Friday, May 31, 2013

South Africa “Most Unequal” Society in the World

Many of South Africa’s Black political elite “have used the opportunities to accumulate at the expense of the vast majority,” said Molefi Ndlovu, a community activist and researcher at the Center for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in Durban. “That’s why we can speak of South Africa as being the most unequal society in the world, more than Brazil and other places,” said Ndlovu, speaking on the latest edition of Black Agenda Television. “It makes a lot of us a bit nervous about exactly where is the soul of the” [ruling African National Congress] party going.”

The New Slave Trade

Malawi is to export up to 100,000 of its young people as migrant workers. It involves sending young Malawian men and women aged between 18 and 25 to jobs in factories and on farms in Korea. Opposition MPs in Malawi have called the deal "slave labour".

"We always cry about brain-drain and encourage Malawians in the diaspora to come back home and yet here we are exporting the cream of our labour force abroad. It doesn't make sense at all," Stevyn Kamwendo, for the DPP, told parliament .

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Snouts in the trough

In Nairobi, Kenya, protesters let loose pigs to show their contempt at the politicians. Protesters said they took action over "greedy" MPs.

MPs are demanding a monthly salary of about $10,000 (£6,540). Kenya's Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has recommended that their salaries be pegged at around $6,300 a month. Kenya's MPs are among the highest paid in the world. MPs say they deserve a $10,000 salary because they work very hard. MPs in the previous parliament awarded themselves a $107,000 retirement bonus in one of the last sessions before the election.

The average annual salary in Kenya is about $1,700.
Riot police hit protesters and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Half a century of "Unity"

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) (re-named the African Union in 2002), was established on May25 1963 by the independence-era African leaders as the outward expression of the desire of the people of Africa for true political and economic independence. The OAU provided a body for the African leaders to discuss common African problems and a forum for resolving contentious issues facing the continent. The 53 members contain some of the poorest countries in the world. Some pan African proponents such as Nkrumah and Gaddafi called for a “United States of Africa”. The Pan African vision has as its basic premise that we the people of African descent throughout the globe constitute a common cultural and political community by virtue of our origin in Africa and common racial, social and economic oppression. It further maintains that political, economic and cultural unity is essential among all Africans, to bring about effective action for the liberation and progress of the African peoples and nations

A failed venture by all accounts. There is a marked reluctance of ruling elites to cede sovereignty to a central authority and integration. Sovereignty makes a life of privilege possible by giving African rulers and their collaborators privileges and advantages unavailable to anyone else: management and direction of foreign aid; income from movement of goods within jurisdictions and between them, through tariffs and licenses; borrowing and taxation powers. Unrivalled opportunities for corruption. Sacrificing independent statehood would almost certainly would be not entered into freely by various ruling classes.

The OAU’s inability to prevent the genocide in Rwanda in April 1994, stop the collapse of Somalia state and the Eritrean/Ethiopian wars were all clear manifestations of its impotence. The OAU could not intervene military but the present AU is indeed exercising that power, mostly as a paid proxy force for Western nations’ interests rather than a truly independent entity, acting on humanitarian reasons.

What difference has the AU made to the lives of the ordinary Africans? It is envisaged that an African common parliament, court of justice, central bank and currency will be established in the next few years, like in the EU. Through the parliament and court of justice, it is hoped that the continent's people will have greater say in the running of the affairs of the continent while the court of justice will promote respect for human rights by ensuring that violators of human rights and perpetrators of crimes like genocide are punished. Furthermore, it is expected that by establishing an African common market, currency and central bank, obstacles to the economic integration of the continent will be dismantled thus paving way for economic prosperity and higher living standards for the poverty-ridden peoples.

It will be no more successful than the now defunct OAU in uniting the continent and developing its economy. This is essentially because the same old, rotten capitalist economic system remains intact. If the European Union cannot guarantee decent living for workers of Europe, how then can the weaker African Union be expected to liberate Africans from endemic poverty and misery? Only by the African working class and peasants organizing and struggling to overthrow capitalism by putting the continent's resources under common ownership and with full democratic control and management by the working people themselves, will it be possible to end exploitation and use of the resources of the continent for the needs of its peoples. Africans in the various countries on the continent need to build independent workers’ parties aiming to establish socialism and the unity desired will be in the form of a world socialist movement, not just continental unity but a global union.

The invisible trade

Africa lost up to $1.4tn in illicit financial flows in 1980-2009, far exceeding money coming in over the same period. The joint report from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a US research organisation, says the continent has been a long-term net creditor to the rest of the world. "The traditional thinking has always been that the west is pouring money into Africa through foreign aid and other private-sector flows, without receiving much in return. Our report turns that logic upside down – Africa has been a net creditor to the rest of the world for decades," said Raymond Baker, president of GFI.

The resource drain from Africa over the last 30 years is almost equivalent to Africa's current GDP

Illicit financial flows involve the transfer of money earned through corruption, bribes, tax evasion, criminal activities and transactions involving contraband goods. Even the estimates of illicit financial flows – large as they are – are likely to understate the problem as they do not capture money lost through drug trafficking and smuggling. The natural resource sector is usually the main source of illicit financial flows

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Multinationals are the new colonialists

All the business journals and websites at one time have led with stories of Africa’s economic success. But if Africa is on the rise, it is on the rise for the elite and the multinationals, not for Africans workers themselves. Very little of the increased wealth is trickling down to ordinary Africans from latest boom.

The truth about extreme global poverty according to Jason Hickel is:
"During the colonial period, the gap between the richest countries and the poorest countries widened from 3:1 to 35:1, in part because European powers extracted so much wealth from the Global South in the form of resources and labour. Since then, that gap has grown to almost 80:1."

The reason is simply that multinational companies, supported by policies of the IMF and The World Trade Organization, have had access to cheap labour and resources and have been able to extract more out of Africa at the expense of the poor. China has come to the fore and China's priority is simply to develop and benefit the Chinese. They continue to invest heavily in Africa's resources while exporting their consumption goods back to Africa. In all cases Africa loses.

The sad part of all this is Africans are actually getting excited about all this, especially politicians who have failed to think beyond the colonial experience.

Nairobi's War-zone

In Kenya, they hold elections, but no major political party represents the interests of the impoverished majority. Capitalism serves only a very small minority of the immoral rulers. Statistics are manipulated and twisted, while the media is subservient to local and foreign regimes. The MPs are enjoying some of the highest government salaries anywhere in the world, almost no funds are allocated for the improvement of life in the slums. The majority of the people in Nairobi live in slums.

Kariobangi is a shantytown, near an enormous slum called Mathare, in the middle of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
“You die if you get sick here. Life is so cheap. Of course people die from cancer and other ‘complicated’ illnesses, because there is no way they would be treated for free. But they also die of easily preventable diseases like malaria. All we can get here are pain killers, sometimes.”
Living in slums is like living in a war zone: day after day, year after year, until one is hit, stabbed, burned; until one falls. It is a battleground. Everyday something terrible happens. The doctor at the dispensary in the middle of Kiriobangi, calculates that on average, around ten people die a violent death during a weekend, in this slum alone.
Read full article here

Friday, May 24, 2013

Selling and Buying Sierra Leone

In southern Sierra Leone the Paramount Chief is the supreme traditional authority in the Kpaka Chiefdom. The Paramount Chief leased their land to a foreign company without consulting the people nor without the consent of the family heads who are the customary landowners. They have never even laid eyes on the lease agreement, which was signed in January 2011 by the Paramount Chief. It gives an Indian company, Biopalm Energy, control of nearly 20,000 hectares (close to 50,000 acres) of land in Kpaka Chiefdom for 50 years, with a possible extension of 21 years. The lease in Kpaka Chiefdom is just one - and indeed the smallest - of eight registered agreements in seven of the 12 chiefdoms in Pujehun District. Three of them are held by Biopalm Energy, which is acquiring vast land holdings in Africa and Asia to "become the largest global player in the production of sustainable palm oil." According to Green Scenery, the Siva Group is now the largest landowner in Pujehun District, with close to 100,000 hectares, nearly one quarter of the total area of the entire district. The company is part of the complex corporate web of the Siva Group, an Indian conglomerate registered in Singapore and owned by the elusive Indian billionaire, Chinnakannan Sivasankaran.

The Sierra Leonean NGO Green Scenery calculates that in the past three years in Pujehun District, large investors, primarily representing foreign interests, have taken out long-term leases on at least 248,219 hectares [613,362 acres] - more than 60 percent of the total area of and 81 percent of all the arable land - in Pujehun District. Most of the investors that have leased farmland in Pujehun District plan to use it not for food production, but for industrial plantations of oil palm. Annual rents vary from about 23 US cents to US $12.35 per hectare [9 cents to $5 per acre). Green Scenery warns that the poor compensation rates and the concentration of land in the hands of a few corporate investors will leave local farming communities with very little to live off after their land is converted to giant plantations and they've lost their farm fields, forest fallows and valuable economic trees.

In the Malen Chiefdom Socfin Agricultural Company (SL) Limited, a subsidiary of the giant Luxemburg-registered Socfin Group, has leased 6,575 hectares [16,247 acres] for oil palm plantations, and is looking to double its land holdings. The situation was so tense that in late 2012, aggrieved landowners in Malen Chiefdom called on the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission to come to their assistance.
Five other large land leases in Pujehun have been taken out by four different companies, which involve a very small group of associates from Sierra Leone and the UK. Since 2009, using seven different companies, these individuals have been involved in eight leases totalling close to 265,000 hectares of land in Sierra Leone. Two of those companies - and thus the land leases - have already been sold off to Biopalm Energy, one for US $5 million and another for $1.5 million.

In 2011, another company, Redbunch Ventures Limited, secured a lease for nearly 45,000 hectares in Barri Chiefdom in Pujehun District. Redbunch was subsequently taken over byAgriterra, a cattle and grain-trading business, when it acquired the parent company, Shawford Investments Inc. Such deals smack of speculation and quick profits.

According to a former agent for Quifel Agribusiness (SL) Limited, a subsidiary of Quifel Natural Resources of Portugal, it has three leases in Port Loko District in northern Sierra Leone, although staff in the Registrar's office could find just one. In 2010, a Quifel country representative reported that the company held a total of 120,000 hectares [296,526 acres]. Another large chunk of Port Loko District (41,582 hectares, 102,751 acres) is owned by one of the companies that Biopalm Energy purchased, Sierra Leone Agriculture. And yet another has been leased by West Africa Agriculture (32,441 hectares, 80,163 acres), a company that is linked with the same British and Sierra Leonean individuals that have scooped up so much land in Pujehun.

Addax Bioenergy Limited, a subsidiary of the Malta-based Swiss company, Addax & Oryx Group, originally acquired 57,000 hectares [140,850 acres] straddling two districts in the north of the country. The land is for sugar cane plantations to provide the raw stock for ethanol for export to Europe. According to Derek Higgo, Health, Security, Social Affairs and Environment Manager of Addax Bioenergy, by March 2013 the company had surrendered more than half of the land, but still held about 24,500 hectares [60,541 acres].

The Sierra Leone government is providing the Chinese company Hainan Natural Rubber Group ,000 hectares [333,592 acres] of land in the country for rubber and rice in exchange for a 10 percent share. An Italian company, FNP Agriculture Limited, holds a lease on 15,000 hectares [37,066 acres] in the north of the country. Other investors claiming large land holdings in the country include the British firm Lion Mountains Agrico. Ltd (14,000 hectares or 34,594 acres), and another British firm, Whitestone Agriculture (SL) Ltd. (542,279 hectares or 1.3 million acres) in the north of the country.

José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, compared "land grabs" in Africa to the "Wild West" and said that a "sheriff" was needed to restore the rule of law. Sierra Leone has become part of the "Wild West."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Eritrea's Tyranny

Eritrea has jailed at least 10,000 political prisoners, many in "unimaginably atrocious conditions", rights group Amnesty International said in a report. The exact figure is impossible to know.

Eritrea is one of the most repressive, secretive and inaccessible countries in the world. Anyone who challenges President Issaias Afeworki is jailed without trial.

Political opposition is banned, independent media quashed and religious minorities targeted. Reporters Without Borders lists Eritrea below North Korea as the worst country in the world for press freedom

"The government has systematically used arbitrary arrest and detention without charge to crush all opposition, to silence all dissent, and to punish anyone who refuses to comply with the repressive restrictions it places on people's lives," said Claire Beston, Amnesty's Eritrea researcher.

Underground dungeons and shipping containers are used to house the prisoners.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Capitalism is to blame

The capitalist system is the real enemy in South Africa, so says Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Speaking at a seminar hosted by Wits University's African Centre For Migration and Society in Johannesburg on Friday, Vavi said problems such as xenophobia, corruption, gender-based violence, and substance abuse were rooted in economic misery.

"All of these are rooted in another set of three, even bigger demons: unemployment, poverty, and inequality, which provide a fertile breeding ground for all the others."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

More on the Zambian Political Scene

On the local political scene the former MMD president Rupiah Banda has gain appeared in court (15 April 2013), where he was found with a case to answer: it is alleged that President Banda had abused his authority by concealing 12 light trucks donated to him by the Chinese contractors in 2011. He was arrested and released on bail,. It is a foregone conclusion that Banda will never be locked up in prison – the whole thing is designed to polish the image of the PF government in the eyes of the Western Donor Community.

The political habit of removing political immunity of every defeated political statesman is in itself a total disgrace in as far as human dignity is concerned,. It remains to be seen whether corruption, which is a crime against private property can be stopped for good here in Zambia. Zambia is a capitalist country – it does not matter whether the president visits China to open up doors for economic co-operation. Zambia is not deviating to the left under the PF government. What is sickening is the sudden disintegration of the MMD ever since it was defeated by the PF. The MMD under the leadership of Nevers Mumba has lost its political credibility – it is no longer a regional or ethnic party – it is fragmented and without a distinguished political power base. Dr Mumba – a disgraced evangelist does not possess a political charisma to win a majority following in Zambia today.

The UPND under Hakainde Hichilema has lost its long-cherished tribal support in Southern Province, given the failure to win a parliamentary seat in Livingstone. UPND members of parliament are deserting it and joining the ruling PF government. The PF is no longer restricted to the Copperbelt and Lusaka. It is now represented in every province of Zambia. Fears of an impending slide towards a one-party political state are validated by the evidence lack of political discipline within the fragile political opposition. In capitalism political unity can only be rallied under a political ideology that explains the reality of nationalism and patriotism. Thus there are no solid facts in the rumours emanating from the UPND that President Sata has gone flat out to liquidate the MMD and UPND. There is a degree to which Zambia may slowly be sliding into a one-party political state unless the opposition political parties develop into popularity to act as counter checks to the political and economic policies of the PF. What remains is for the political opposition to utilise the existing media freedoms to help re-organise itself. In politics the printed word is an effective tool of political propaganda. This is what the WSM is doing in order to disseminate the working-class political consciousness.

Kitwe, Zambia

Saturday, May 11, 2013

More from Zambia

On 25 March 2013 the former republican president Rupiah Banda was charged and arrested for being in a fraudulent involvement in an oil scam deal. This is a case in which it is alleged that Banda signed an oil contract with Nigeria, whose financial benefits were siphoned off in his private account. He was released on a police bond of K500 million, and will keep on to appear in court soon. But what many people in Zambia fail to appreciate is the fact that there was a global economic crisis immediately Banda took over as president of the MMD in 2008 – whose economic significance led to his fall of Banda in 2011. The adverse economic conditions prevailing in the years 2008-2011 made the PF political slogan of Don't Kubeba [don't tell them] more appealing to the Zambian workers and students. It is also a fact that the PF came to power when the adverse economic conditions had started to improve in western Europe and the USA.

Thus President Sata’s first year in office was characterised by favourable copper prices on the world market. Thus any further economic success enjoyed by the PF government remains to be argued on the rejuvenated global economic prospects. When we take into perspective the politically motivated frays of tribal and ethnic comments emanating from the UPND – together with the adverse economic conditions suffered by the Zambian workers under the MMD, there is a concern for a compelling comparison between economic liberalism and a one-party dictatorship.

It is a fact that twenty years after the collapse of "Communism" in both Europe and Africa – African countries have been rocked by election motivated street riots and student demonstrations. In Zambia the dawn of political pluralism has given rise to tribalism and nepotism. Third world countries, Zambia in particular must be fair to themselves by distracting themselves from the falsehood circle shared by defenders of capitalism hat public sector investment, price regulations and subsidies on fertilisers are a representation of the failure of socialist-oriented economic dogma.

It is still believed by Dr. Kenneth Kaunda that UNIP lost the 1991 general election to Fredrick Chiluba due to an exorbitant increase in the price of meali meal. The street riots that broke out in 1986 when people in urban areas took to the streets and looted shops was a consequence of spiralling oil prices and falling copper prices on the London Stock Exchange – and was therefore not a consequence of increased meali meal prices. It was also plain that "Communism" is conceived under a one-party state had come to an end in both eastern Europe and Africa.

Dr. Kaunda went to nationalise private-owned mealing companies and introduced food rationing. But this only heped the emergence of a black market and more shortages of essential commodities. When the MMD came to power it introduced privatisation, and parasitical firms were hastily sold at knock-down prices. This led to short-term unemployment. Fredrick Chiluba, though and avid political demagogue, failed to implement any sound economic policies when he was in power. The coming Levy Mwanasa signalled a new beginning in the political misfortunes of the MMD lawyer by profession Mwanawasa completely dismantled the MMD from its patriotic sentiments, founded upon the charismatic status of Fredrick Chiluba. Ethnicity and tribalism resurfaced within the MMD and the movement lost its Bemba-speaking political membership – the MMD had a strong political membership in Northern Province. In today’s modern world political statesmen are everywhere; the last and only individuals singled out to bear the brunt of political and economic misfortunes of the nation state. This is because political statesmen are everywhere entrusted with constitutional political power and privileges above everyone else.
This political privilege and power is fanned by the flames of patriotism and nationalism.

The global economic crisis that begun in 2008 witnessed the sudden collapse of copper prices at the London Stock Exchange. In Zambia this translated itself into the abrupt closure of some mining firms––unemployment shot up overnight in urban areas. And, without any seemingly vibrant and pragmatic response from President Banda, the MMD became very unpopular within Copperbelt mining.

Though and Security Mining Minister Fackson Shamenda may have displeased a number of organisations when he announced the banning of employing non-Zambian expatriates as Human Resource Managers, he was only responding to the hue and cry that has reverberated among urban workers. Discredited among workers in companies controlled by non-Zambians or ex-patriots Human Resource Managers intensified under the MMD government.

The ban is aimed at appeasing the expatriate Human Resource Manager against the vile seductions of victimisation, ill-treatment and racial abuse. Foreign Human Resource Managers are known for imposing harsh and draconian conditions of service on the local labour force.

In order to deliver on the election promises the PF has introduced a minimum wage (pay rise) to general workers from K415 to K1230. It has also created 9700 jobs in the Civil Service through employing teachers, nurses, policemen and agricultural extension officials. President Sata is bent on increasing a huge Public Service that is absorbing 70 percent of government expenditure. Being a seasoned and pragmatic politician, Sata has seen the economic advantages in the diplomatic relations with China.

The PF government is relying on Chinese investors to develop the country in terms of building hospitals, schools and constructing roads. But this is a surprising about-tune from Sata’s well-known anti-Chinese political statements when he was in opposition. All said, it becomes a matter of grave concern to note that both the MMD and the UPND have lost their regional and ethnic support ever since the PF came to power. Opposition members of Parliament are deserting the MMD and UPND to join the ruling PF. Fears about Zambia becoming a one-party state are consequences of these resignations.

We in the WSM are the only effective political opposition that shall always remain intact to analyse the social and political vices perpetrated under capitalism – how innocent and sometimes well-meaning politicians try and fail to make capitalism work in the interest of the workers, both in the Western developed countries and Africa. Capitalism as a system lives on and survives through boom and bust, and will forever remain to be so unless the workers who comprise the majority try to replace it with socialism – the last and only remaining political and economic alternative to capitalism.

K. MULENGA, Kitwe, Zambia

Friday, May 10, 2013

Business malpractice

Tax avoidance, secret mining deals and financial transfers are depriving Africa of the benefits of its resources boom, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan has said.
Firms that shift profits to lower tax jurisdictions cost Africa $38bn (£25bn) a year, says a report produced by a panel he heads.

"Africa loses twice as much money through these loopholes as it gets from donors," Mr Annan told the BBC.

It was like taking food off the tables of the poor, he said.

Between 2010 and 2012 five under-priced mining concessions were sold in "highly opaque and secretive deals" in the Democratic Republic of Congo, depriving the country of $1.3bn in revenues, double DR Congo's health and education budgets combined.

In Zambia between 2005 and 2009, 500,000 copper mine workers were paying a higher rate of tax than major multinational mining firms.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Africa's hunger

Food production in sub-Saharan Africa must rise by 50% to feed an estimated population of 1.3-billion by 2030, according to a report.

12 sub-Saharan Africa countries are severely affected by food security problems. These include Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique and Lesotho. It shows only four countries in the region have high food security — SA, Gabon, Angola and Nigeria. Food security is closely entwined with poverty — food MAY be available but unaffordable for many people in the region.

In the 40 years to 2010, per capita world food production grew 17%, while in Africa it fell 10%.

Sub-Saharan Africa has 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. It imports an average of $50bn of food annually. Yields on staple crops such as maize, rice, groundnuts and sorghum in sub-Saharan Africa are only one-third to two-thirds of the global average. Grain yields generally are 40% lower than those in the rest of the developing world.

At present, eight sub-Saharan African countries are suffering from lack of water and that number will increase to 18 by 2025, affecting 600-million Africans.
Africa has 13 tractors per 100 sq. km., far below the global average of 200.

Inequality and corruption

Sub-Saharan Africa is also home to six of the top 10 most unequal countries in terms of economic disparity. In 2010, Africa’s oil, gas and mineral exports amounted to $333 billion in 2010. But illicit financial outflows from Africa are estimated at up to $200 billion annually, dwarfing the development aid it receives.

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “Too often extractive industries in collusion with corrupt government officials cheat Africa of its wealth and potential for social spending. African citizens must get their true share of extractive industry revenues and royalties paid to their governments.”

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Somalian Famine Toll

Nearly 260,000 people died during the famine that hit Somalia from 2010 to 2012, a study shows.

Half of them were children under the age of five, says the report by the UN food agency and the US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

An estimated 4.6% of the total population and 10% of children under five died in southern and central Somalia. In Lower Shabelle, 18% of children under five died and in Mogadishu 17%.

"The report confirms we should have done more before the famine was declared," said Philippe Lazzarini, UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Somalia. "Warnings that began as far back as the drought in 2010 did not trigger sufficient early action,"

The number of deaths was higher than the estimated 220,000 people who died during the 1992 famine.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Chinese Soft Power in Africa

China, which, through state-run company Poly Technologies Inc (PTI), donated a swimming pool and sports complex to the armed forces of Ghana in 2011. As well as the Olympic-size pool, complete with sun loungers, there's a gym, with weights and cardio equipment, and a studio where soldiers and civilians mingle over step aerobics, the Tae Bo fitness system, a weight loss programme and African dance. There are tennis courts, seven-a-side football pitches, volleyball, beach volleyball and a restaurant run by the Southern Fried Chicken franchise.

The country's ability to host the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations was given a huge boost by a $100m (£65m) soft loan from China for new stadiums, and construction is about to begin on a stadium in the colonial-era capital Cape Coast in central Ghana, for which China donated $30m.

"China has offered to build our new 15,000-capacity stadium at Cape Coast, without asking for anything in return," says Michael Frimpong, director of public relations for Ghana's ministry of sport.

Nothing in return?
PTI, for example, is one of China's top three arms manufacturers. It is a subsidiary of the state-controlled outfit China Poly Group Corporation, based in Beijing. Critics accuse PTI of exporting weapons to repressive regimes such as Burma and Zimbabwe, which paves the way for resource extraction by Chinese-owned firms.

And there is more to Ghana's relationship with PTI than treadmills and abdominal crunches. In 2011, a month before the new complex was completed, Ghana commissioned two 46-metre patrol vessels worth almost $40m from the company. Ghana has also entered into high-profile bilateral agreements with China such as a $10bn loan for infrastructure projects and a $3bn loan for its oil and gas sector. A source at the Chinese embassy said it had registered more than 300 Chinese companies that have opened an office in Ghana.
"China has a longstanding practice of offering package deals to countries in Africa," said David Shinn, professor of international affairs at George Washington University and co-author of China and Africa: A Century of Engagement. "They include very large concessionary loans that must be paid back, frequently with raw materials. These loans are often used to construct large infrastructure projects tied to Chinese companies and sometimes a component of Chinese labour. It is not unusual to include grants in kind [which] very often come in the form of a stadium, government building, or sports complex." Shinn adds: "In terms of the total package, the grants are usually a modest component and fall in the category of public relations. The idea is to garner good publicity for China."

The Chinese government has backed 1,700 projects on continent in 50 countries since 2000 in apparent attempt to win favour. $75bn (£48bn) on aid and development projects in Africa in the past decade (compared with $90bn the US committed over that period).

In Liberia, China has put millions towards the installation of solar traffic lights in Monrovia and financed a malaria prevention centre. In Mozambique, China's projects include a National School for Visual Arts in Maputo. In Algeria, construction has begun on a multimillion dollar 1,400-seat opera house in the Ouled Fayet suburbs of western Algiers. China has also sent thousands of doctors and teachers to work in Africa, welcomed many more students to learn in China or in Chinese language classes abroad and rolled out a continent-wide network of sports stadiums and concert halls.

The "China-Zambia Friendship Hospital" opened in August 2011 and includes casualty, dental and maternity wards as well as laboratories. It has 159 beds, treats 2,600 patients and delivers 260 babies each month on average. John Kachimba, medical superintendent and consultant urologist, said "I believe it was a gift from China. I think it was just a sign of friendship. They built this, they built a stadium in the copper belt." It was also certainly good PR, he says. "Looking at the hospital, your impression of them will be much better than looking at a mine with poor safety standards and controversy over wages. For them, the hospital is definitely a positive thing."

Many of the cultural and sporting projects across the continent are probably "upfront sweeteners" to win government favour, a "downpayment" for future commercial deals, suggests Stephen Chan, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
Chinese medical teams have worked in Africa since 1963, but recently their objective has expanded to include promotion of China's pharmaceuticals such as antimalarials, according to Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. He said a combination of economic interests and the need to expand its political influence and improve its international image was driving Chinese health aid in Africa.

Last summer, the then Chinese president Hu Jintao announced an expansive aid programme that will offer 18,000 government scholarships and train 30,000 Africans "in various sectors" by 2015. China advertises these programmes as a kind-hearted diplomatic gesture – the terms "equality", "all-round co-operation" and "mutual gain" pepper its state media reports and programme descriptions. Experts say they're a calculated, long-term investment to win the hearts and minds of Africa's future leaders, many of whom fear China's investment in the continent may come with invisible strings attached. Mahamat Adam, a Cameroonian business consultant and former member of the China-Africa Business Council, said "It must be understood by the Africans, they are not there to do philanthropy or help, they are there to do business. The Chinese are here to work for us, but they're here for their own interests first."