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China-Africa news: A new African ally, Mandarin in S Africa, Angola’s oil

The deadline to apply for our workshop focused on current Africa-China industrialisation initiatives expires in three days. The initiative aims to probe the social and environmental impact of industrialisation on the African continent. The Project will bring a group of selected journalists to Johannesburg to attend a short workshop at Wits Journalism in May 2016, and will then issue the journalists with reporting grants to produce investigative features.

Bob Wekesa, a postdoctoral fellow at the Wits Journalism Department, reviewed Deborah Brautigam’s latest book, Will Africa Feed China?, for us.

China won’t abandon pledged African investments. Beijing’s ambassador to the African Union said China’s slowdown will not affect its plans to invest $60 billion in African development projects. The plan was announced at the sixth FOCAC summit in Johannesburg last year. “”While the Chinese economy is shifting gears, all those major industries that have powered the explosion of Chinese infrastructure over the past 30 years have to find a place (to invest),” Li Yifan told Reuters, and African countries are the most ideal places for those investments.

China poaches Taiwan ally. The election of a new Taiwanese president with a cool relationship towards China reignited the contest of diplomatic ties between the two, with China seeking to pressure Taiwan’s new leader into “adopting a position more accommodating to Beijing.” China resumed diplomatic relations with Gambia, which cut off relations with Taiwan in 2013. China seems to have sought out Gambia despite having ignored it in 2013, a trend Taiwan’s top security agency believes continue in the near future, as China seeks to undermine the country diplomatically.

Why Mandarin might not be suited for South Africa’s public schools. Several arguments have been made since last year – when the South African government announced that Mandarin was to be introduced in South Africa’s schools – about the pros and cons of the decision. A sober take on the issue in the Daily Maverick argues that effectively teaching Mandarin in South Africa’s public school system is a “Herculean task.” Mandarin is notoriously difficult to learn, there are just not enough resources or instructors, and there might not be that much [economic] benefit to learn the language.

Chinese lessons for Africa’s new cities. Half of Africa’s population will be living in cities by 2030. China, which experienced its own wave of urbanisation a few decades ago, is not only playing a big role in building those cities but also has a lot to teach Africa about the phenomenon. Basically, not to leave its cultural heritage behind in pursuit of European and American-style architecture.

Bank of China opens two African branches. The new branches are in Morocco and Mauritius, and are being presented as bases for an eventual expansion across Africa.

Oil prices are getting the better of Angola. Countries that depend on oil revenues for most of their foreign exchange were always going to be affected by the ongoing depression in oil prices. It gets worse for Angola which borrowed against future oil output, however. It is sending more and more barrels to China to pay debts, leaving little to sell to fund normal government expenditure. This has led to budget cuts, and contributed to a rise in communicable disease in the capital Luanda. It might also have something to do with Angola’s long serving president announcing that he will retire in 2018.

East Africa’s clothes dilemma. Countries in the East African Community are proposing to ban second-hand clothes and shoes – most of which come from Europe and the United States of America – apparently to boost local manufacturers. The ban probably won’t work if implemented, and might benefit Chinese manufacturers more than it benefits East African manufacturers.

Ghana wants to limit cement imports. It produces more cement locally than it uses, but still manages to attract cement imports. This has led to complaints from local producers who say foreign competition is destroying them. As a result, the Ghanaian government has tabled a bill in Parliament to limit cement imports, most of which come from Nigeria and China.

A tough sentence for poachers in Tanzania. A magistrate’s court handed out one of Tanzania’s toughest anti-poaching sentences to two men arrested with elephant tusks in 2013. The two, who also happen to be Chinese nationals, entered Tanzania in 2010 and pretended they were garlic importers. They were arrested with 702 tusks, which translates to about 226 dead elephants. They were each sentenced to either 30 years in prison or a fine of $49.7 million.

Obama’s exotic preferences. The American president is “unromantic” about Europe, and is instead more enthused about South East Asia and Africa. Obama, in a wide-ranging interview about his foreign policy, stresses that the two regions are more integral to America’s future than the Middle East, which has occupied America’s attention for the last few decades.

Raymond Mpubani

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