PoliticsNews & AnalysisAfrica in 2014: China Africa and the power of "No"


Posted on Thursday, 19 December 2013 12:36

Africa in 2014: China Africa and the power of "No"

By The Africa Report

Photo©PETTERIK WIGGERS/PANOS-REAEver since Central Bank of Nigeria governor Lamido Sanusi made critical comments about China-Africa relations in March 2013, African governments have been adopting a stronger approach to negotiating with Chinese companies.

When it comes to labour, some African governments are now insistent about the level of job creation that projects must bring.

In November, Namibia Port Authority chief executive Bisey Uirab said: "We don't expect a non-Namibian to be pushing wheelbarrows", referring to China Harbour Engineering Company's upgrading of the port at Walvis Bay.

We don't expect a non-Namibian to be pushing wheelbarrows

Other African governments are cancelling Chinese contracts that do not always represent the public interest.

In mid-2013, the transitional government in Mali cancelled a series of deals that it deemed wasteful.

The Ethiopian parliament is investigating a case of corruption linked to illegal equipment imports from telecommunications manufacturer Huawei, which tried to use the name of the state telecommunications company in order to avoid import taxes.

The Zambian government has been the most aggressive about keeping Chinese companies in check.

It revoked the licence of the Collum coal mine from its Chinese owners in February 2013 over safety concerns and conflicts between workers and management, and cancelled two Chinese telecoms contracts within the space of a couple of weeks in September over irregularities.

In 2014, China watchers will be looking at two projects in Gabon to see which way the winds are blowing.

A dispute between the government and Sinopec-owned Addax Petroleum is now under arbitration.

The Gabonese government also cancelled its joint venture with China Machinery Engineering Corporation for the Belinga iron ore mine in December 2011 and will soon be restarting negotiations to find a company to develop the mine.

With the backing of state-run banks, Chinese companies have been making major advances in Africa since the downturn in 2008, so developments in Gabon in 2014 will be carefully watched for signs of whether the strength of Chinese miners is waning. ●

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