Africa: Special Report - African Countries Welcome Growing Chinese Presence Despite West's Criticism

Despite spells of criticism on the growing presence of the Chinese in Africa from the Western governments and media, African countries make greater efforts to lure more Chinese investment into the continent.

Tendai Moyo, a Harare-based social commentator, said it is undeniable that while China is extending its genuine philanthropic hand to Africa, the West is busy extending their brazen iron fisted imperial hand that continues to foment a myriad of destabilizing activities in the continent.

Goodwill, mutual respect and the accompanying win-win aspect have become hallmarks of China's partnership with Africa. This introduces a completely new paradigm and a draught of fresh air to African countries that have been grappling with the effrontery big brother tactics from the United States and its European acolytes, the commentator said.

"It has no debilitating subtle conditionalities designed to enslave its intended beneficiaries or surreptitiously entrap them into a vicious circle of unsustainable debts. It is not meant to be a diabolical springboard to meddle into internal matters of the recipient. Neither is it an instrument of hegemonic expansion but sheer benevolence meant to prop up Africa," he said.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Zimbabwe's Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Secretary Desire Sibanda also said that there was a deliberate thrust by Africa to deal with China because of favorable business conditions.

Africa had, through the securitization of its resources, benefitted more from its relationship with China than with traditional partners such as the World Bank who provided assistance attached with stringent conditions, he said.

"Historically big projects were funded by the World Bank with their conditionalities, but this now gave Africa an opportunity to look East where these conditionalities do not exist. The issue of securitization of resources whereby China gave assistance in infrastructure development in exchange for raw materials for its fast growing economy was something new and gave developing countries the much needed debt relief," he said.

He cited countries such as Angola, Rwanda and Zambia where the Chinese were assisting in boosting infrastructure development. "Instead of focusing on trade, they focused on what mattered most in Africa, and that is infrastructure development. Africa is very rich in resources but its infrastructure is very poor, and we need assistance in such areas as energy, water, railways and roads construction," he said.

As a result of the new arrangement where resources were swopped for infrastructure development assistance, a debt crisis was avoided, Sibanda said.

"What created the debt crisis was that when we were trading and investing with the West, we went for debts and in some cases the debts were for consumption. The coming in of China with their new model of financial assistance, therefore, reduced the level of debt," he said.

As a developing country, China also understood the needs of developing countries better and to a great extent met them, he added.

Sentimental and historical political links with Africa were also in China's favor as it had helped a number of liberation movements against colonizers from the West.

"If they were given a choice they would go to China than to the West, and also because of the old feeling that the West are capitalists bent on enriching themselves," he added.

CHINESE PRESENCE IN AFRICA IS STILL SMALL

Analysts said China's increasing presence in Africa has made the West, who are losing ground in monopolizing Africa's resources, jittery. The West are doing everything possible to discredit China's positive developments in Africa.

However, the fact is that the Western countries are now still controlling the larger lion's share of Africa's economic activities, while the Chinese companies have so far remained only a small part of international investors seeking business opportunities in the continent.

In Zimbabwe, for example, British, American, Japanese, Australian and South African companies remain among the top investors in the country with more than 400 companies operating, despite comments by the West that China has taken a deliberate stance to "re-colonize" not only Zimbabwe, but the rest of Africa.

Zimbabwe has, since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, received delegations from both the West and the East seeking to do business in the country.

Britain and the United States in particular have also held conventions where they have discussed business opportunities in the country.

Big Chinese companies such as Anjin, which is in partnership with the Zimbabwean government in diamond mining, ZIMASCO in iron smelting, and Sino-Zim in agro-business, are competing with many western corporations such as Australian-based Rio Tinto and Impala, Anglo American Corporation and several others based in neighboring South Africa.

British company Anglo American Corporation is present in both mining and agro-industry while Impala has an 87 percent ownership in the country's biggest platinum producer Zimplats and 50 percent in the smaller Mimosa Mine in Zvishavane.

DEBATE ON CHINA'S INVESTMENT IN AFRICA

A lot of debate has been going on concerning China's vast investments in Africa and other developing countries, with some skeptics arguing that China has come to re-colonize the resource-rich continent while others see it as a long overdue counter to the overbearing West.

Many African leaders have embraced the Look East Policy much to the chagrin of dissenters who say Chinese industry will swallow business on the continent.

Local TV commentator Walter Chari said the relationship between African countries and the West has been that of "master and servant" for centuries now. If the truth be told, Africans do not have much to show for their relationship with the West.

African countries have been at the mercy of the Western countries through the "aid industry." This "aid" has left many African economies crippled with debt only to be told that they have to declare themselves Heavily Indebted and Poor Countries (HIPC) in order to be "assisted" with yet more "aid". Naturally this "aid" comes with a lot of strings attached.

Europe's primary interest is to get these African resources as cheaply as possible for their own development.

China's growing economy is altering global balance of power. It has an ever rising profile in Africa and this growth is probably the most significant global development since the Cold War ended. It has sparked new interest in Africa's economic potential.

Chari said the rise of China has ended European and America's complacency that Africa would always belong in their sphere of influence, a continent for pacifying guilt rather than fostering development.

Observers noted that for the first time in two decades most African and other developing countries are now getting a choice of whom to do business with. China's importance is in that it offers the whole developing world a viable alternative.

There was a time when conventional wisdom had it that when America sneezed, the world caught a cold. Today the health of the global economy rests largely with China.

Bilateral ties with China, one of the world's leading economies, have seen African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Sudan among others prosper in terms of infrastructure development.

One of the reasons why many African and other developing countries are increasingly opting to do business with China is because China tends to treat other nations as partners in the global village.

The Chinese have their own interests that they are actively pursuing but they have not let this result in them getting obnoxious when dealing with other countries, said Chari.

There is a lot of friendliness, respect and mutual understanding for development.

China is a country that pursues its own national and economic interests without interfering in domestic affairs of other countries, unlike Western countries particularly the United States which seeks to impose its own order on the world and acts like a big brother.

The commentator said, the United States, through institutions such as the World Bank, forces developing countries to adopt policies that further Washington's foreign policy and it is for this reason that the Third World prefers doing business with China.

According to historical records, the Chinese came to the African coast before the Europeans could navigate outside their waters. They never thought of conquering or colonizing the continent and the people they met, but were more interested in cultivating mutually beneficial ties.

It is this same approach to the rest of the world that China has today and from which they are benefiting.

- Xinhua

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