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Is China colonizing Africa?

*It appears to be that way


- Billy Jivetti

( Wednesday, November 15, 2006 )

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"China has vast investments in Africa’s businesses, trade, transport, and the health care of Africa whose turnover amounts to trillions of dollars. This is the basis of what critics are arguing that China is colonizing Africa."


The following advert appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation site- “WANTED: A Fast-growing Asian economy would like to meet African nations for mutually beneficial ‘strategic partnership’. Must have large supply of oil or other natural resources.”

Last week, the China – Africa summit was held in the city of Beijing. This summit was a culmination of the two separate trips taken by the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao to Africa recently.

Over 40 African heads of states were given red-carpet welcome in Beijing for three days of discussions involved close to 2,500 separate business deals in Africa, according to a BBC report.

China has vast investments in Africa’s businesses, trade, transport, and the health care of Africa whose turnover amounts to trillions of dollars.

This is the basis of what critics are arguing that China is colonizing Africa. China contends that its growing presence will lead to significant development of the continent.

The Chinese capital Beijing underwent an extraordinary face-lift with the streets being emblazoned with 10 feet-high zebras, giraffes, African elephants, and other symbols of African savannas and wildlife.

Over half a million vehicles were cleared from the streets and many factories ordered closed and, for the first time, skies were blue. The summit was christened “Friendship, peace, co-operation and development.”

But what is China-Africa‘s relationship really about? It is already evident what the Chinese are getting from Africa. The Chinese economy has an avaricious appetite for all the resources of Africa - timber, iron ore, diamonds, copper oil, and other raw materials of interest for China’s industries. Currently China imports more oil from Angola than it does from Saudi Arabia.

The potential of this relationship for African economies and more importantly the people of Africa is still unclear. China imported 38 million tons of crude oil from Africa in 2005, and has made major investments in oil and gas projects in countries like Angola, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. Chinese manufacturers continue to traverse the continent in search of new markets.

For over a century, Africa witnessed wanton and indiscriminate plunder of her resources at the hands of European colonial powers. Africa has not and will never recover from that period of occupation. The little that remained is now being devoured by the new kid on the block- China.

We are getting concerned about China’s cheap exports to Africa. The streets of Timbukutu, Durban, and Nairobi are lined with rice, pottery, porcelain, and clothing from China. Ghana has one of the world’s authentic textile industries. The dumping of cheap goods from China is crucial to the local manufacturers, particularly the textile industry. Without competition, Ghana’s textile industry is at stake.

According to Chinese government statistics, the overall trade between Africa and China witnessed an astronomical from $10.6 billion in 2000 to $40 billion in 2005. Some analysts argue that China being a new entrant in the oil business has no other place to go since most of the world’s other big oil reserves are already being developed by major western energy companies.

China has poured billions of dollars in aid and cheap loans for upgrading roads, ports, railways, telephone lines, power stations and other key infrastructure across Africa.

Cases of human rights abuses have arisen from the China-Africa adventure. African workers have protested against ill-treatment and poor pay by Chinese companies, as well as the influx of Chinese workers who take away their jobs. In July, hundreds of African workers at a Chinese-owned Zambian mine rioted over low wages.

China sells arms in order to cement relationships with some African leaders. Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe are examples of countries China sells arms to in shipments labeled as agricultural equipment. Because China doesn’t experience the same human rights concerns like Africa, it will sell military hardware and weapons to anyone. Chinese military trainers are helping their African counterparts.

At the conclusion of the summit, China promised to double its aid and bilateral trade to Africa by 2010. This includes a new aluminum production plant in Egypt, a $300 million contract to upgrade a highway in Nigeria and a $200 million copper project in Zambia.

China is increasingly becoming a major player in the global political economy replacing other powerful players like US and Europe. All this is happening at a very fast rate. More questions are being raised than answers. As for Africa, is it some other colonialism under the aegis of development?

Billy Jivetti is an International Studies graduate student of Oklahoma State University and president of African Students Organization of the school.

Billy Jivetti realizes a childhood dream of meeting President Bill Clinton.
Photo Above: Billy Jivetti( Oklahoma State University School of International Studies graduate student and president of African Students Organization of the school ) realizes a childhood dream of meeting Bill Clinton during the dedication of the Heifer International Center.
President Robert Mugabe( Left ) and his Chinese counterpart President Hu Jintao( Right )
Photo Above: President Robert Mugabe( Left ) and his Chinese counterpart President Hu Jintao( Right ), at the opening ceremony of the China-Africa Summit in Beiging, China.
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