By Paul I. Adujie, New York
Who exactly defines, asserts, defend and protect continental Africa’s best interests? Why are too many Africans regurgitating acerbic criticisms of China by America and European nations- western nations who have in fact had 600 years of dominance in Africa? Many western nations have enjoyed unbridled and unmitigated monopoly of African human and material resources. Therefore why whine when China begins to make inroads in Africa?
China has in recent years increased her presence globally, and more particularly so, on the African continent. China as a matter of fact, recently invested $28 billion dollars in several nations on the African continent, and this full-swoop investing of billions of dollars by the Chinese went unheralded by westerners and surprisingly unsung by Africans as well.
There is a cut-throat stiff competition between America and Europe on the one hand and China on the others, and there is no secret in the revived scramble for the resources on the African continent especially resources of the hydrocarbon type. An economic and industrial resurgent China is in dire need of sustained and uninterrupted energy supply and as a consequence, China has, in pursuit of her national interests, as she should, entered bilateral agreements with the nations of Angola, Nigeria, the Sudan, Venezuela etc. The African nations which have received an upsurge in investment from China have hydrocarbon in common.
A great number of African intellectuals, academics and public policy commentators, journalists etc, have stridently criticized China. These Africans are quick to adopt the self-serving arguments of the United States and European nations while the Africans, seemingly ignorant and blissfully unaware that Africa’s best interests are never what motivates or inspire and animate the scathing criticisms by America and Europe against China’s investments, continue to criticize China . Recently, a commentator on this important battle between American, Europe and China for Africa wrote a very keen observation which I found prescient, profound and quite astute.
He said , “If China needed another prompt that the European powers have finally woken up to the fact they were losing the competition for the Africa pie, it came with France’s bid to recapture lost ground this month.”
“French President Nicolas Sarkozy presided over the 25th Africa-France summit in Nice where for the first time he tacitly acknowledged the success of China’s expansion in Africa by calling on French businesses to emulate it.”
“Without mentioning China by name, Sarkozy declared it was time for Europe to use infrastructure investment along with development aid and fight to increase its influence in Africa once again.”
“Africa is our future… the African continent is asserting itself more and more as a major player in international life,” said Sarkozy. “We cannot govern a 21st century world with a 20th century institution”.
There seems to be too many Africans who naively and childishly hold tenaciously to the belief that Americans and Europeans are seeking the best interests of continental Africans and peoples of African descent, as these Americans and Europeans define issues and set the arguments about African issues. This occurs in annoying regularity whether the issues are cultural, religious, economic, or the matter of democracy and good government.
Africans who have criticized China’s investment models in Africa have been quick to accuse China of not asking African nations’ political leaders about political institutional developments, respect for human rights etc. The truth is, Americans and Europeans have been present in on the African continent unchallenged, and without a scintilla of competition for 600 years during which they inflicted slavery, colonialism and apartheid on Africa.
America and Europe also imposed their Christian religion and languages which include English, French, Portuguese, Spanish etc. President Obama visited China and he forgot or neglected to badger and chastise China’s record on Human Rights, the rule of law, due process and democracy.
History clearly indicates that African peoples have been left in the lurch by foreign powers from America and Europe and the pathetic underdevelopment, the abject poverty and the desperate human conditions on the African continent has zero input from China and Chinese corporation. The nadir economic and political conditions in Africa are directly related to slavery, colonialism, apartheid etc and China have had zilch role in all of these.
Sometimes one is left to just wonder whether African intellectuals, commentators and journalists are naïve, oblivious, or are part of a paid conspiracy against the continent, or why else, would anyone adopt definitions of issues and supporting arguments which are contrary the evidence, the facts and Africa’s best interest, both short term and long term. Whose side are these Africans on?
There is a raging debate which has persisted for a while now. And it is of concern to me in a triumvirate sense. The outcome of this debate will have tremendous ramifications for Africans. Such outcome will reverberate throughout Africa for hundreds of years.
Foremost, is the impact any outcome of this debate, or contest, between America and Europe on the one hand, and China on the other, what the consequences on Africa will be? Secondly, what effect will this pressure being applied on China have on China’s forays into Africa. But most urgent of all my concerns here is whether African public intellectuals are attentively following this debate or contest wills or spheres of influence between these superpowers , and whether we are seeking to influence the debate-contest and the eventual outcomes.
On August 11, 2009, an uproarious and rancorous event occurred in the Republic of Congo during public questioning of Secretary of State, Hilary Rodham Clinton of the United States time in that central African country. Madam Secretary of State was said to have bristled testily, when the questioner appeared to have asked her, what her husband, the other world famous Clinton, thought of a reported meddling by the World Bank in a contract or loan from the Chinese, which is reportedly being frustrated and truncated, because the World Bank has been pressuring the government of the Congo. I regret that Madam Secretary of State appeared to have faced what probably was a sexist questioning or mindset, or what is now said to be a mere misunderstanding arising from misinterpretation of a question rendered in French.
But here are the crucial questions which ultimately should be addressed by Washington in connection with the questioner‘s concerns. Why should any foreign institution or foreign government interfere in the internal affairs of the Congo? And why should the World Bank or the United States government or any of its departments or agency, be remotely connected in any way to the reported attempt to thwart contracts between the Congo and China, two politically independent and sovereign nations?
In recent times, there have been these sorts of contracts and loan twists and turns in Nigeria-China interactions, so perhaps, we now know the sources? And is Nigeria’s open dealing with China really the reason for the snub of Nigeria recently? But why must Nigeria, nay Africa, let Westerners have monopoly of doing “business” or exploiting Africa?
History is our witness, and the evidence establishes and demonstrates incontrovertibly that America and Europe do not have clean hands regarding the human conditions in Africa. History bears the facts of America and European horrid brutalities in Africa. How it is therefore, America and Europe are shouting the loudest about China’s forays into Africa?
It is often said that those who seek equity or those who come to equity should come with clean hands. Regarding Africa, Americans and European hands are soiled most putridly. The preachments which we now are hearing from America and Europe, are mere pretentious and farcical preachments. America and Europe are pots, and if anything, China is kettle, and it is oxymoronic to find pot calling kettle black.
For starters, America and Europe have been in Africa for almost a thousand years, and evidences abound of how America and Europe have pauperized Africa by stripping the continent of tangible and intangible resources. Those range from human beings during slave trade, to raw materials during industrial revolution and since. More recently, stripping of Africa of gold, diamond, petroleum and cheap labor.
China was not involved in slave trade of Africans. China was not involved in colonialism of Africans. China was not involved in imposing foreign religious on Africans. China was not involved in imposing foreign languages, such as English, French and Portuguese on Africans. China has not been involved in the assassination of African political leaders. China has so far been doing business in Africa, in ways, not any way as egregious as Union Carbide in Bhopal India or Pfizer in Nigeria
The West does not brook competition for resources or business or hemispheric influence, and there lays the West scurrilous attack on China’s foray into the African continent. Only the gullible will believe that this is about Human Rights or Labor Practices or Best Business Practices, history has abundantly borne this out. In Nigeria, environmental pollution degradation by oil companies from America and Europe who have engaged in unbridled oil spillages and gas flaring. And Pfizer pharmaceuticals, which experimented its toxic concoctions on the innocent lives of Nigerian children in Kano City Nigeria, a thing Pfizer would never do in America or Europe! China so far, at least, has not engaged in the egregious practices for which many
American and European companies in African and most of the developing world are infamous.
Africa did not benefit from Western slave trade and colonialism in Africa and Westerners can be sure that Africans are no retards unaware of Africa’s best interests. On the other hand, African public intellectuals and of course, by what is African political leadership, should make it abundantly clear and certain to the Chinese that Africa need partners, friends and investors, but not re-colonization by anyone, from the west or east. The Westerners should hands off Africa. Let Africa chart her own course and path to progress, development and advancement. Africa have been stifled with strictures endlessly.
As for labor practices and pollution, oil exploration and exploitation in Nigeria and elsewhere has not shown that companies and corporations run by Westerners are interested in Best Business Practices or Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Good Citizenship. Persistent oil spillages in Nigeria. Ruinous medical experiment in Kano Nigeria by Pfizer and activities of such as the ones by Union Carbide in Bhopal India are clearly indictments against phony and pretentious claims by Western business in the Africa and the rest of the developing world! Westerners have not laid any good precepts, and China cannot do any worse than Westerners have done. It is certainly better to have a wider pool of options of Foreign Direct Investments in Africa.
China invests wads and wads of dollars in America. China in effect underwrites a great deal of American public debt and why then is it that America does not tell China to go stuff her dollars elsewhere, because of her infamous record on democracy and human rights?
And I will say it a million times if I have to. Africans should be very wary of persons, such as umbrella sellers who also double as meteorologist in the habit of always predicting or forecasting rains.
Africans, including Nigerians of course, should want to know why America accepts money from China without even a whimper or murmur inclination to hinge such on and about China ‘s political economic systems and without raising issues about democratic forms of governance and human rights etc
Essentially therefore, Africa has nothing to show for a thousand years of Africa’s contact with America and Europe, unless of course Western Imperialism is considered a benefit to Africa. History does show, that Africa’s contact with America and Europeans, have only brought to the average African, endless sorrows, tears and shedding of bloods. Weapons of conflicts in African nations are not supplied by China.
The scramble for Africa, the white man conquest of the African continent had no Chinese input or participation. And lest the world forgets, China was not invited to the so-called Berlin Conference in which Western powers “shared” African amongst themselves, as if pirates dividing illegal loots. The Irish-Anglo historian, Thomas Pakenham wrote a book which he recounted the scramble for Africa. He detailed interventions in African affairs, encapsulates the horrors and brutalities meted upon Africa by Westerners, still evident today!
China was not invited to it, and China played no roles when Victorian England, Germany and rest of Europe partitioned Africa. And arbitrarily assigned African peoples to different European so-called mother countries of Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and others.
And now, it is China, Russia and the United States at scrambling anew, for needful resources to oil their economies, all puns intended! And Africa remains a great source of plethora of resources for industrial powers.
Africans should determine their own fate; apologies to President Obama. America and Europe must hands off Africa and allow Africans to determine who worthy and meaningful partners are. Africans are able to determine who are the true friends and partners of the continent.
African public intellectuals and political leadership, must insist that only Africans may rightly determine where Africa’s interests will be served and served with commitment and dedication, and above all, with respect. Westerners have for centuries sought prestige, strategic resources at Africa’s expense. For centuries, Africa has served Western expediencies, and needs in human cargoes, gold and diamond now, petroleum oil, to lubricate Westerners’ economic engines, while leaving Africa in poverty, and worse, actually ridiculing Africa for being poor and backward.
A thousand of years is proof enough of the abysmal and dismal effects of appalling methods used by Westerners in Africa and Westerners’ interventions in Africa have had no measurable beneficial effects and the Chinese have never been involved nor played any roles or parts in the nefarious activities by Westerners which have degraded and dehumanized Africans and the human conditions on the African continent. I therefore do not see the why Africans must allow Westerners, these same Westerners, of whom we are thoroughly familiar.
Westerners with blood in their hands; Westerners who now pretend to be acting in Africa’s best interests, be warning Africa against the Chinese “invasion and takeover” of Africa! The truth of the matter is that, Africa have in the past been bullied and stampeded into plied for Westerner health, wealth and happiness for far too long, and if the relationship between Westerners and Africa were a marriage, Africa should have had or demanded for divorce or separation long ago. Africa should be free to have “an affair” with the Chinese! Westerners have taken Africa for granted for hundreds of years. So perhaps it is time for Africa to tell Westerners that papa got a brand new bag.
Why is China being criticized for having no political views, on local matters in African nations in which the Chinese are making some inroads? Put conversely, why does the United States accept money from China to finance American public debts without a whimper or murmur about China’s Human Right records or and Chinese non-adherence to the fine ideals of democracy, freedom, liberty and the rule of law? But instead, President Obama upon assuming office and inheriting the economic meltdown; actually singled China out and appealed to China to continue to have faith in the resilience of the American economy. As he urged China keeping the tap of more dollars flowing into the American economy; this, even though, China already has more than a trillion dollars invested in purchase of American public debt.
Why would Westerners ignore all the “evils” reeking off China’s clothes, when the bell tolls for Westerners? But, the same Westerners are trepidations and stampede to warn Africa off, of, Chinese pungent undemocratic ways, and perverse-putrid human rights abuses, only now, because China is giving the Westerners a run for their money in Africa? Western self-interests of course! In China’s forays into various African nations, Westerners finally have a fidelity challenge. Let the competition begin, I’ll say.