Economic relations between China and Africa began in the 7th Century and this has continued until today. The population of China is close to 1.3 billion and they are now in Africa to seek resources for their growing consumption, while African countries also seek funds for their infrastructural and developmental projects. The Chinese willingly grant soft loans for large infrastructural projects to countries with natural resources. The Chinese government and companies direct their funds to Africa towards the construction of roads and railroads, dams, ports and airports. Very often, these loans are accompanied by Chinese state-owned firms which would be responsible for the construction of large scale infrastructure in African countries in exchange for minerals and hydrocarbons such as oil. The Chinese president celebrated the China-Africa partnership and invited 15 African countries for a meeting in Beijing of which the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo also attended. After the meeting, the president handed out 20 billion dollars to be shared among the 15 countries as soft loans.
Huge loans given by China to Africa and other developing countries can best be described as debt-trap diplomacy. According to China-Africa research Initiative at John Hopkins University, since the year 2000 the Chinese government has given around 136 billion dollars to Africa as loans. Loans given by China to developing countries put a lot of pressure on those countries. China is the biggest single creditor and major provider of finances to Africa. Zambia has borrowed a whooping amount of 14.7 billion dollars over the years from China. Below are some of the African countries indebted to China:
Ghana has been given an amount of 2 billion dollars as part of a 19 billion dollar deal in exchange for a Bauxite mine at Nyinahin. Angola is the top recipient of Chinese loan of 42.2 billion dollars disbursed over 17 years. Kenya owes 9.83 billion dollars to China to be repaid over 17 years. Nigeria also owes China 8.3 billion dollars. Djibouti owes China 1.47 billion dollars. These loans given by China are a trap and a means of getting hold of any country that will default in payment of the loan and take over major resources and assets of that particular country.
Zambia is one of the African countries where China is the biggest single creditor and a major provider of finance for development. Zambia entered into debt distress because the government was no longer able to pay the heavy loans they have taken from China. However, Zambians but not the Chinese are the main culprit of the looming debt crisis. More than half of the amount they borrowed from China was used for corrupt practices. More than half of it went into private pockets. Even though the country is poor and cannot pay their loans, some members of the government including the president have stuffed the monies in secret accounts. The Chinese were not happy about the way those billion dollars have been used and misused. They were compelled to take over Zambia’s major assets including Zambia Electricity Corporation (ZAMECO), Zambia Telecoms, Ports and Harbour Authority and many more. The country has almost become a colony of China. Many sarcastically suggest that Zambia must be called ZamChina.
The ambition of China to create colonies in Africa did not end in Zambia. They carried their colonial agenda to more African countries. The Chinese will continue to have a means and reason to penetrate Africa because we are too much dependent on China. They are able to have their own way because African leaders are thinking of their own country’s survival and there is lack of unity and cooperation among Africans. The Chinese are aware of our weaknesses and they are able to operate in Africa without any problem.
On the 18th of October 2018, the Chinese opened their 13th police station at Port Elizabeth in South Africa. They have also opened a Chinese language school. The formal openings of the 13th police station and the language centre were attended by the nation’s president, who allegedly received a huge bribe from the Chinese to allow them to do what they are doing in South Africa. Other dignitaries also attended. There was pomp and pageantry and cultural displays during the event. The Chinese live in a vast community with about two million Chinese people.
Why should South Africans easily accept and support Chinese people and maltreat fellow Africans who are genuinely working in South Africa? Indeed the Chinese debt-trap diplomacy is working. Many other African countries have fallen victim to Chinese “generosity.”
Ethiopia is one country in Africa that was never colonised, but Ethiopia is becoming a victim of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy. Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of Chinese loans. They first borrowed 1.1 billion in 1990. They borrowed once again to start a railroad between Addis Ababa and Djibouti. They continued borrowing until they hit a 6 billion-dollar mark. It became increasingly difficult for Ethiopia to honour the interest payments. The Ethiopian president in his wisdom did not wait for China to take over their assets and resources, so he travelled to Beijing to negotiate a deal with the Chinese president. After the meeting, President Xi Jinping announced the cancellation of accumulated interest payments on all the loans it provided for Ethiopia until the end of 2019.
Cameroon also pleaded for a similar facility and was granted. Kenya defaulted heavily in loan payment but they were not smart enough to enter into any negotiations with China. China took over the port in the country.
Why is China so determined to create colonies in Africa? Why do they give huge loans to Africa even though they are aware that certain countries will never be able to pay back the loan? The following are some of the reasons: The first reason is that, China is over-populated. The population is around 1.3 billion. Therefore they feel it is urgent to push some of her people especially the excess poor ones, to Africa and other developing countries. They are able to send their people to live and work in Africa due to debt-trap diplomacy of the Chinese. Secondly, they are looking for countries where they can invest and build factories and pay the workers less than they do in China. They need countries where they can sell the excess goods they produce. They are looking out for ways to take over Africa’s natural and mineral resources and that is why they are giving out huge loans that many African countries can never pay. Lastly, they want Africa to be fully dependent on them economically, culturally and intellectually.
Columnist: Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads