Monday, May 29

The Chinese Are Here: Any Prospect for Growth and Development?

At The Maroonsquare Discourse on National Development held on the 28th and 29th of March, 2019 held at the Science Auditorium, Federal College of Education (Tech), Akoka, Yaba, Lagos sponsored by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Chijioke Uwasomba Ph.D further elaborated on the complexity of the Chinese investment in Nigeria. Below is an excerpt of the paper delivered.


                   “Most of what china has been doing in Africa today is what we did in Africa 150 years ago” – Jack Straw, British foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006.

                    “Our African partners really have to watch out that they will not be facing a new process of colonization”- A German development ministry appraisal remark about China. (Both citations from Sautman and Hairong, 2007:6)

Let us not quibble: interdependence is the fulcrum upon which the wheel of progress runs. This occurs at all levels of human relationships and also among nations. But we must warn at the outset of this discourse that unfair and unbalanced relationships including trade and investments relationships undermine and endanger nations that are at the receiving end of the relationship. As can be seen from the quotes above from the representatives of agents of two countries that have had unfair and unequal relationship with Africa for many years, the ubiquitous presence of China in Africa and African affairs is drawing fears and caution.

Africa has been at the receiving end since its contact with the West and as have been noted by Labi and Robinson in their blistering essay, “Looting Africa”, “Africa, its people already plundered by slavers, its animals by poachers and its mineral wealth by miners, is now yielding up its cultural heritage. The historical legacy of Africa is that of a continent of trade by force dating back centuries; slavery that uprooted and dispossessed about 12 million Africans; land grabs; vicious taxation schemes; precious metals spirited away, stealing of antiquities; imposition of racist ideologies to justify colonialism; carving up of Africa in Berlin in 1884-85, cold war battle grounds in which Africa was used as proxies for the US/USSR conflicts during the cold war and other wars signposted by mineral searches with the accompanying violence that left Africa wounded and devastated.

The continent is still getting progressively poorer, with per capita incomes in many countries “below those of the 1950s-60s era of independence” (Bond, 2006:2).

Colonialism imposed and encouraged cash crop production and mineral extraction activities in the colonies for export to the metropole and discouraged serious manufacturing.

It is therefore not surprising that many decades after independence African countries have not taken off with a view to making manufacturing for export a competitive affair. How can a people who have not provided for themselves compete favorably with the advanced economies? Rodney (1972) in his ground-breaking work had articulated this condition thus:

          Under colonialism the ownership was complete and backed by military  domination. Today, in many African countries the foreign ownership is still present, although the armies and flags of foreign powers have been removed. So long as foreigners own land, mines, factories, banks, insurance companies, means of transportation, newspapers, power stations, etc, then for so long will the wealth of Africa flow outwards into the hands of those elements. In other words, in the absence of direct political control, foreign investments ensures that the natural resources and labour of Africa produce economic value which is lost to the continent.


Apparently, because of the nature, content and character of the African elite the tendency to accept hook, line and sinker  the prescriptions of the outside institutions in regard to how they run their economies is a major problem and has posed a challenge to Africa’s development. When protective tariffs are lifted with ease and careless abandon growing infant industries and manufacturing jobs are prematurely dispensed with. It is in recognition of this state of affairs that led to the assertion of Christian Aid that “trade liberalization has cost sub-Saharan Africa $272 billion over the past 20 years… overall, local producers are selling less than they were before trade was liberalized”. The implication of the above is that more people become immiserized with a higher poverty index and attendant social conflicts and crises.

African elites are interested in the search for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). This can be seen in the manner they embraced the 2001 new partnership for Africa’s development. Researchers like Thandika Nkandika Mkandawire had shown that “little FDI has gone into manufacturing industry. As for investment in mining, it is not drawn to African countries by macro-economic policy changes, as is often suggested, but by the prospect of better world prices, changes in attitude towards national ownership and sector specific incentives.”

Many African countries depend upon a single commodity for exports, including crude oil (Angola 92 per cent, Congo 57 per cent, Gabon 70 per cent, Nigeria 96 per cent and equatorial Guinea 91 per cent); Copper (Zambia 52 per cent); Diamonds (Botswana 91 per cent); Coffee (Burundi 75 per cent, Ethiopia 62 per cent; Uganda 83 per cent); tobacco (Malawi 59 per cent) and Uranium (Niger 59 per cent) – Source: Looting Africa, p. 58. Overall, Africa exports about 80 per cent of primary products. It is little wonder that the processes of exploitation of the African continent which started with slave trade as earlier noted have continued to this day even on a more rapacious manner by outside forces in cahoots with internal elements. This is another wave of colonialism in another guise and manner.

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Chijioke Uwasomba PhD. is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He has published in reputable local and international journals. He was until recently a columnist for the Mirror Newspaper and had also maintained a column with The Tempo, one of Nigeria’s newsmagazines.. 

Copyright © Chijioke Uwasomba, TheMaroonsquare, 2019

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