Americans go to Africa to pursue American interests. The French go to Africa to pursue French interests. The Arabs go to Africa to pursue Arab interests. Certainly, the Chinese are not in Africa because they love black people so much. Not all the deals African leaders signed with China were in Africa’s interest.
BOLD: In the past few years, China has played a much larger role in the affairs of African nations. How would you describe this new relationship? Is China’s role in Africa a positive or a negative?
DR. GEORGE AYITTEY: Largely negative because of the way African leaders handled it. Don’t get me wrong, trade with China could have been a boon for Africa. Indeed it was, pushing Africa’s rate of growth to 5.1% in 2013. But African leaders miscalculated –a fact which has become self evident with China’s economy in crisis. Operating under a fallacious notion that the enemy of my enemy must be my friend, African leaders threw caution to the winds and trooped to Beijing to throw themselves prostate before China and signed a blizzard of “sweet-and-sour” deals with African countries – sweet-for China but sour for Africa. Fallacious because Africa’s own history teaches that every foreign entity that goes to Africa, does so to pursue their interests, not Africa’s. Americans go to Africa to pursue American interests. The French go to Africa to pursue French interests. The Arabs go to Africa to pursue Arab interests. Certainly, the Chinese are not in Africa because they love black people so much. Not all the deals African leaders signed with China were in Africa’s interest. As an example, infrastructure had collapsed in Africa and China needed resources which Africa has. So why not infrastructure for resources deals?
Indeed, they were but scams. With the “infrastructure-for-resources” deals, some shady Chinese middlemen or syndicates estimated the cost of the infrastructure project at grossly inflated prices. Then they sought financing from China’s EX-IM bank. Then they demanded a quantum of resources to be shipped to China for repayment. All this was done with a bow. The higher the cost estimate, the larger the loan and the larger the loan, the more starry-eyed the cash-strapped African government for securing it. If the African government wavered, the Chinese might build a presidential palace, sports stadia, or dash the president a helicopter.
It was essentially a “closed shop” deal, shrouded in secrecy, and signed with mostly autocratic regimes, opaque; without any competitive bidding and all stacked in China’s favor. If approved, it was a Chinese company that undertook the infrastructure projects and there was no protection against cost over-runs.
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