China’s Colonies in Africa

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john.njenga.karugia's picture

Some observers refer to Africa’s intensified relations with China as colonialism or neocolonialism insinuating exploitation. In an article in the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau published in March 2013 titled “Afrikas zweite Kolonisierung” (“Africas second colonization”) the author Johannes Dieterich cites the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi, as his source of information in an article Sanusi wrote for the Financial Times.

Dietrich then himself refers to China as “der asiatische Konkurrent und Neo-Kolonialist” (the Asian competitor and neo-colonialist). Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized China-Africa relations noting in June 2011 in Lusaka, Zambia, that “we don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa.”

The foregoing implicitly suggests that Africans are only capable of being colonized and should therefore be understood within such analytical frameworks. It also implies that “the Chinese are similar to former colonial masters, so they are bad for Africa.” Apart from colonial economic exploitation, colonialism viewed its subjects as savage and primitive people in need of civilization by European colonial masters.

The breaking news that some people seem to have missed, or probably refused to digest, is that Africa’s 54 countries are trading with China and other Asian countries and the rest of the world. That trade, domestic and international, is not perfect and global debates about fair trade prices are ongoing.

China’s trade with America and European nations is booming. Chinese people worship anything made in Déguó (Germany) and many want to live in Mĕiguó (USA). China lends a lot of money to USA and trade ties are rock-solid. Some mega-projects tendered to Chinese companies in Africa include “Western” consultants and global financial institutions and even sometimes World Bank funding. Is China colonizing Europe, America and the World Bank? Or can only Africans be colonized?

Chinatowns are taking shape in urban centers in Africa e.g. Lusaka, Dar es Salaam, Dakar etc. In Chinese cities and universities, Africans are studying and conducting business They are studying together with students from all over the world in programs aiming at transdisciplinary, transnational and transcultural interactions. Similar programs are offered in African, European and American universities.

Africans and Asians are visiting each other’s countries, advertising their goods, ideas and services. I am yet to find Africans advertising colonies that they wish for China to colonize. Africans are aware of high and low quality goods from China as discourse in market places and online demonstrate. In short, they are not stupid. I have met people who explained that if they need to purchase a car, they save to buy new or second-hand made in Japan, South Korea or Germany, but the same people buy sofas made in Kenya or Tanzania and clothes or utensils made in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, India or China.

China is an option. In our research project at Frankfurt Goethe University, which is titled ‘Africa’s Asian Options’, we are analyzing these interactions which we perceive as options that Africans and Asians have. Of 54 African nations, four do not recognize the one-China policy and so they maintain relations with Taiwan. They choose their options.




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