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The Great Wall in Africa


EDITOR: All nations engage in the trading of commodities and services for the growth and development of their economy. We are living in a global village where countries sign many bilateral and multilateral agreements and join trading Blocs. With globalization being the most defining economic force, no single nation is self-sufficient. It is convenient for countries within the same geographical space to be engaged in trading with each other daily.{{more}} However, it is nothing new that countries which have completely different geographical, socio-political and ethnic composition will engage in a trading relationship.

According to the British Broadcasting News, 2013, “Trade between China and Africa is booming, despite general economic weakness in the rest of the world. Bilateral trade reached $200bn (£125bn) in 2012 and could almost double by 2015, according to Standard Chartered Bank. Much has been made of the often controversial Chinese presence in Africa. But bold African traders are also making the journey to China” (BBC News, 2013). China surpassed the United States in 2009 with its economic relationship with African nations. Historical evidence shows that there have been economic and political relationships between China and Africa as far back as 500 years ago. However, today many African scholars and others have labeled the China-Africa trade relationship as a modern day, neo-colonial relationship and have illustrated how the balance of trade favours China instead of Africa.

Many have questioned the motive behind China’s growing economic relationship with Africa. I have many questions, as I carefully keep my eyes on the China-African relationship. Why Africa? What does Africa have that China needs? Is it labour, raw material or a freely open marketplace where China can sell its goods and make direct investments? Can it be a case of pure basic economic principle of demand and supply where China demands and African nations supply?

China has established trade relations with many African nations. According to the Information office of the state council, 2010, China’s largest African investment and trading partners are as follows: Zambia: Foreign Direct Investment exceeded $1 billion in 2010, with copper mining and agriculture. The focus of Chinese investment which Beijing claims has created over 150,000 jobs. Zimbabwe: China Development Bank invested up to $10 billion in Zimbabwe’s mining and agricultural sectors. Sudan: China purchases 60 per cent of Sudan’s oil exports and 71 per cent of all Sudanese exports. China has also pledged to invest in Sudan’s infrastructure, air and seaports. Algeria: Chinese investments in Algeria reached $1 billion by the end of 2010. Fifty large-scale Chinese companies operate in Algeria, with oil as the main target, and six major oil projects are currently on stream. Nigeria: Chinese investment exceeded $7 billion by the end of 2010, and main investment was oil production, other major investments were agriculture and steel processing.

Since 2006 Chinese oil companies have announced $16 billion of investments in Nigeria`s oil and gas. Kenya: China invested heavily in Kenya’s ports and was part of a $22 billion project announced by the Kenyan government in April 2008 that included a railway line and a motorway linking neighboring Ethiopia, Southern Sudan and Rwanda to the port at Lamu. China invested in a hydro and wind power project Tanzania: Chinese direct investment exceeded $ 200 million by the end of 2010, with investments in agriculture, pharmaceuticals, mining, construction and a number of transport infrastructure projects. South Africa: China is a major consumer of South Africa’s natural resources, importing more than $6.5 billion of South Africa’s raw materials in 2009. They invested in South African manufacturing, mining, banking, railways, telecommunication and energy.

In all fairness, the global marketplace of trade is an “extremely complex one” making it difficult for nations in Africa and many other Third world countries to compete. The World economy today makes it almost impossible or difficult for poor nations to gain access to the global markets; Therefore it may be befitting that African nations align themselves with the 2nd largest economy of the world. On the other hand, these African nations must have leaders and governments that strongly identify with or feel responsibility towards common citizens of the nation rather than their own narrow self-interests. While it may be too late for a ‘Black Globalization’ or Black Global Trade, it can never be too late for African nations to maximize benefits and minimize their losses since these nations have what China wants to be the world’s number one super power.

Mauressa Delecia