Thursday, December 24, 2009

China gives developed countries sleepless nights.

By the close of 2006 China had investment about $50 billion into Africa, creating desperately needed growth in the area of infrastructure and employments. The current figure is said to have shot up three years down the line, making China the third largest investor into Africa in less than two decades.

Especially has become a major beneficiary of Chinese investments into the country by way of remarkable growth in the area of infrastructure.

Countries like Sudan, Zambia, Ghana South Africa and Nigeria are beneficiaries’ of huge Chinese investments running into billions of dollars. In Sudan for example, the country is deeply involved in the oil exploration business and despite calls for China to limit her investments in the largely Arabic speaking country, that have not gone far enough.

China’s policy of ‘non-interference’ in the domestic issue of countries where they have investments have paved the way for them to penetrate into markets where they are having huge slice of not only the markets but natural resources.

As a result it’s far easy for the Chinese to shut their mouths over allegations of human rights abuses said to be meted out to the people of Darfur by Khartoum.

After all China’s own human rights records are very dodgy but that means very little to African countries whose economic standings are in distress and would not shy away from opening their doors to them (China)

Especially the United States and most European countries who have continuously had an unfettered access to the rural materials of almost every African country are worried about such mass penetration of the Chinese, and have urged caution.

Ghana is one of the loyal followers of both the United States and most of EU countries who continue to pump millions of dollars into the economy-but still find it convenient to engage the Chinese partly because of the flexibility involved in the disbursement of either grants or loan facilities for development.

Apart from their involvement in the road construction sector, the Chinese are also involved in the Bui Dam project, which is expected to end Ghana’s energy worries once it comes upstream, the building and subsequent refurbishments of the country’s stadia used for the 2008 African Nations Cup here in Ghana.
There are more millions of Chinese investments from every sector of their economy coming to Africa, as exemplified in what is regarded as a historic summit when China played host to forty-eight African leaders at Beijing in November, 2007 which looked at ways by which current engagement would be beneficial to all parties.

Though worries were expressed by some observers and analysts that China was creating a platform for some African dictators on the continent, the same critics accepted that there are more fine African leaders who have emerged over the years and are giving democracy a good tuning in their respective countries.

Since 1993 up until now for example, Ghana has taken the path of democratic culture to the extent that power has been peacefully handed out to one government to the other without any bloodshed.

Arguably one of the most difficult elections since 1993 was last year when the then opposition candidate John Mills defeated the ruling party’s Nana Akufo-Addo by a whisker in a fiercely contested elections that spanned three rounds, cementing Ghana’s democratic credentials.

Though such fine democratic culture might not matter much to China because of its own policy of ‘non-interference’ in the domestic affairs of countries where they have investments, which certainly put them in a good light.

However people are worried African countries have opened up their space to the Chinese without them tabling any meaningful proposal that could ensure the current co-operation become a ‘win-win’ situation, rather than the current perceived exploitation of the natural resources of individual African countries.

Senegalese journalist Adama Gaye, author of the book China-Africa: The Dragon and the Ostrich, in debate as to whether Chinese investment is good for Africa, was emphatic China are only interested in milking out the continent’s resources and will only leave them home and dry once they get what they want.

“Once its objectives are attained, it may just drop Africa as it did just two decades ago, when it had another agenda, forgetting about the internationalist agenda it was promoting before.”

“So far, China’s help has not reversed the unequal terms of trade that attracted wide criticisms against Western nations. The early colonizers came to Africa with alcohol and useless gifts to lure the locals. Is not China doing the same with the help of greedy leaders?”

According to Mr. Gaye: “China’s claim to "help" Africa lacks credibility in the face of the way it treats hundreds of millions of its own people and vast regions that are poorer than Africa,” adding ‘China is only involved in infrastructural and industrial development in Africa for one reason: Such "sacrifices" serve its own national interests.

However Mr. Gaye’s position was contrasted by Deborah Brautigam of American University, author of the book Chinese Aid and African Development: Exporting Green Revolution, who argued that “China has also been proactive on Africa’s debt burden. They regularly cancel the loans of African countries, loans that were usually granted at zero interest.”

“They do this without the long dance of negotiations and questionable conditions required by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”

According to her such stance taken by China has rippled some feathers because such multinationals have seen their “leverage is weakened.

Abraham Koomson, the heads an association of group of textile manufacturers, has never hidden his disdain for the current practice where Chinese products have been allowed to flood the market-therefore throwing out most of his colleagues out of business.

Leticia Osafo-Addo, Chief Executive Officer of the food processing company Samba Foods based in Tema, once told the dailyEXPRESS the importation of cheap Chinese productions into the country continue to shut down most locally owned businesses.

Mrs. Osafo-Addo who is the Vice President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) responsible for the SME’s sector, was emphatic such practice if not addressed by government will collapse a lot more businesses therefore creating mass unemployment.

Prior to assuming office President Mills gave indication the NDC administration will ensure the trend is reverse, one of the many promises he made to officials of the AGI when he met them.

The Trade Union Congress last week Thursday was emphatic Ghana ought to access her own engagement with China in order to ensure the current trade agreements benefits the two parties.

At the launch of the a report on Chinese Investments in Africa which was a research conducted by the Africa Labour Research Network (ALRN), a network of trade union researchers who research into labour issues in Africa, Yaw Baah, Deputy Secretary-General of Ghana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), reiterated calls by others for the Ghanaian government to take a second look at its own engagement with the China.

"While China imported raw materials and natural resources, Africa imported manufactured goods which did not make the situation a win-win for Africa,” was quoted to have said.

Dr. Baah said it was important for African governments to fashion out a policy of trade with China with defined criteria so they don’t get cheated at the end, adding that "China has a clear policy to engage Africa but Africa's approach to China still remains largely ad-hoc.

One of the criticisms also leveled against the Chinese is their disdain towards Ghanaian workers but an official from the Chinese embassy in Accra, Hu Yu Jie, blamed the situation on the language barrier and

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