WE RULE YOU
WE FOOL YOU
WE SHOOT AT YOU
WE EAT FOR YOU
WE WORK FOR ALL – WE FEED ALL
“Pyramid of Capitalist System“, issued by Nedeljkovich, Brashick and Kuharich,
Cleveland: The International Publishing Co., 1911.
The drawing of the cake described below reminded me of this old, but still relevant, graphic.
Sokari describes the role of China in Africa:
China is doing to Africa what Europe and the US have been doing for 100s of years. Instead of joining in Western economic paranoia we should recognise this is merely an extension of colonialism / neo-colonialism and economic exploitation and deal with it as such. The US and the West have their own issues with China and to some extent this is played out on our soil. We should be seizing the time and using this as a weapon to ensure we get the best deal for our resources and citizens.
Recently the BBC reported on the Chinese in Angola.
It is not just the capital Luanda that has become a vast construction site. In the provinces too, blue-jacketed Chinese workers are ubiquitous, building roads, railways, and schools.
. . . all the materials from bags of cement to scaffolding poles have been imported from China.
Apart from the security guard at the gate and two Angolan women employed to wash vegetables and clean the latrines and bathroom, I see no local people here.
Since 2004, Angola has taken out $8-12bn in loans from China. Thanks to its huge oil deposits in the Gulf of Guinea, the former Portuguese colony has become China’s biggest African trading partner.
In exchange for Angola’s oil, energy-hungry China is helping to repair the country’s infrastructure.
Although Beijing insists its credit comes with no strings attached, the deal in Angola is that 70% of tenders for public works must go to Chinese firms.
That means tens of thousands of jobs here for Chinese workers, engineers, planners – and even doctors.
. . .
But the lack of jobs for Angolans in Chinese firms is causing increasing resentment in a country suffering from chronic unemployment after nearly three decades of war.
Because of its oil and diamonds, and a projected economic growth of 24% this year, Angola looks rich on paper. But most people live in abject poverty.
. . .
“But why do we need to import unskilled labour from China ” . . .
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
It looks like Angola is not doing much to get the most for either its resources or citizens. But it is hardly alone. And this pattern of aid tied to exclusive contracts is one the west has employed for decades.
Nicholas Shaxson spoke with a local journalist in the Congo Republic (Congo Brazzaville) and relates the conversation:
A local journalist does not see two worlds, but several. On a beer mat he draws a cake, shading each layer. “On the bottom: we, the Congolese. Next up, traders: Nigerians, Senegalese, and Malians. You have rich boutiques: the Mauritanians. Then, Lebanese and Indians; then, higher up, French businesses.” He puts a final layer of icing on top, and shades it black. “The Mafia. Congolese, French, all nationalities. They rule!” He adds little arrows, pointing at each layer. “The Chinese … they are now coming in at all levels. In photocopy shops, construction, and soon oil. They start on one level; in six months they are up at the next. They will be at the top now for sure.” A friend of his expands the point. “The democracies have mafialike things they want to do, but cannot do at home. So they come and do them here, chez nous.”
(Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, by Nicholas Shaxson, p.117, ISBN 978-1403971944
I would amend the journalist’s statement in only one respect, the democracies he refers to might more accurately be referred to as the capitalists. Where there is some practice of democracy, there are some controls on capitalism, and some accountability. Without at least minimal checks and balances of actual democracy, capitalism is exactly the same thing as gangsterism, exactly the same as the mafia the journalist describes. Capitalists are attracted to Africa both by resources, and lack of accountability. (To state the obvious, a country calling itself a democracy still does not necessarily practice democracy.) As a matter of policy China has embraced capitalism and rejected democracy. So far as I know China does not preach, or claim to practice democracy abroad. China comes to trade, take advantage of resources, and provide the most opportunity for Chinese people. Chinese labour practices and environmental practices are appalling, and have already created angry reactions in African countries. African countries need to look out for themselves, managing their resources to provide the most opportunity for their own people. African governments should be able to take advantage of the rivalries between China and the west to serve African advantage.
As Sokari says:
We should be seizing the time and using this as a weapon to ensure we get the best deal for our resources and citizens.