So what if China is becoming a darling of Africa?

The West should wake up to the reality that the BRICs are a new power shaking the new global order. And however much they use malevolent ways to destroy this new paradigm shift, little is there to be achieved. 

The West should wake up to the reality that the BRICs are a new power shaking the new global order. And however much they use malevolent ways to destroy this new paradigm shift, little is there to be achieved. 

Brazil, Russia, India and China are in the fast lane and have become big players in global business. And whether we want it or not, we simply have to embrace the reality.

Some commentators and pundits have reacted with a lot cynicism to the recent remarks President Kagame made on Africa-China relations. Some have concluded, in a very simplistic and narrow judgement that because Kagame has spoken well about China, then his democratic credentials must be wanting.

It’s this ‘bullish’ approach, especially from sections of western media, of course working in the interests on their nations, that I want to reflect upon today.

So what if Kagame said China is increasingly becoming a force to reckon with on the continent? What is not true about this---and why must it be mixed up with human rights and democracy?

There’s empirical evidence to prove this argument.
China-Africa trade volume hit an all time high in 2008, reaching a historic new level of $106.8 billion. The past eight years have witnessed a super fast growth of 30 percent annually since China-Africa trade volume reached more than $10 billion in 2000.

When you include all the BRICs, trade with the continent has snowballed from just $16 billion in 2000 to $157 billion last year.

Even though Western powers make the vast majority of investments in Africa and remain highly influential, the fact remains that the rate at which China’s trade with the continent is growing is quite impressive. And tell me, why should Africa be shy to say this?

To simply dilute this new progressive trend by criticising China for not poking its nose in the affairs of ‘despotic and undemocratic’ Africa is sheer cynicism and probably tears of a wounded buffalo.

If I may re-echo President Kagame’s words, for all these decades that Africa has engaged with the West why haven’t the values democracy, good governance and human rights flourished?

And if I pick from Minister Louise Mushikiwabo’s comments in this newspaper; was it China that was deeply involved in gross human rights violations in this country?

Is China responsible for the historical mess in the former Zaire? I have not heard of any Chinese troops fighting in Chad or Ivory Coast or propping up a collapsing dictatorial regime in a former colony.

Therefore, the debate should not rotate around who, between China or the West, is good for Africa. The debate should centre on the fact that a new wave of change is sweeping across Africa and more than ever, the continent is eager to craft its own development path.

And with no strings attached, the continent can look in whatever direction it deems benefiting for its business to grow.

It’s true Africa still face pockets of instability. It is also true that the continent still has some bad apples like the excited Captain in Guinea. 

But equally true, is that Africa is not the Africa of 20 years ago. It’s no longer that hopeless continent characterised entirely by war and famine----seemingly populated entirely with tyrants and malnourished children.

Reforms are sweeping right from Cape to Cairo, West to East.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says foreign direct investments to Africa reached $48 billion almost three years ago, out-taking foreign aid for the first time.

The IMF says before this Western imposed mess of a global crisis, average GDP growth on the continent stood at 6 percent better than any developed economy apart from China.  The percentage of Africans living on a dollar and less dropped from 59 in 1996 to less than 50 percent.

The rate of mobile penetration across the continent has proved that Africa is virgin for business.

African governments have enacted a series of reforms—on basic market institutions, investment regulations, infrastructure, and general democratic governance.

Unfortunately, unlike our Western friends who keep agonising over Africa’s poverty, China is captivated by these reforms and riches that the continent has to offer.

And unlike our brothers who have played the ‘hide and seek’ game when it comes to open trade with Africa (as exemplified in stalled talks within WTO), China seems to be keen on opening its trade doors with Africa. Not exploiting, but a win-win formula.

And because the West has refused to swallow the bitter pill that Africa needs no governance template from their capitals anymore, China’s approach to foreign relations is officially driven by non-interference in domestic affairs.

Unlike the West, China does not mix business with politics, something that bitterly pains our friends.

Therefore to use democracy and human rights to criticise China’s trade with Africa is simply mixing up issues and losing track. 

And by the way, how would one explain the relationship between some ‘champions’ of human rights with nations Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia?

For over 60 years, at least a trillion dollars of development aid has been transferred from rich western nations to Africa.

There’s no significant socio-economic transformation that has come out of relationship. Instead African countries still pay close to $20 billion in debt servicing per annum today. 

Therefore if China is coming with a substitute to this failed relationship, Africa is entirely free to embrace it with open arms.

Ends

 

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