Will Sino-Africa ‘marriage’ help Africa out of penury?

Wednesday September 12 2018

Nkwazi Mhango is a Tanzanian writer based in

Nkwazi Mhango is a Tanzanian writer based in Canada 

Currently, Africa’s like a very beautiful girl that attracts all sorts of suitors thanks to its abundant and untapped resources. The just concluded conference between Africa and China aka Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC 2018) speaks volume on this newly-found love.

Despite this love, African countries, as victims of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism, need to examine and interrogate it carefully and collectively shall they want not to repeat the same mistakes they’ve been making for over five decades.

There’s a misconception that all flows of Chinese funds into Africa are aid. However, what difference’s there between the colonial eras whereby colonial agents offered African beads in exchange with gold and current China’s neocolonialism? Isn’t China offering Africa a chicken to end up making away with an elephant? There are assumptions that what’s seen as aid’s nothing but a bait for securing businesses for Chinese companies that are scattered all over Africa making a killing.

The situation’s worse provided that whatever tenders awarded to Chinese construction companies are supervised by corrupt black colonisers, though not all, who care about their interests but not those of their people.

Soon you’ll hear the India-African Forum. Africa now’s losing big time in terms of resources to China and India due to imbalanced trade.

A major question, among others, we need to ask is: Will the coming of China make Africa’s situation better or just exacerbate it.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) CEO, Ray Washburne, warns that Africa’s pointlessly cascading into a debt trap as Reuters (July 16, 2018) quotes him as saying “we try to have countries realise that they’re indebting themselves to the Chinese.”

Again, do the US and the West in general have any moral high ground to counsel Africa about what to do if, at all, for over five decades, have been doing what China’s now replicating? On their side, according to the survey by Ipsos Synovate cited by the Daily Nation (5 September, 2018), a total of 38 per cent of Kenyans think that the continued relationship between Kenya and China will lead to job losses.

This is only 11 per cent in the relationship between Kenya and USA.

The survey also looked into the issue of cheap and substandard goods and came up with the stunning findings wherein 25% of Kenyans think that China will flood the Kenyan market with cheap goods compared to 18% perception of the US.

Further, the Guardian (5 February, 2007) quotes former Zambia president Guy Scott as saying that “we’ve had bad people before.

The whites were bad, the Indians were worse but the Chinese are worst of all.” Moreover, the Business Insider (July 9, 2015) quotes an Angolan cook Marisa who concurs with Scott as saying that “the agreements with China are a benefit for them and the president and not for us.”

Additionally, the Ministry of Commerce (2009) notes that Chinese contractors signed construction contracts in Africa worth $40 billion.

What does this say? China gave Africa just US$5.7 billion and got away with the tender of US$40 billion which can rake in more money in terms of profit than the one offered apart from creating job for Chinese workers and market for Chinese goods like steel and other garbage China is currently dumping in other countries.

Swahili business philosophy has it that you know me and you are my friend but my business doesn’t know you.

You can see this on how China and India are exporting their jobless people to Africa to take up jobs from Africans not to mention indulge themselves in illicit activities due to not benefiting from the job markets at home.

When Shinn and Eisenman (2012) in their book, Africa and China-A Century of Engagement, they conducted interviews about the relationship between Africa and China, and were shocked to find Chinese ditch diggers in Sudan.

While China and India are exporting their unskilled workers to Africa to take up even menial jobs, Europe’s been doing things differently.

It’s always sent technocrats and diplomats who use Africans to do their works. Instead of sending such unskilled troupes, Europe’s been attracting Africa’s experts under the so-called brain drain.

As we will see, drain brain is costing and hurting Africa heavily. Arguably, it’s important to note that such lossmaking settings don’t only end in brain drain but also in other aspects such as trade, technical assistance and the horse-jockey relationship.

When it comes to the coming of China and India, I admonish Africa to clutch and latch on this opportunity; and secure a good deal provided that Africa must be reunited: and thereby act as one country instead of acting severally as it currently is.

Another conduit of robbing; and thereby burdening Africa’s nothing but forcing any country receiving aid, specifically technical aid, to make sure that the said country uses the companies, experts and sometimes, materials from the donor countries.

When will Africa use its resources and workforce? Is there any exchange of skills in the business between China and Africa or just creating more dependency for Africa’s peril?

These and others are the questions African rulers need to ask themselves before getting to bed with China or India simply because their aid has fewer strings attached to it than the West though the effects are likely to be the same even gross than the former.