China’s Gift To Africa: Africa On The Rise My Foot!

AFRICAN Heads of State and diplomats were in a celebratory mood when the $200 million African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was inaugurated on January 30. Built and furnished by the government of China, it is claimed the complex symbolises the single-minded dedication of that country to a vision of “strategic partnership” with African states. But it is, in reality, emblematic of the lack of focus, greed and the lamentable dependency complex of Africa's political leaders. 

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, spoke the minds of Africa's ruling elite – and not the African people – commending China for the gesture and for development assistance that he claimed had helped African countries to overcome economic adversity. Oblivious of the core tenets of pan-Africanism, which emphasises self-reliance and coordination on a continental scale of efforts to achieve defined goals in economic development, science, medicine and defence policies, the Ethiopian leader affirmed that “Africa is rising” and that “The African Renaissance has begun,” through partnership with China. 

The euphoric mood of the Heads of State at the event was – and remains – beyond comprehension to many Africans. Is China, indeed, a friend of the African people or just a soulless ally of the continent's array of mostly corrupt rulers? Would the continent have needed China's Greek gift if its leaders had properly utilised about $148 billion said to be stolen from the continent annually? In an essay, “Dime-wise, Dollar-foolish: The Paradox of Financial Safe Havens for African Dictators,” Brookings Institution, the American think tank, says the volume of funds looted from Africa by dictators and accepted overseas is staggering in comparison with the dismal economic conditions on the continent. China's connection in Africa, particularly its willingness to offer bribes, according to Transparency International, and the policy of not attaching conditions to aid money, is undermining efforts of African countries to increase good governance. 

Dependency in whatever form should evoke self-pity and not self-adulation. This is especially so for African countries that have had flag independence for half a century and are well endowed with natural resources, but have performed abysmally in development terms. A foreign power should not have come to wholly build and equip a complex to house a continental body of the status of the African Union that was founded on May 25, 1963 as the Organisation of African Unity. 

Since 1996, in most African economies, local industries have been shrinking continually and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost as a result of grossly undervalued Chinese imports. Chinese infrastructure deals in Africa often stipulate that up to 70 per cent of the labour must be Chinese. Investments by Chinese firms in sub-Saharan Africa are invariably at great cost to the host countries and their local populations. Nigeria has had a lamentable experience with the firms in projects in the railways, road construction and oil and gas, among others, having had little or no value for the hundreds of billions of naira paid for them. 

Chinese firms employ every conceivable stratagem to secure contracts, and then ship thousands of unskilled or semi-skilled workers from China to work on sites in Nigeria, thereby depriving Nigerians of gainful employment. Often, they seek upward variation of contract sums and end up with shoddy jobs. The firms have no regard for labour regulations and internationally accepted principles of corporate governance. 

In Zambia, in 2011, over a dozen coal miners were shot dead by two Chinese managers of their company because they peacefully protested their inhuman working conditions. Everywhere else on the continent, Chinese firms continue to subject Africans to very inhuman workplace conditions. 

The cozy affair between China and despotic African leaders is not, however, surprising. China is not expected to give what it does not have. While the rest of the world are pushing for the tenets of good governance, including the rule of law, accountability, transparency, participatory governance and an effective judicial system in Africa, China continues to prop up oppressive regimes on the continent and undermine aspirations for good governance. She has been the chief backer of Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, supplying much of the light and heavy weaponry employed by the regime in its genocide against black Africans in the south of that country (before the split of last July). China plays the same role in Zimbabwe and everywhere else where Africans are facing brutal repression. 

African governments must look inwards to find solutions to the continent's development challenges. China's $200 million headquarters gift to the AU is definitely a dangerous setback to African rediscovery.

Note: Is Africa Rising? Or, China is the new colonialist. Sad that this time around, it is voluntary colonialism.  Africa
Segun Sorunke
Africa Is A Dumping Ground For Sub-Standard Chinese Products

The questions remains this: What is wrong with Africa engaging in Free Trade instead of looking to get aid?