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China-Africa news: Sam Pa, China promises help to Ebola countries, South Africa to teach Mandarin, Namibian beef

LiberiaSam Pa could be in trouble.

The shadowy Hong Kong businessman has for long fascinated dedicated China-Africa watchers with his lack of a definite profile. Instead, reporters have pieced together his secretive business interests and dealings across several continents into a multinational empire worth billions of dollars. That empire, according to Financial Times, “has its foundations in Africa.”

The empire “has played a pivotal role in advancing China’s African quest,” and has “connections to powerful interests in Beijing, including Chinese intelligence and state-owned companies.” Its modus operandi is to partner with repressive governments (Angola, Guinea, Zimbabwe), who have awarded it some of its most lucrative deals. (This Financial Times story is a good primer on Sam Pa and his interests: it’s paywalled, however.)

One of those deals, in Angola, might land him into trouble. Chinese Government auditors are examining offshore oil investments by state-run China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) worth $10 billion “that owe their existence to” Sam Pa. The government is concerned because the “offshore sites have yet to yield any significant amount oil” and have not “generated revenue for the Chinese company.”

China’s Foreign Minister visits Ebola-stricken countries. Minister Wang Yi was in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the three West African countries worst hit by an Ebola outbreak. China was one of the countries that contributed to efforts to fight the outbreak and, judging from commitments made during the visit, is also keen to play a part in helping the three countries recover from the devastating economic impact of the outbreak. The minister promised investment from Chinese enterprises. The promises might materialise soon: Liberia’s foreign minister said China will “help Liberia with the construction” of a highway linking to the coast and a ministerial complex.

Minister Wang Yi also used the opportunity to tell off countries that provide aid but also judge. Of course it is just a coincidence that a certain world leader had just left Eastern Africa where, in an address to the African Union, he “denounced presidents for life with the line Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men.”

South Africa to teach Mandarin. The government is going ahead with plans to start teaching Mandarin in public schools next year, despite protests from the largest teacher’s union. The plan was first announced last year after the two countries signed bilateral agreements, with an education minister saying it was in South Africa’s interest to learn the language and culture of its largest business partner. The teacher’s union however says teaching Mandarin is another “form of imperialism.” Other South Africans say the government should first deal with deficiencies currently standing in the way of students mastering English and local languages before introducing other languages.

South Africa really loves China. Well, its politicians at least. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was asked by members of Parliament about his latest trip to China and, in response, said “there is much that we can learn from them [China] and we intend to do so.” Ramaphosa said the two countries are cooperating to improve South Africa’s state-owned enterprises – with China providing managerial lessons – among other issues.

Nigeria’s president queries Chinese loans. President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned on a platform of honest, clean, and efficient governance, a mission press reports suggest he has taken on with zeal. This week he queried the diversion of a $1 billion loan from China by the government of his predecessor. The money was intended for a railway project but was diverted to another project.

Namibia to export beef to China. The two countries signed an agreement clearing the way for Namibian beef exports to the world’s second largest economy.  Namibia becomes the first African country to export beef to China.

Uganda received defence equipment worth $5.5 million from China. It “will be used for Uganda’s contribution to the hybrid African Union/United Nations Amisom mission in Somalia.”

Chinese firm signs Kenya port deal. China Communication Construction Company signed a $478.9 million deal with the Kenyan government to “construct three berths at Kenyan Indian Ocean port of Lamu,” part of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport corridor, which is expected to have 32 berths at completion.

Caption: China’s Foreign Minister arrives in Liberia: he promised help to the three West African countries dealing with the effects of the Ebola outbreak

Raymond Mpubani

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