By Henrique Caine
I am one of those who is of the opinion that Africa SHOULD continue to do business with China for a whole host of reasons, including and most especially access to much needed development financing and scientific and technical expertise. We often make the mistake thinking that China doesn’t make quality. To the contrary, they very much do when they are made to understand that they have to. Uncle Sam is China’s biggest global trading partner but rest assured that Chinese products and technology heading over the Atlantic are of much better quality and subject to all sort of quality control and specifications as defined in trade agreements. So yes, China will invest in and make quality when it suits their economic interests. The story is entirely different when it comes to Africa and we see it over and over with expensive infrastructure projects built by the Chinese in Africa. We complain and complain then do absolutely nothing about it.
The problem with Africa in dealing with the Chinese is that out of self-induced desperation or just not fully understanding our true value and how much China actually needs Africa, we constantly sell ourselves short. The fact that we are 54 independent countries selfishly seeking our individual interests, is something the Chinese play on very well. Instead of us developing a trade policy and trade agreement with China via the African Union (AU), we continue to engage China as individual countries as opposed to the powerful continental bloc that we are with common and shared interests. We do that to our detriment.
The Chinese have become masters at the game with Africa. First of all they know all too well that many African leaders and their officials and emissaries are inherently corrupt and desperately in quest of personal wealth. The Chinese know that they can manipulate that greed to their own benefit — and they do so. For example, it is pure greed that will lead a delegation of Ministers to pledge an entire Mountain of precious minerals and sovereign resources for which they themselves have no technical knowledge of the monetary valuation, and then do so reportedly for a meager $2 billion dollars. Monies no doubt that will be given under terms most beneficial to China.
Africa needs to engage China as a continent and develop an AU-China trade agreement that outlines a set of principals and guidelines that each country should adhere to when transacting and doing deals. The Chinese need Africa’s massive resources and raw materials and Africa needs to develop and harness that raw material — including developing its own home-based industries from its resources. The opportunities for win-win and mutually beneficial deals are immense.
We are not in a position of weakness as many seem to believe or behave when engaging China. We just need an Africa trade agreement with China that protects Africa’s interests, the right cadre of patriotic and principle minded leaders to seek our interests and the qualified technocrats at the table backing leaders in those negotiations. Lets seek to ensure a balanced and fair results for Africa.