Monday, May 05, 2008

Africa and China

from the African executive

The economic fundamentals of doing business with China are beyond reproach. Between 2002-2006, Sino-African trade rose from $ 12 billion to $ 40 billion,...

China’s cosy relationship with African autocracts holds. While Africans generally welcome China's pragmatic, no-nonsense approach to doing business, loud alarm bells go off where this business includes arms deals to the likes of Robert Mugabe. Many Africans, myself included, salute without reservation the role played by iconic freedom fighters in ridding the Continent of colonialism, apartheid and other such perverted ideological imports. Alas, how quickly the heroes of yesteryear metamorphosize into inglorious villains !

Africans expect African leadership to respond vigorously and resolutely when it comes to defending African strategic interests. Outsourcing this sacrosanct responsibility to our so-called development partners, the amorphous ‘international community’ or ‘Africa experts’ in the West simply doesn’t cut it. This only serves to reinforce the stereotype that Africans are weak and vulnerable, and need to be spoken for.

Levy Mwanawasa deserves credit for mobilizing and instigating African leadership to refuse the ship entry. Pressure from Zambia and Mozambique, as well as concerted efforts from civil society groups, succeeded in sending the ship packing. Sustained, decisive leadership will be necessary as Africa responds to the next crisis. This is unlikely to be the last time a ship full of arms attempts a dubious docking in an African country rocked by political turbulence. Lest we forget, all the permanent members of the UN Security Council are major weapons producers, with an illustrious track record of supplying arms to Africa.

The next questionable consignment that arrives on African high waters, be it Chinese or otherwise, should be rejected out of hand. At this crucial juncture in its development trajectory, Africa needs less arms (and alms) and more trade.


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