some of the grandest development projects the world has ever known, Beijing’s relationship with the African continent will be a crucial one. While everything looks good on paper, Xi’s administration must earn the trust of their African constituents by keeping a closer eye on operations happening on the ground. The incoming administration must do more to scrutinize the conduct of Chinese conglomerates and business practices with a genuine focus on adhering to local environmental regulations, safety standards and sound construction methods. The current trajectory China has set itself upon will do much to enable mutually beneficial economic development, in addition to bolstering an independent Global South - a little less red then how Mao wanted it, but close enough.

 

NB/JR

Nile Bowie is an independent political commentator and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . More articles by Nile Bowie

 

 

 

 

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