The first thing that probably comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “friends with benefits” is the American movie with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Today, however, I’ll be introducing you to a new set of friends with benefits: The Chinese-African Relationship. “Friends with Benefit” describes an exploitative type of relationship whereby parties form bonds merely to obtain a certain type of pleasure and not because they like each other.
Endowed with abundant resources due to a large human population, wide expanses of land, wonderful vegetation, and priceless minerals such as gold, oil, gas, coal, tin, and uranium, Africa is not just attractive, but also irresistible to outside world (“too beautiful a bride to take their eyes off” as some would say). The unexpected twist to this story is that these ‘bridegrooms’ are not in this marriage for love, but only to gain access to the massive estate the ‘bride’ owns. Africa, with a history of exploitative relationships with other Nations, has been staggering from one unsuccessful union to another trying to get back on its feet. The Colonial masters came forcefully into Africa to steal and extract resources both mineral and people. In the process of doing so, they wrought immeasurable havoc and mayhem on the continent, the aftermath of these decades of bondage still live on and the scars are far from healing.
The quest for redemption has led Africa to the doorpost of an entirely new neighbor on the block: China. Chinese-African relations begun recently after the Colonial Era as Post-Colonialism there was little felt impact of China on African soil. With the colonial masters away China found freedom to conduct trade with Africa as it deemed fit and now we feel the presence of China more than ever in Africa.
China, once a third World country like most African countries, shares knowledge of the hardships of poverty and corruption and has been able to successfully rise from the pits of underdevelopment. Who better to relate with Africa than someone who was once in its present state?
One can actually call Africa China’s gold mine. According to an article by the East Asian Forum in 2010, Africa is an excellent complement to China’s resource and market-seeking global agenda. Since 2000 Chinese-African trade has grown at an average annual rate of 33.5 per cent. The benefits of China’s African diplomacy became clear in 1971 when China’s accession to the UN General Assembly and Security Council was assisted by 26 affirmative votes cast by African countries. Today China has diplomatic relations with 49 of 53 African nations and China’s deepening engagement means that the US, Europe and other emerging partners have little choice but to compete for access to the continent’s emerging markets and resources. This declaration was accompanied by the announcement of US$10 billion in preferential loans to support African countries over the next three years. In light of the OECD’s prediction that the G8 will fall US$23 billion short of its 2005 promise of US$50 billion in foreign aid to the poorest and most vulnerable by 2010 (Africa contains 33 of the 49 Least Developed Countries, as classified by the UN ).
In almost every corner of Africa there is something that interests China. The continent is rich in natural resources that promise to keep China’s booming, fuel-hungry economy on the road. There is copper to mine in Zambia, iron ore to extract in Gabon and oil to refine in Angola. In other countries less blessed by natural resources, Chinese companies have spied trading and investment opportunities. Africa’s need for new and better roads, school buildings, computer networks, telecoms systems and power generation has opened a lucrative window of opportunity for Chinese firms. Sudan, with its vast oil reserves, is the number one recipient of Chinese investment, and sells some two-thirds of its oil to Beijing. As a result, China has been criticized for its links with a government ostracized by many for its role in the ongoing crisis in Darfur.
Even with this new found partnership, Africa is still left in the dark wondering if the past’s pains and her worst nightmares will come back to haunt her all over again. Yet, we are certain that whatever plans China has for Africa, it is still only the beginning and only the future can tell what lies ahead for Africa
Will this be a new era of exploitation or of new found partnership?
POSTED BY Maduka John Henry and Opeyemi Oyewole