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China-Africa News: Oxpecker fellowship, China’s empire, Africa’s middling growth, SA-China ICT plan

The Chinese are building a "whole latticework of infrastructure" around the world, which is resulting into "history’s most extensive global commercial empire." Photo: File

The Chinese are building a “whole latticework of infrastructure” around the world, which is resulting into “history’s most extensive global commercial empire.” Photo: File

An opportunity: “African environmental reporting group, the Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalism, is offering an experienced Chinese environmental investigative journalist a three-month reporting Fellowship based in Southern Africa. The 2015 Fellow will work alongside the Oxpeckers core investigative team, using data journalism and geo-mapping analysis to investigate major cross-border environmental stories.

“The Fellowship, to be taken up from August 2015, covers the international airfare, accommodation, local travel, as well as a monthly stipend.”

We published some of the reporting from the last fellowship in 2013.

China’s global commercial-military empire. Most of the news about China in Africa is about acquisitions, loans to governments, and Chinese companies building infrastructure (which is most times a condition of the loans China advances). Quartz conflates all these engagements, arguing that like the Romans and the British before them (and the Russians and Americans, to an extent), the Chinese are building a “whole latticework of infrastructure” around the world. This is resulting into “history’s most extensive global commercial empire.”

Angola’s president in Beijing. It was the first time Jose Eduardo dos Santos was visiting Beijing in seven years. Angola receives 70% of its income from oil exports, and has been hit hard by the plunge in global oil prices. There was speculation that Dos Santos “could seek new credit from Beijing.”

China Exim Bank opens new office in Rabat. Xinhua reports that the Export-Import Bank of China opened a representative office in Morocco’s capital Rabat, on 28 May. China Exim Bank is the first Chinese financial institution to open in Morocco. The office will serve Morocco and 26 African countries in north, central and West Africa, and also provide financial services for Chinese companies in the region. This is the bank’s second representative office in Africa, after the first office opened in Johannesburg in 1999.

South Africa signs ICT Plan of Action with China. South Africa’s Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister, Dr Siyabonga Cwele and China’s Industry and Information Technology Minister, Miao Wei signed a Plan of Action for cooperation in ICT in Cape Town. The agreement covers areas of cooperation in cyber security, Internet governance, broadband implementation strategies, rural access, SME incubation in ICT, investment in telecommunications services, E-skills professional training, electronics manufacturing, technology transfer, and ICT research and development. The opposition has however expressed reservations about the deal, pointing out China’s “reputation for suppressing freedom of expression of its citizen.”

Africa needs to be more like China. At current rates of per capita GDP growth, the top ten performing African countries will in 30 years “be where Morocco and Jamaica are today; in 40 years they will reach the same level as Indonesia in 2014.” Therefore, while Africa is growing fast, it is not growing fast enough “to deliver what China and the South-East Asian tigers have done.” To grow as fast as China and the Asian tigers, it needs to learn from some of the reforms China implemented to achieve its historic economic transformation.

South Africa grants conditional approval to iron and steel merger. The South African government said a merger between China’s Hebei Iron and Steel Group Co. and Swiss-based Duferco International Trading Holding could go through as long as Duferco’s subsidiaries in the country do not lay off workers, and Hebei does not change its plans to set up a steel plant in South Africa.

China-built railway from Djibouti to Ethiopia completed. Djibouti and Ethiopia’s leaders witnessed the laying of the last track in the 752-kilometre railway, which links the port capital of Djibouti to Addis Ababa, the capital of landlocked Ethiopia. The line was financed and built by China. It will reduce transport time between Djibouti and Addis Ababa to less than 10 hours, from the two days trucks currently take to complete the journey. There are ambitions to eventually extend the railway to the West African coast.

Russia and China block UN blacklisting of Libyan politicians. The United States, France, Spain and Britain had proposed a “global travel ban and asset freeze” on two Libyan men associated with rival administrations in the country to “boost” UN-brokered talks in Algiers. The talks are aimed at establishing a unity government in the northern African country. However China and Russia said they need more time to consider the proposal.

Chinese-owned firm investigated for labour violations in Mozambique. The Mozambican Labour Ministry has opened an investigation into a Chinese-owned recycling firm, Lantim Group, for labour violations and bad working conditions. When a delegation from the ministry visited the company in Maputo on 26 May, the company was unable to produce a list of the workers employed, nor a schedule containing the working hours of the employees and no written work contracts. The workers were also found to be operating without protective clothing. The activities of the company were suspended pending an investigation.

China and FAO in agreement to build sustainable food systems in developing countries. China pledged $50 million in a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation “to support developing countries in building sustainable food systems and inclusive agricultural value chains.” The agreement will see Chinese agricultural experts collaborating with their colleagues in developing countries in an exchange of knowledge and best practises.

China remains committed to implementing Zim “mega” deals. China-Zimbabwe bilateral trade may have tanked in the first quarter of this year, as we reported last week, but as Zimbabwe’s The Herald newspaper reported on 5 June, a Chinese special envoy assured President Mugabe that China remained committed to implementing “mega deals” signed between the two countries last year. At the head of a six-member delegation, special envoy Zhang Ming told President Mugabe in Harare that the next project to be implemented is the expansion of the Hwange Thermal Power Station, for which a tender has been awarded to Sinohydro for $1.5 billion.

Chinese firm to bring “communication to rural masses” in Malawi. Malawi News Agency reported with some fanfare that a Chinese telecommunications firm, Beijing Xinwei Telecom Technology Inc., will soon roll out low-cost communication technology to Malawi’s “rural masses”. This was the promise of the company’s “Chief Scientist”, who led a five-member delegation from the firm in a meeting with Malawian President Mutharika on 5 June. The “Chief Scientist” said that his firm would manufacture a cell phone priced as low as US$10 that includes the functions of voice calls, video, and Internet access, for use in Malawi.

Reuters had a brief on a $60 million investment agreement between China’s Inner Mongolia Jinyu Group Co Ltd, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the China-Africa Development Fund to fund vaccine research in Ethiopia.

Finally, journalists who attributed the funding of a highway in Nairobi, Kenya, to China left the outgoing president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, “furious”. The African Development Bank funded the highway’s construction, but a Chinese company won the tender to construct it; the presence of the Chinese company led to a “major media house” in Kenya reporting that China had funded the highway. Lazy reporting, but it’s not difficult to see why they assumed so, given China’s extensive engagements on the continent.

 

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