Africa pays the value as China and Russia jostle for its assets

Thursday March 16, 2023


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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to China’s President Xi Jinping for the duration of a gathering in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 16, 2022. Both Russia and China are bolstering their presence in Africa to faucet its prosperous herbal assets. PHOTO | SERGEI BOBYLYOV |SPUTNIK VIA AFP

Analysts say China and Russia are bolstering their presence in Africa to faucet its prosperous herbal assets, amid grave warnings from UN companies the world’s poorest international locations face accumulating crippling money owed.

“One out of every three major infrastructure projects in Africa is built by Chinese state-owned enterprises, and one out of every five is financed by a Chinese policy bank,” stated Paul Nantulya of the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, an educational establishment inside the USA Department of Defence.

“Russia, a key arms exporter to Africa, is also making forays into the continent through mining projects granted to the Wagner private paramilitary group,” Nantulya stated.


At a UN-sponsored summit in Qatar of the Least Developed Countries this month, leaders condemned the remedy of their nations.

Wagner group is merchandising Russian pursuits in Africa. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

After Western international locations diminished their infrastructure financing, it created a void that China and Russia stepped in to fill.

“The Chinese saw the gap and decided to put their money in infrastructure,” Nantulya stated.

“But it mostly amounts to a debt trap,” warned Anna Borshchevskaya of the Washington Institute assume tank.

“China offers African countries loans for expensive infrastructure projects, which typically fail. And when the countries can’t pay the loans, China then takes control of their strategic assets,” she stated.

China, the world’s quantity two economic system, rejects practising “debt-trap diplomacy” as an disingenuous criticism from Western rivals who’ve themselves burdened nations with significant money owed.

“Partnerships are built with friendship and good faith,” Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang stated this month.

Shiny offers

Projects led by China in Africa comprise the Standard Gauge Railway linking the Kenyan port metropolis of Mombasa to the Rift Valley, which rate $5 billion and was financed 90 percentage by Beijing.

It is Kenya’s largest infrastructure task since independence and was opened in 2017. China is Kenya’s second-largest lender after the World Bank.

Standard gauge railway (SGR) cargo practice makes its method to the Mombasa Port from Nairobi on December 14, 2021. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

In December 2022, Tanzania signed a $2.2 billion contract with a Chinese business enterprise to construct the latest part of a railway line aimed toward linking the state’s most important port with its western neighbours.

“Some China-funded projects have been profitable and sustainable, but the real benefit is to Beijing, with maintenance contracts that can run up to 99 years,” stated Nantulya.

He additionally stated Chinese-funded initiatives had been designed to take up Chinese labour, that means they did not do a lot to cut back unemployment in Africa — notwithstanding some African states’ governments insisted on a quota for their very own residents.

During a go to to Senegal in January, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sought to tout the advantages of a brand new “mutually beneficial” US financial technique toward Africa.

“Countries need to be wary of shiny deals that may be opaque and ultimately fail to actually benefit the people they were purportedly designed to help,” Yellen stated, alluding to China.

“This can leave countries with a legacy of debt, diverted resources, and environmental destruction.”


“Debt is not restricted to China and Russia alone,” stated Tetteh Hormeku of the Ghana-based African Trade Network, noting significant sums had been nevertheless owed to Western nations – consisting of former colonial inefficient who as soon as managed a lot of the continent.

“About 50 percent of our debt is owed to Western commercial bond markets and multilateral agencies,” he stated on the Doha summit.

“The 1990s debt crisis in Africa was caused by Western countries, not by China or Russia,” stated Nantulya.

“However, Chinese investments lack transparency compared with those from the West, which face greater scrutiny at home,” he added.

Russia has additionally been increasing its involvement in Africa by way of mining initiatives gained by Wagner, which can be combating in Russia’s warfare in Ukraine. 

In January, the United States accused Wagner of committing widespread human rights abuses and extorting herbal assets in African international locations.

Last month the European Union introduced new sanctions on the group for human rights abuses within the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan and Ukraine.

“Wagner is operating in undemocratic and authoritarian environments where corruption is just a way of life because it knows that it can get away with a lot,” stated Nantulya.

Environmental influence

Experts additionally decried the environmental influence of Chinese and Russian initiatives on African international locations.

“China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gasses which contribute to climate change. In addition, its Belt and Road Initiative still finances coal-fired power plants abroad,” stated Borshchevskaya.

Borshchevskaya added that Russia’s mining initiatives have resulted in excessive stages of poisonous steel compounds, air pollution of groundwater assets, soil and vegetation.

In Liberia, these impacts are “grave”, stated Davestus James, head of Liberia’s Centre for Peace Building and Democracy on the side-lines of the Doha summit.

Liberians had grow to be “victims of their own resources”, he added.

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