By Olufunmilayo Olubuse
The history of Africa-China relations dates back to the early 1950s. Although on a slower beginning, China embarked on a diplomatic relationship with African countries. This relationship has raised both praise and concerns in whether these efforts are beneficial to Africa or, rather, hold another agenda.
For over two decades, China has become a resonate figure in Africa, engaging in a spectrum of economic partnerships. The Chinese government continually formulate policies that tend to accommodate the financial demands of Africa, in contrast to other countries. China has leveraged extensive support to Africa, fostering a long-lasting mutual and economic partnership
However, China’s committed interest in Africa has attracted arguments and widespread assumptions that it is simply a Greek gift. As in, it is a strategy employed by the Chinese government to penetrate into the African soil to create an avenue for modern neo-colonialism and exploitation.
With the need to strengthen the Africa-China engagement, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was established in the year 2000. FOCAC resulted in a consensual long-term partnership, ensuring stability, equality, and mutual benefits between both parties.
Becoming the major purchaser of Africa’s mineral resources, particularly oil and copper, China became Africa’s biggest trade partner, with Sino-Africa trade topping $200 billion per year.
China immensely contributed to the infrastructural development of some African countries. China has successfully completed numerous landmark infrastructural projects in Africa that would serve the continent for generations.
China’s support for African countries’ infrastructural growth has yielded an over 40% rise in shares, in contrast with Europe and the United States, whose shares have dropped to 34% and 6.7% respectively.
Africa-China relations have birth cultural agreements and affiliations, resulting in various student exchange programs. According to China Daily, over 60,000 African students are studying in China, making China the second most popular destination for studying from the continent.
This is primarily because of the cheap studying expenses, security, affordable accommodation, feeding, and adept teaching skills.
According to the Debt Campaign, about 20% of Africa’s total debt is owed to China. Africa owes China at least $145 billion dollars. Despite the debt deficit, China is still providing more financial aid to African countries to meet up with their respective financial demands and expenditures.
Despite the enormous investment and involvement, China’s growing presence in Africa has been likened to the Greek gift: a war tale where the Trojan warriors infiltrated armies into the City of Troy via a wooden horse meant to be presented as a sign of peace offering.
In this article, I examine some of the criticism that led to this conclusion.
Contrary to the widespread belief that the engagements China and Africa share will simply result in a win-win position for both parties, China has been accused of indirectly exploiting Africa under the guise of fostering China-Africa relations. It has been insinuated that China is only presenting a Greek gift to Africa in order to broaden their recognition and influence in the continent.
With the introduction of the “Belt and Road Initiative,” China has launched into full financial aid to the developing countries.
Between 2000-2018, Africa owed a total debt of $150 billion dollars to the Chinese government. It has been asserted that China accepts the core asset of Africa as security, thereby putting African countries in a weak position of losing their collateralized infrastructures.
Critics say China is deliberately burdening poor African countries with loans that will accrue to enormous debts, which may result in losing their major assets when they are unable to meet up with their financial obligations.
If the continuous financial support is leading to the loss of African countries’ infrastructures, Africa could be on the verge of losing its continent to the Chinese government.
Therefore, is the incessant extension of soft loans not a Greek gift used to lure African countries into falling deep into the abyss of debt?
Abuse Of Fundamental Rights
There are over one million Chinese residing in Africa and there are over 10,000 Chinese owned firms in various African countries.
Mckinsey, a renowned consultancy firm, reported in 2017 that more than 1,000 Chinese companies in 8 African countries employ an average of 89% employment rate. Thus, the establishment of manufacturing companies by China has created vast job opportunities for Africans.
However, it is also known that Chinese employers subject those African workers to various inhumane activities. The Chinese have been accused of abusing the fundamental rights of their African workers in their own countries.
The Chinese firms subject Africans to cheap labor with meager pay without any benefits. For example, there have been instances where workers were injured by industrial machinery during production and the victim was discharged without compensation or health insurance
While it is largely due to the inefficient Labour laws in some African countries, it is still not a valid excuse for Chinese employers to take advantage of those poor workers.
It is both heartbreaking and shocking that these poor treatments are still being carried out. The Chinese are creating means of livelihood for those Africans only to subject them to depleting working conditions.
How can China claim to contribute to the economic growth development by creating job opportunities while the working conditions are unbearable for the workers?
Decline In Demands Of Local Products
China has grown to become a massive industrial hub. It started out as a small production entity, producing items such as mirrors, toys, plastic etc. Now, it is one of the major producer of high-tech equipment and machineries, charging towards building huge technological advanced goods.
The growing presence of Chinese industries in Africa has hindered the growth of local commodities. For instance, Chinese textile imports have caused 80% of Nigerian factories to shut down, resulting to 250,000 workers losing their jobs.
Chinese owned enterprises are gradually surmounting their African counterpart. They tend to offer their products and services at a more cheaper price. This has placed Africans in a rather uncomfortable position. It has crippled the growth of other local enterprises and some have even shut down due to low sales.
How will Africans strive on their own when they tend to live on Chinese commodities. Is that not simply a Greek gift, offering to extend business affairs to the continent in order for them to become dependent on Chinese wares and not be able to strive on their own.
A Balance Of Interests
The Africa-China cooperation has produced numerous changes, enabling the continent into expanding it’s capacity. Over the years, it has transformed into huge economic development and profit. China dually implements all of its African policies.
However, this is putting Africa in a dependency situation, making Africa rely on China for needs and assistance instead of bracing up to be in a more firm position to propel more establishment, development, and change.
Regardless of how much China proves their genuine interest in Africa, it is a sour truth that they will never embark on a philanthropic mission that won’t be favorable in their end. Note, however, that no country has ever carried out a foreign aid policy without their national interest in mind.
Therefore, it is expedient that we ask ourselves: is China’s commitment to Africa a Greek gift?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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