It is oxymoronic to state that the Chinese have landed in Africa; of course the Chinese have landed.
However the question and the debate that Africans should be engaging in is whether the Chinese have come as benefactors or as imperialists. I have to be frank and open that I hate to see this debate being orchestrated in the western press and by western political analysts while Africans as usual, in our lackadaisical manner engage in meaningless and useless discussions as Africa is being foisted with another “scramble” for our continent’s resources.
At least in 1884, we could proffer an excuse that we didn’t understand what was going on then. Today with more than 50% of the African population well-educated, this type of silence and ignorance will be a great disservice to our continent, as well as to the future generations of Africans who would ask how we stood by and let another “scramble for Africa” take place with our eyes wide open.
It has become an axiom that no week passes by without major media houses and political analysts commenting on the Chinese penetration in Africa and especially how they are snapping up Africa’s important natural resources on the cheap.
What I see or have observed for some time is that Africa is abandoning its independence for a quick solution to our economic woes. My advice for Africa is that we need to suffer a little if we truly want to build a solid economic base for the generations of Africans to come.
Before we attack or defend the Chinese presence in Africa, it is necessary to analyse how the Chinese themselves see their involvement in Africa, how African leaders see the Chinese involvement, how the projects that the Chinese are carrying out in Africa are different from former colonial masters as well as the USA and the West’s conditional aid to Africa and their attendant interference in the internal affairs of respective African countries.
For one thing, far from being imperialistic the Chinese see their presence in Africa as the knight in a shining armour, galloping to rescue Africa from the treacherous West which has used military, religious and commercial might to destitute the continent and right now continues to attach conditionalities to the pittance of aid that they give to Africa, and take back immediately in another form, insisting on our purchase of their products or through the connivance of corruption by allowing corrupt, kleptocratic African leaders to lodge their stolen booties in their banks unimpeded.
One Chinese assistant foreign minister once boasted that rather than the Chinese presence being exploitative and imperialistic; his government “wanted to conduct a mutually beneficial and a win-win cooperation with African countries and will vigorously encourage Chinese enterprises to participate in improving infrastructure in African countries”. As Africans, we have eyes and could see the difference between what the Chinese are doing in Africa i.e. building infrastructure like railroads, dams, hydroelectric
Chinese rulers believe that Africa can become a “satellite” state, thus solving their own problems of overpopulation and shortage of natural resources at a stroke.
This cruel strategy has been devised by officials in Beijing, where some political experts has estimated that China will eventually need to send 300 million people to Africa to solve problems of overpopulation and pollution. The plans appear to be on track as across Africa the red flag of China is flying. Furthermore to ensure that the dangerous chinalisation of Africa is complete, state-funded Confucius institutes and cultural centres have sprung up throughout Africa, teaching baffled local people how to do business and transform their way of living to Mandarin and Cantonese.
Fuelling its own boom at home, China is also desperate for new markets to sell its goods, and Africa with virtually non-existent health and safety rules to protect against shoddy and dangerous goods, is the perfect destination. In other words China’ s increased presence in Africa is part of a wider effort to create a paradigm of globalisation that favours China.
It must also be noted that in Africa corruption is a multi-billion pound industry and many experts believe that China is fuelling the cancer even though the Chinese are contemptuous of such criticism. It is loudly very clear that Chinese capital frequently strengthens elitism, authoritarianism and corruption by fuelling patronage to which some regimes owe their survival.
Worse still to China, Africa is about pragmatism not human rights. In some countries for instances, Chinese companies have frequently broken laws that regulate labour and labour union activities.
In conclusion, I want to say that while the people of this beautiful continent desperately need socio-economic progress it is quite very clear that the Chinese are not here for that. Instead, they are here for imperialist plunder. After centuries of pain and wars, Africa deserves better.