In Zambia Chinese investors made deals with the government to mine its natural resources, filling federal coffers with billions of dollars. Chinese immigrants moved into cities and rural towns. They started construction companies; opened copper, coal, and gem mines; and built hotels and restaurants, all providing new jobs. They set up schools and hospitals. But then instances of corruption, labor abuse, and criminal cove-rups began to set the relationship between the Chinese and the Africans aflame. In Zambia, a copper-rich country in southern Africa and the beneficiary of the continent’s third-highest level of Chinese investment, persistent unemployment and poverty have left Zambians wondering where exactly the fruits of their government’s lucrative deals with the Chinese have gone. Tax avoidance by foreign investors is reportedly costing Zambia close to two billion dollars a year. President Michael Sata won election in 2011 partly thanks to anti-Chinese sentiment (he likened work at Chinese mines to slave labor and said he would deport any abusive investors), but immediately forged close ties with Chinese leaders. Chinese owners of copper mines in Zambia regularly violate the rights of their employees by not providing adequate protective gear and insuring safe working conditions, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
The share of Africa’s exports that China receives has shot from one to fifteen per cent over the past decade, while the European Union’s share fell from thirty-six to twenty-three per cent. China is now Africa’s largest trading partner. Trade between Africa and China has doubled since 2007 to more than $200 billion . In 2012 alone, more than 2,000 Chinese companies have invested a total of US $20 billion. China has taken proprietorship of African natural resources using Chinese labor and equipment without transferring skills and technology.
Ghana arrested and are expelling 166 Chinese who were detained in the country’s gold-producing regions. “If you have gold, then Chinese want to go there to mine it – it’s like the American gold rush,” He Wenping, the director of the African Research Section at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said from Beijing. The influx of illegal Chinese miners has angered Ghanaian farming communities who say their land and sources of drinking water are threatened by their activities. The Chinese use high-end industrial machinery including excavators to dig, while Ghanaian small-scale miners mostly use shovels and pickaxes.
China is also facing competition in Africa from other nations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged 3.2 trillion yen in public and private support to Africa during a recent conference in Tokyo.