WHEN INVESTORS BECOME INVADERS – China in the conquest of Africa
The rise of China among the world’s economically leading countries seems to have posed a significant threat to the economical interest of many Western countries in Africa. Some African countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, has therefore become a battlefield between China and the West. Is China the right economical partner who will pull Africa out of its persistent economical turmoil?
From colonization to today’s land grabbing phenomenon, the African continent has always been targeted for its various and numerous resources. During a long time, the West has stomached itself from diverse resources, manpower and raw materials from Africa. Time changes, tactics also change. Nowadays, neocolonialism, a new version of colonialism, has no other purpose than confining the black continent into eternal misery and inferiority in comparison to the West. While The Democratic Republic of Congo is blessed with countless minerals, Ethiopia, despite of being well known for starvation and famine, is certainly the best place on earth for producing crops. As Western aid increasingly is seen as a failed development strategy, most African countries have, hence, been turning eastwards.Whereas the West focused in resolving security issues, mainly related to the war on terror, China unexpectedly was preoccupied instead in flattering Africans with sweet promises of restoring their collapsed economies and refurbishing many of their dilapidated infrastructures at very friendly and understandable costs. When you are drowning, you don’t look at the hand that is reached to you, you just grab it with the hope of getting you out of peril.
Indeed China has lent a helping hand to Africa. China has in the past ten years actively worked to become Africa’s new best friend and China’s presence in Africa is reflected in several ways. China provides significant development assistance to African countries in the form of direct assistance, interest-free loans of longer maturity payment and debt relief. ”Made in China” are quite affordable even for the poorest living in this part of the world.
Nevertheless, in reality the Chinese seem to be the new Vikings in Africa. China’s tactics and economical strategy in the black continent resemble more that of invaders than that of investors. A pure and merciless predator who surely but smoothly and gradually is economically conquering Africa. The cases of land grabbing in many African countries, like Ethiopia, or the mineral contract signed with the Democratic Republic of Congo need to be scrutinized.
The international system is anarchic, as said in realistic political thinking. There is no overarching government or a global power that tells other powers what to do and can hold them accountable. States are rational and self-interested actors who would do anything to help themselves in order to survive.
In grabbing, buying or leasing huge hectares of many African lands, China is simply securing its domestic food production, hence its survival. Crops produced in a country hit by famine like Ethiopia are simply packed into lorries and exported to china. Small-scale farmers whose land is bought up by foreign companies lose their source of income. Local residents’ food supply decreases because of increased export of food products, meaning that as China is becoming more and more food secured, Africa instead is becoming more and more food unsecured. China is simply enlarging its size at the cost of these grabbed African lands. Besides, the ever-hungry Chinese export machine needs raw materials to keep rocking. The next target is the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country full of mineral and natural resources that could not have escaped from the eyes of such a great predator like China. The DRC found itself in the sights of desperate mineral’s hunters who are ready to defend the economical interests of their country at any price. This is a country which has become a battlefield between The West and China. The West who loathe to share the resources of Congo with the dragon, requires via its capitalistic institutions like the IMF, the revision if not an outright cancellation of the $9 billion contract that the Democratic Republic of Congo had signed with China. A cold war is therefore engaged for the possession of resources in the DRC. Unfortunately in front of these unscrupulous predators, is simply an immature and incompetent Congolese political class that seems to be unaware of the country’s geostrategic position. The contract that China has signed with the DRC includes the rights to extract more than 11 million tons of copper and 620,000 tons of cobalt from Congo mines over 25 years. In return China has agreed to build 2,000 miles of roads and 2050 miles of railway tracks, hundreds of schools and health clinics, and two airports.
Does it create a ‘win-win’ situation for all, or is it an unequal exchange?
The disparity is simply incredible in this case. Statistics estimate that both are not winners. The DRC is a loser and China is clearly a winner, standing for a profit of almost $4.5 billion on its initial investment.
Unlike the West, China sets no requirements on whether democracy, human rights or neoliberal market reforms. They are big in order to make the best possible use of economics of scale, they are undemocratic, they can bring their own labor and they don’t care about whether the government is corrupted or not. The rest of the world looks at China’s settlement in Africa as neo-colonialism and extraction of resource. Supporters of China’s presence in Africa consider China as a financial partner, who for the first time has taken Africa’s problem seriously, and who equally negotiates with Africa. On a continent where only a third of the roads are paved, China’s favorable infrastructure construction is highly anticipated. But the West and its allied institutions like the IMF and the World Bank will not leave China untackled in the battle for the conquest of Africa.
Av: Serge Mukiele