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Africa becomes an appetising Chinese takeaway

Chinese President, Hu Jintao on his visit to Kenya

Recently toured Africa to assess its potential for further Chinese investment, but many people believe that the continent is being stripped of its natural resources to fuel China’s economic boom. Experts are increasingly concerned that China is waging a ‘neo-Colonial’ resource-grab potentially as damaging as Western exploitation.

President Hu visited Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya, as China accelerates the pace of its economic engagement with Africa. David Nyekorach-Matsanga, head of the UK-based think-tank, Africa Strategy, told the press that African states had turned to China because it was not associated with the West’s legacy of oppression. But he warned that China risked being seen as a ‘neo-colonial power’ if terms of trade were unfair to Africa.

The newly emerging Asian superpower of 1.3 billion people, a quarter of the world’s population, is poised to overtake Britain as the fourth largest economy by the end of this year. China has also been accused of going on an oil safari with billion-dollar deals targeted at Nigeria, Sudan and Angola, in addition to mineral mining and timber logging.

However, China can also be credited with raising the market price of commodities benefiting Africa, investing in infrastructure such as roads and hospitals, writing off debts and providing quick loans with few catches. And this Chinese approach contrasts greatly with decades of neglect and marginalization towards Africa by Western governments and institutions. 

But the downside of this approach is that with Chinese businesses way more efficient than African textile factories, many businesses in South Africa, Ghana and other states have closed with thousands of job losses. China is also guilty of importing its labour rather than developing African skills. Presently, China has 10,000 workers in Sudan alone.

President Hu’s Africa tour is one of many high-profile political visits. Two years ago he visited Algeria, Gabon and Nigeria. And last month the China National Offshore Oil Corporation bought a 45% stake in Nigerian oil fields for US$2.3 billion.

Chinese investment can obviously be beneficial to Africa. They’re already helping Uganda’s anti-malaria effort, and have cancelled Senegal and Liberia’s debt while investing millions in their infrastructure.

And experts now think that Africa is grown-up enough to be aware of potential pitfalls in its relationship with China.


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