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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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
During the past 30 years tourism has been one of the fastest growing industries in Africa, so much so that it has become an important driver of economic growth and a key strategy for regional cooperation among African economies.
Though Africa has been blessed with abundant tourism resources, the industry was previously largely confined to North Africa. The real impetus for the industry came during the 1970s when sub-Saharan African destinations started appearing in tourist itineraries. Since then the industry has gone from strength to strength and Africa is a must-see destination for most global travelers.
Looking at tourist footfalls over the years, it is not surprising to see that Chinese tourists to Africa have not only played a big role in the development of tourism, but also risen significantly in numbers in the past few years. As far as Chinese tourists are concerned, the biggest growth has been spurred by the deep pockets of the rising middle-class population.
According to industry estimates, there are 17 African destinations that are quite popular with Chinese tourists. The most sought-after African destinations are the tourist attractions in Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. However, some Chinese travel agencies have recently added Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tunisia, with most of the attractions catering to the tastes of middle-class tourists.
There are four reasons as to why more Chinese tourists are now flocking to Africa.
First, the continent's natural landscape, warm people, long history and rich and unique flora and fauna have captivated many Chinese tourists. For most of these tourists, Africa is a captivating destination that has no parallels in Europe or the US. Undoubtedly there is a growing desire among Chinese tourists to build closer relations with their African brethren.
With the continuous improvement of education levels, especially the growing popularity of English education, middle-class tourists from China, especially those from the second and third-tier cities, are increasingly opting for "do-it-yourself" itineraries in Africa. These tourists do not want to be confined by the rigid package tours of travel agencies, and instead want to explore the vast continent's forests, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, rivers, swamps and deserts in their own way and interact with the African people.
The annual Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and other major meetings also promote and motivate more tourist flows to Africa.
The second major reason for growing tourist numbers is the good connectivity and easy timing of travel to most African destinations.
With the deepening of China-Africa relations and the development of economic and trade ties, most of the major African carriers have started non-stop flights to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. It takes only 10 hours from Mauritius to reach Hong Kong, similar to a non-stop flight from Beijing to London. In addition, destinations like Johannesburg, Nairobi, Cairo and Addis Ababa are connected through daily flights from Hong Kong, Beijing and Guangzhou. In other words, in 12 to 14 hours a Chinese tourist can reach Africa.
The extra emphasis that most African countries are putting on tourism development is the third major factor for more tourist flows. In addition to the multiple-entry visas for Chinese tourists launched a year ago, many African countries now have reduced their visa processing period to between five and seven days. This makes travel to African countries easier and faster.
Compared with traditional European and US visa procedures, Chinese travelers only need to submit some basic information to African embassies. African countries have no demanding requirements over proof of property ownership, financial guarantees and personal privacy.
African countries such as Benin and Mauritius have even accorded a visa-free status to Chinese tourists. Tourism bureaus in many African countries have developed publicity strategies tailored specially to the Chinese market.
Some African countries use their celebrities and new media to attract tourists. Others like Egypt, Kenya and South Africa have increased their advertising exposure on China Central Television and several other provincial TV stations to draw more Chinese tourists.
Growing health awareness is the fourth and most compelling reason that is helping grow tourism in Africa. Most middle-class tourists from China are those who live in the cities and hence do not get much chance for outdoor activities like mountaineering, parachuting, trekking in the tropical rainforest, desert adventures and cross-country competitions. Africa has all of these and many more other attractions.
Due to natural and historical reasons, many countries in Africa have gone through long periods of underdevelopment. The financial, material and technical conditions are often weak and the transportation system is not perfect.
Despite the rich tourism resources, the lack of sufficient human, material and financial resources has often hindered large-scale systematic development. It is difficult to carry out effective marketing for existing tourism resources, resulting in a considerable number of high-quality tourism resources not living up to their names.
Africa has not yet formed a complete transportation network. Though its international ocean shipping network is relatively comprehensive, it is still limited mostly to the eastern coastal regions that are closer to the Eurasian continent.
In recent years, the aviation industry in Africa has been growing rapidly, but the number of connections between African countries and other countries is still limited. Airports with large passenger aircraft are mostly concentrated in a small number of relatively developed countries and cities.
As far as road traffic is concerned, most of the intra-African traffic lines extend from the coastal ports, but some of these highway systems are out of date and easily jammed, thereby posing challenges to travel.
Tourism plays an irreplaceable role in promoting employment, reducing poverty and improving foreign exchange earnings. Due to the lack of funds and the lack of development in the service economy, scenic construction, tourism product development, tourism facilities and service standards show some deficiencies, and have more room for improvement in terms of food, accommodation, transportation, shopping and entertainment.
Africa is also home to thousands of languages (of course, the main languages are French, English, Portuguese and Arabic). Multilingual tour guides are rare in Africa, with tour guides who can speak Chinese even harder to find.
Natural disasters and occasional armed conflicts in Africa, coupled with its lack of financial and human resources, also pose a threat to many of the world heritage-listed sites in Africa. Although the number of world heritage sites in Africa accounts for 13 percent of the global total, in terms of endangered World Heritage sites, Africa accounts for more than 50 percent.
Overall, with its unique tradition and culture, the continent is bound to attract more Chinese tourists.
Zhang Qizuo is professor of economics and vice-president of Chengdu University, who specializes in China-Africa trade and investment.
Chinese migrants in Ghana are growing and so is their notoriety, says a study by a nominee of the African Thesis Awards 2012. Yet according to Judith Zoetelief, the author of the nominated thesis, many Chinese workers do not know they have a bad reputation.
"Hey, Chinaman!" shouts a Ghanaian man from across the road as he passes by on his bicycle in Tamale, the Northern Region's capital. The words are directed at Ke Hua, a mechanic from a small town in China's Guangxi province, who does respond to the shout even though it does not sound unfriendly.
When Dutch researcher Zoetelief, who observed the exchange, asked why, he kept quiet. Ke Hua said that he had not even heard the cyclist. In fact, his understanding of English was so limited he could not have responded.
Falling on deaf ears
Renewed political and economical relations between China and Ghana have gone hand in hand with the increased presence of this migrant group. The most recent and visible wave began gathering speed in the mid-1990s. But since the early 2000s, a growing number of negative reports have been appearing in Ghanaian media.
From Chinese men fathering African children to Chinese companies allegedly sending over ex-convicts as labourers, the Ghanaian rumour mill has been churning stories and complaints about the migrants.
But according to Zoetelief, the majority of Chinese migrants are not aware of their negative reputation. What's more, they report not having experienced hostile attitudes from Ghanaians. According to the study, this lack of consciousness is caused by their limited access to information and their inability to read newspaper reports in English.
At the same time, the social encounters Ghanaians have had with Chinese construction workers have kept the stories circulating. Many Ghanaians in Tamale believe, for example, that the Chinese workers they witnessed building the Tamale Stadium were convicts. Why? According to some of the study's Ghanaian interviewees, the workers looked "dirty".
"This is bullshit!"
The topic turned out to be a controversial one among Chinese construction workers interviewed in the study. None appeared to have heard these accusations and were shocked when confronted with them.
One of the workers is quoted by Zoetelief as saying: "How would any country be able to send their convicts to work in a foreign country? This is just impossible. This is bullshit!"
"Who says these things? From what country are these people, because they obviously don't know China," another worker states.
During the interviews it appeared, too, that the stadium builders were held responsible for the severe drought in the summer of 2006. According to a Canadian Chinese school volunteer: "I was told that Tamale was experiencing the worst drought of the decade. Chinese construction workers at the soccer stadium were blamed for the drought. Rumours about Chinese witchcraft started spreading because there was no rain since the construction of the stadium commenced."
Despite these negative stories, none of the Chinese workers told Zoetelief they felt unwelcome or treated with hostility by Ghanaians in Tamale. What the workers did experience was a sense of unfamiliarity. The Chinese informants believed that their national hosts have little understanding or knowledge of China, which, according to Zoetelief, is likely to be true.
I began this blog post almost a year ago, and even today, I still have mixed feelings about the role of China in Africa. Africa needs help, I really believe Africans can do it themselves but after years of colonialism and independence, we are still in our infancy as Modern nations. Africa was transformed with western intervention; now the east is coming in with their version of transformation. I am still waiting for Africans to build their countries. I am traditional African that way but the global African sees the need for some help. The truth really is -- that the world is co-dependent, whether it is Africa and the West or Africa and the East.
I first noticed the Chinese invasion when I arrived in Nigeria on my way to Calabar in 2000. There was a large group of Chinese people -- almost twenty, on my flight and at the airport; they were unloading about 20 computers. To be frank, as an African, I stared at them. It is what we Africans bold-face do on the continent when we see strangers.
The next time, I saw more Chinese was when I went looking for furniture for my family home in Calabar. It was suggested I go the EPZ - The Calabar Export Processing Zone. There, I found a Chinese furniture company making products and training Nigerians. I bought some furniture and talked extensively with the Chinese owner who had opted to sleep in his office (in a room next to the office) as opposed to renting a "huge house". He looked at it this way: I will keep the $10,000 and send it home to my wife in China. I thought that was unusual as most westerners came to work and took all the amenities provided: a house, a driver and tickets for their family members who came to visit or lived in the country. I knew then that the Chinese were unusual business thinkers.
Almost ten years later, I went to the Falomo Shopping Center area in Lagos and discovered next to it was a building which was a stark reminder of the New York Jewelry wholesale district. There, I discovered that most shops were owned by Chinese people selling cheap jewelry, clothing and fake Nigerian fabrics. What had Nigeria come to? I wondered. China was deep in Lagos. How did this happen?
And just last month, I posted a series of articles on Facebook an article on Senegalese banning Chinese from some of their markets and in Kano, Nigeria - the same phenomena -- where the government arrested Chinese for illegal trading of textiles. I see ordinary Africans are fighting back in small measures.
China became another reminder when my friend Leslie-Ann Murray got a teaching position in Beijing and we spent the last of the summer realizing she would be a black woman in China who did not speak a word of Chinese and she wondered how she would get things done. What a reminder, indeed. So, as she begins her adventures, we are talking often and she is blogging on her experience here.
China's invasion of Africa is riddled with fear and concern from the west and less for African countries that are still recovering or have not recovered from the west's colonization. It is amazing to see the Chinese who came to Africa about 600 years ago to help build it as workers return as owners. That transformation is vital - to global Africans like me who are watching carefully, it is important to learn from them. There are lessons from this transformation. It is a lesson for Africa to understand that we have the ability to do this too. We just need a grand plan that we can execute. The Chinese have one.
The main issue for Africans however is the major problem: Africa's resources - water, oil, and diamonds, etc. are being sold to the Chinese. This sale is a bit different from the "reaping" of Africa during its colonial period with the West, but just because you pay for something does not mean it is not the same equivalency of the theft. The theft is of the resources that should be shared by Africans.
The minor problem for Africa in the Chinese invasion is one that most people are not paying attention to - its artisan sector. I see the reality as a business owner who tries to buy authentic African fabrics and clothing. I have to be more careful sourcing Africa textiles. The Chinese have invaded its entire textile sector and frankly, helped destroy it like the west. It is time for Africa to really fight back and require a 'Made in Africa' label which also lists the country of production. Europe already buried Africa's textiles with Dutch Wax fabric and Africans preference for it versus their local fabric helped create the breakdown of the textile industry.
Recently, African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) was extended by the US government and it includes the Third Country Bill which many are applauding but I am concerned about. It is because it makes African clothing not authentic to a particular country. According to the defenders of the bill: "By giving African manufacturers the freedom to purchase fabric from outside the continent to sew garments for export to the U.S. market, AGOA's Third Country Fabric provision will save approximately 300,000 textile and apparel-related jobs which support 10 million people. It also saves U.S. taxpayers $5 million." My take is that Africa needs to create for its population, build its industries and not just rely on export. Simply, we have people to feed, house and clothe.
Countries like Nigeria with 150 million people still need a focus on Nigerian-only made clothing because rebuilding the textile and clothing industries is imperative. African countries should maintain their authentic textiles - and this exception will create an inauthentic version of textiles and clothing. The focus on export maybe good for business but we really need to develop our economies focused on serving our people's needs. Most of the textile industries across the continent are dying or are not supported; this is a problem and further cannibalization of it by intermixing of fabrics and textiles loses authenticity of the fabric and design.
The Chinese invasion of Africa speaks volumes - in many ways, Africa needs China's help to develop but I am still a strong believer in Africans doing it themselves. We are a continent of grand bargains - the west divided us into countries and we got some of our independence from them and with the eastern invasion, we still have not had time to do it ourselves - and as nations that are about 50 years old, we are still too young to figure it out. In time, we will.
Atim Oton, blogger at Huffington Post is a Designer and Co-Founder of Black Design News Network