Friday, January 31, 2014

China And Japan In Africa - In Whose Interest?

Africa was seen by Leopold II as a ‘magnificent African cake’ and still is considered as such by new foreign interests. Between the Chinese and the Japanese it seems the Japanese, like the West, seeks to ‘contain’ China’s influence in Africa. The Chinese aspire to a win-win-South-South cooperation and the restoration of Asia and Africa’s dignity.

The logic of foreign powers’ competing interests in Africa denotes a colonial mentality still prevailing toward Africa! What Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Africa uncovered is a clear plan that Japan and Western powers have: To “contain” China’s influence in Africa. Africa is talked about just as a “walk over”, a battleground for other people’s interests except African people’s interests! Africa has been in that position since the slavery, apartheid, colonialism, neo-colonialism, and now what I call “neo-multi-influencialism”, that is to say, after the Cold War, all major powers are seeking to maintain their influence in Africa to safeguard their strategic interests there (raw materials, geopolitical support at the UN Security Council) without taking the interests of Africans themselves into consideration (making other people rich while remaining poor yourself and being convinced by those you make rich that you are actually poor and you need help, help, help!).

It is the strategic interests of these major powers that drive their strategic policies toward Africa (they decide everything about Africa without African themselves). Congo’s natural and mineral resources have been systematically looted in the last 16 years by the same people who are coming to Congo as investors. What does the term “investor” mean in this case? If America and its NATO allies can go and bomb Iraq and Afghanistan back to the stone age and award contracts to American companies to “rebuild” these countries, is that what “globalization” is all about?

 African countries themselves may have their own policies toward these major powers, but they remain on paper. Africans do not have any means to implement their own policies. Nearly 90 percent of the African Union’s budget itself is financed from outside. So, Africans have only one policy: the bigger the donation, the happier they are!

Pandering to Western powers’ influence is exactly what Zimbabwean scholars Jonathan Moyo and Charity Manyeruke think has been happening. According to Jonathan Moyo, the one very clear and disappointing state of politics in Africa today is precisely the issue raised by President Mugabe in the interview on the occasion of his 88th birthday of not just cowardice of the so-called new breed of African leaders but also their treachery (Sydney Kawadza, “Some African leaders coward,” ‘The Herald,’ 20 February, 2012).

“It’s not only that they want budgetary support from Western powers or genuinely want to address anything in Africa. It’s simply that they are sellouts by definition. They don’t think about their people but themselves and their pockets.” (Herald Reporter, ‘Political analysts castigate puppet African leaders,’ ‘The Herald,’ 21 February, 2012).

Japan is an industrial state without natural resources wants to consolidate its interests in Africa to ensure a steady flow of African resources to feed its industries. China too needs natural resources to feed its growing economy. But there are differences between the two Asian countries, as far as their policies toward Africa are concerned.

 Japan boasts modern high-technology industries. But unlike China, Japan has never transferred its technology to Africa. Africa does not need big donations forever. Africa needs modern technologies so that it can transform its resources on the spot and create jobs and markets for its people at national, regional. continental and international levels. China has already transferred some of its technologies to Africa (the Hisense company in South Africa and oil extraction technology in Sudan). Indeed, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” (Chinese proverb).

History has proven that we Africans can believe and trust China. We trust China when China says that it is ready to cooperate with any other major power in Africa provided that “we put African interests first”. As Chinese scholar Luo Jianbo writes, “of course, it is well known that a nation’s foreign policy always serves its national interests first. China is no exception. China never denies that its African policy aims to pursue its own strategic interests in Africa [nor that it has not made mistakes there]. However, one of the most outstanding features of China’s African policy from the very beginning is its aspiration to promote a win-win-South-South cooperation and the restoration of Asia and Africa’s dignity. China’s engagement in Africa provides Africa with new development opportunities and promotes Africa to integrate in the international system in a more favorable way, that is to say, as an equal partner (Luo Jianbo, “China-Africa relations and China’s international responsibility,” ‘World Economics and Politics,’ 2013, Vol.9, No.397, pp.52-70). Those who want to keep a kind of “master-slave” relationship with Africa are not happy about that.

Antoine Roger Lokongo from here

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