The Chinese Acting Ambassador to Rwanda, His Excellency Wang Xinm.Li, has said that China’s increasing interest in Africa is not motivated by wanting to exploit the continent’s resources, but mostly to lend sincere support to the struggling African population. He took a swipe at Western countries that have expressed concern at the great speed at which China is getting involved in Africa, and declared that nobody will stop them.
As this most interesting development plays out, Africa is watching the old colonial masters and current development partners, and the new entrants in the struggle for Africa’s improperly exploited and sometimes virgin natural resources, with a bit of amusement.
On the one hand, there is the age-old political game that has been played in Africa and might be playing out now. This is the pegging of development aid to whatever whim the givers may want, but mostly attaching it to the parameters of democracy as the Western world knows it. Any African leader wants aid but does not play ball, fails to meet the standards set for that aid support and therefore no aid.
In fact, the fast developing China, long isolated from the mainstream world politics, has also been threatened with a boycott of its 2008 Beijing Olympics if it does step up bettering its human rights record. At last, the west seems to say to China, we have them where we want them. China wants the 2008 Olympics to be a smashing success, so one might expect it to be bending over with the desire to impress. But wait…
The economic success that has placed China at the adventuring end of world economics, has made it a direct competitor with the west for any resources that will make it grow even stronger. So it looks around, sees an Africa that is rich but still tottering, and decides to go the whole way. Right now China has just completed an investment deal in South Africa, buying 20 percent of Standard Bank, which translates into $5.5 billion. And this, without first demanding that South Africa should, say, increase its efforts to fight HIV/ Aids first before any deal is concluded.
Where does Africa stand in all this? Investments leading to economic emancipation, what else? Regardless where it is coming from. South Africa has taken the lead.