Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sino-Africa Relations Giving the West Sleepless Nights

Sino-Africa Relations Giving the West Sleepless Nights

New Vision (Kampala)
28 June 2007
By Ofwono Opondo

OUR former European colonial benefactors, oppressors and exploiters for centuries-Britain, Belgium and France have expressed fears that the recent surge in Sino-African interaction, especially China's economic interests, will consolidate bad governance in Africa.

According to this school of thought, China, hitherto too closed a society but disciplined is presented as totalitarian with the worst human rights record, and is coming to support, fund and protect African dictators who were just beginning to come under closer and genuine western watch to respect the supposedly international standards. Yet most former and current world dictators and corrupt elites were nurtured and continue to be supported by the western corrupt system!

Through their politicians, scholars and journalists, Belgium, whose King Leopold deceitfully, forcefully and brutally seized and owned the whole of the Congo as a personal estate recently published a rather superficial academic report 'warning' Africa not to be too optimistic about China's drive into this last virgin land of capitalism.

China is being portrayed as a new colonial power although it has not expressed interest in signing military pacts, forceful, and deceitful grabbing of land and other resources, or unfair trade sanctioned by government as Europeans did from the 15th century including slave trade, and continued to-date through proxy wars and imposing cultural norms.

Having realised that their imperial frontiers are ever receding, the Europeans are shedding crocodile tears in a futile hope that Africans, who for long were considered just recently landed from tree branches, are less intelligent.

Africa and Asia having buried formal colonialism, western countries now fear that their interests in political hegemony, economic exploitation through the control of our natural resources and lopsided trade are being dismantled are the ones crowing the "China threat" rhetoric.

The warning bells from Europe are false on many accounts firstly because China has no tradition for either colonialism or imperialism, and it is getting late for any power to wear a hat of political domination over others.

It is true that there are many opportunities in the world today which if African leaders remain steadfast, focused, vigilant, and innovative could seize to redeem this 'Garden of Eden' which has remained largely inhabitable for mankind as Prof. Ali Mazrui wrote long ago.

Last November, China hosted the first ever Sino-Africa summit in Beijing to try and strengthen traditional relations, and rediscover strategic opportunities for deepening investment, trade, economic, educational, technological, and scientific cooperation for hopefully mutual benefits.

The Europeans, trying to take advantage of old colonial prejudices and the general lack of information about current world affairs in Africa have gone full throttle in their mischievous schemes.

At the inauguration of the Sino-Africa summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced eight categories of cooperation over the next three years, which in my view, it is up to the African leaders to get prepared and seize it.

Hu announced doubling assistance to Africa from the 2006 level; provide $3b of preferential loans and $2b of preferential buyer's credits to Africa. He also promised to set up a China-Africa development fund worth $5b to encourage Chinese companies invest in Africa. An international conference centre for the African Union in Addis Ababa to help deepen Africa's integration which was promised at the time is already underway!

China undertook to cancel debt in all interest-free government loans that matured at the end of 2005 owed by heavily indebted countries with diplomatic relations with China, and Uganda is among them. It promised to further open its market from 190 to 440 export items receiving zero-tariff treatment from the least developed African countries having diplomatic relations with China.

It also promised to establish three to five trade and economic zones in Africa in an effort to create specialisation in skills and productivity to enhance competition in the global marketplace.

In addition, China undertook to train 15,000 African professionals, and send 100 agricultural experts in 30 specialised centres. Building 30 hospitals in Africa and giving 300 million Yuan for the production of the malaria drug, artemisinin.

Mao's communist state now operating under a "socialist-market economy" also promised to send 300 Chinese youth volunteers, build 100 rural schools, and increase its government scholarships to African students from 2000 to 4000 annually and most of them in science-based professions.

Many objective analysts believe these are the most comprehensive ever because they highlight the crucial areas of Africa's predicament but it is up to the Africans especially their political leaders to demonstrate seriousness and ability to absorb support.

Naturally, investors, whether European or Chinese seek profit, therefore Chinese enterprises while investing more in Africa enhances our capability to diversify, and process products for exports may dissolve us step by step and it is our obligation to stay vigilant because the destiny of the world belongs to the well-organised.

Although it is claimed that Africa is possibly the first home of man, it has remained inhabitable carrying the cross of economic, scientific, technological, political, military, and cultural humiliation occasioned on it by Europe, and think we should listen less to them as we strategically try new allies to deal with present hegemony, unilateralism, and unfair practices.

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