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China-Africa news: Reporting Africa, Africa’s forests, football transfers

This weekly brief is back after taking a hiatus. During the time it was away we were attending the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation to be held on African soil, in Johannesburg. Bob Wekesa, our senior researcher, parsed China’s second policy towards Africa and what it means for China-Africa relations in the next decade or so. We also analysed media reporting and commentary on the forum, and reviewed side events (both state-led and non-state-led) inspired by the event.

We also have a series that looks at how Africa is reported in the Chinese press. The first article looks at how Chinese journalists reported visits to three South African cities. It also peruses through local Chinese media in South Africa, which focuses on the Chinese community in South Africa. The second article looks at a Chinese artist who was in Africa for two weeks (as part of an artist exchange programme organized by the Chinese Ministry of Culture) and later held an exhibition of paintings inspired by that trip. A photo exhibition of 150 photos taken by 30 photographers who visited Africa does not surprise, offering “the majestic lion, elephant and… African tribes.”

China was in a big player in the ongoing winter transfer season. Chinese Super League clubs attracted several football stars from Europe and South America, paying premiums for them and offering them lucrative contracts. Newsweek explains the dynamics behind this surge, which include support from President Xi Jinping and top businessmen. Stéphane Mbia (Cameroon), Gervinho (Ivory Coast), and Assani Lukimya (DR Congo) are some of the African players who transferred to China from European clubs.

Ethiopia’s phenomenal growth is driven by the government and China. Its economy expanded at 8.1% in 2015, the second fastest rate in the world. That growth was driven by the state’s large role in the economy and Chinese investment.

One of Tanzania’s most notorious ivory smugglers was caught after investigators took poachers at their own game. The arrest of Yang Feng Yang, known as the “Ivory Queen” in Tanzania, followed the capture of a lieutenant she had taught Chinese – even though he was barely literate. The lieutenant’s arrest was part of a strategy called “follow the gun, save the elephant” – adopted by an anti-poaching team newly energised by a $1.5 million donation from an American foundation – which traced the source of weapons poachers use to the top of a smuggling pyramid.

How China’s investments are affecting Africa’s forests. Trends are going in the wrong direction as Africa loses more forest cover to Chinese demand. Most of Africa’s timber exports – 75% – go to China. The biggest Chinese players in the sector are not large state-owned enterprises, but rather privately owned small and medium enterprises “less likely to comply with the country’s voluntary guidelines for social and environmental safeguards for overseas investment.”

Nigeria plans to borrow from China. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun visits China this week, and on the agenda is a $2 billion loan to help fund Nigeria’s budget. Nigeria aims to mobilise $5 million abroad to help fund its budget even as it wades through a severe economic crisis.

Russia or China will build South Africa’s planned 9600MW nuclear power plant. A South African official told Reuters Russia is the front-runner to win the $63.46 billion bid, while China could be part if Pretoria decides to select two nations. Russia is favoured because it is willing to “build the plant at its own expense, operate it for 20 years and charge South Africa for the power and running costs.”

2016 might not be that bad for Africa’s mining economies. They might have had a less-than-ideal year in 2015, but African miners should lighten up at projected growth rates of resource dependent economies. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is expected to grow by 7 percent in 2016, while Mozambique is expected to grow at 8.2% – the highest projection in Africa. Despite this, it will take years to deal with the challenges raised by lower Chinese demand for Africa’s minerals.

The Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network is receiving paper abstracts for its fourth conference. The conference aims “to bring together a small group of scholars who have been engaged in empirical research and whose work focuses on the people-related aspects of China-Africa engagements from across the world.” This year’s conference, to be held in Nairobi 18-20 August 2016, will focus on media, communications, and related issues of representation, perception and images. Paper abstracts are due on 29 February.

Raymond Mpubani

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