Mister One Million
Join Date: Jan 2007
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Some worrisome comments:
Many Chinese agricultural initiatives are shrouded in mystery. In 2006, for instance, China offered a $2 billion soft loan to Mozambique for a project to dam the Zambezi River Valley, amid some of the continent’s most fertile soils. The following year, Chinese and Mozambican officials reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding allowing 3,000 Chinese settlers to begin farming in the area. But following a local uproar, Mozambique’s government denied all reports of the plan, and little has been heard of it since.
...Beijing’s giant construction package, of course, is on an entirely different scale than the fly-by-night mine operations that have come and gone in Lubumbashi. But the conditions under which the deal was signed were in many ways similar to those under which many Chinese fortune seekers had obtained their permits. Negotiations, conducted in secret, were entrusted to one of President Joseph Kabila’s close personal confidants, a man without a government portfolio. Since then, questions about whose interests are being served by the deal—those of everyday Congolese, or merely those of Kabila’s cronies—have multiplied.
...A prominent Congolese lawyer who is part of a loose citizens’ network that is investigating the Chinese package said the deal will leave Congo in the same position it was in after decades of exploitation by Belgium. “We could have said, ‘You can have our copper, but we want some of it transformed here.’ We’ve negotiated for billions of dollars without determining if those investments are productive, without thinking through the sequencing of things, without thinking about the creation of a metallurgy industry. We have cheap labor and abundant electricity,” so refining would make economic sense. “But we negotiated without experts and without analysis.”
...Gilbert Malemba N’Sakila, a former law-school dean in Lubumbashi, expressed similar doubts: “The Chinese are not even making use of Congolese talent. They hire laborers, and that’s it.” Management and technical expertise are provided almost exclusively by Chinese workers. “When they pack up and go, the Congo will be left with nothing, not even an upgrade in our human resources. Our earth will be dug up, emptied, and left that way.”
...Few Zambians have been lifted into the middle class by Chinese mining activity, and today, Sata remains unrelenting in his criticisms of China. “Our [Chinese] friends are too numerous, and we know their resources cannot sustain them,” Sata told me in his Lusaka office, taking phone calls from constituents and filling out a lottery card as he reeled off a catalog of reproaches. “Zambians do not need labor being dumped here. The Chinese are scattering all over the world, but there is no such thing as Chinese investment, as such. What we’re seeing is Chinese parastatals and government interests, and they are corrupting our leaders.”
...But agricultural transformation is the most unlikely part of the Chinese project. Farming, of course, takes place in plain view, and foreign encroachment on fertile land raises passions; African governments are likely to find it easier and more profitable to sell oil and mineral rights. Song Tingming, an official at a Chinese agricultural trade group, told the Economic Observer that he believes the best time for China to develop agriculture overseas has probably passed, because the purchase of farmland has become a hot-button issue, with Korea and some Persian Gulf states having already made or attempted big farmland investments in Africa.
...But the question remains: How does their continent overcome a pattern of extractive foreign engagement—beginning with its first contact with Europe, when gold or slaves were acquired in exchange for cloth and trinkets—that is still discernible today?
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