This week marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and all over the world people are looking at the effects of that momentous day on their lives.
The events in Berlin affected all in ways that we are yet to see. In Africa there was an overnight change in attitude in regards to our relations with the West.
Imagine the incredulity when a President like Mobutu was called by his former colonial masters and heard words that he had never known in his vocabulary, “democracy, good-governance, human rights, freedom of speech, clamping down on corruption.”
The scene was repeated across the whole of Africa as all the ’Big Men’ received that fateful call informing them that they were expendable.
The collapse of the Soviet global empire meant that a major source of funding for guerrilla groups was lost. These groups would now fund themselves through minerals in Africa and narcotics in Central and South America.
Democratic movements were another phenomenon, but these movements often comprised of former government members.
It is in the realm of ideology that saw the biggest change in global thinking, the old juxtaposed system of Communism vs. Capitalism was gone; now it would be a choice between different levels of capitalism.
Yet ironically, the real winner on that night in Berlin was not USA, but China. They knew there was now a vacancy for a global superpower and they would be most likely to take it.
For Deng Xiaopeng, the architect of the modern Chinese economic revolution, it was a final vindication of his assertion of the need to modernise the People’s Republic.
He realised that Communism was not morally or intellectually bankrupt but financially bankrupt.
The modern Chinese economic system may show many capitalistic traits but it was based on the foundations and infrastructure built by communism.
So China slowly took the place of the West in Africa, very quietly as well. When a western government gives aid, there is a massive wave of publicity as Western politicians bask in the glory of magnanimity.
There is no such fanfare with Chinese aid. The Chinese quietly go about building our schools, hospitals and roads.
The main legacy of post-colonial development programmes was debt. The Chinese method is different- it is based more on equality.
Some Western thinkers say China is exploiting Africa, that they back corrupt governments, but what did the West do for 40 years? The Chinese are not prone to meddling in internal politics, or economic affairs, let alone social affairs.
China will soon be the number one investor in Africa, and the West will continue to lag behind in the hunt for resources. The West has seen this crisis as a chance to reduce aid and investment, but China is increasing its investment.
China has promised cash loans of $10 billion to Africa, along with technical assistance and technology transfer. If that is exploitation, then it is better than what others are doing, and at least we get something tangible.
The author is a social commentator