Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Chinese in Africa

With all due respects to China-bashers, like professor George Ayittey, I can say that, overall, the benefits of China's engagement with Africa heavily outweigh any negative consequences.

Firstly, with China's large population it's natural that it would look to Africa to satisfy its resource needs. The Europeans have been sourcing all their resources from Africa for 500 years now, and no-one even bats an eye-lid.

Secondly Africa can gain from Chinese engagement in terms of infrastructure development. The fact that the Chinese often bring in all their workers is a sign of a pitifully low skills-base in Africa itself, rather than in "labour-dumping" by the Chinese. For example, only 11% of Niger's secondary-school age population are actually enrolled in secondary school. It is not possible for Chinese investors in Niger (or Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea Bissau) to employ a semi-literate and unskilled work-force. The Chinese are basically FORCED to bring in their own work-force in many of these countries.

Finally, the Chinese in Africa are often at the receiving end of unnecessary xenophobia. People complain about their culinary habits and their living conditions etc. These basically racist put-downs are really trivial and demean all the contributions that China has made to Africa, especially the aid given to Southern African countries in their independence quests.

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