Analysts See African Backlash Against China

    20 June, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

    Ghana arrested more than 100 Chinese nationals this month, they were accused of illegally mining gold.  In February, Zambia seized a Chinese mine because of safety concerns. And Gabon is set to seize property from three foreign oil companies - including one from China.

    Some observers say these and other incidents appear to be part of reaction by African government against Chinese investment on the continent. China became Africa’s top trade partner in 2009. Yet some Africans believe they are exporting valuable resources to China but not getting enough in return.

    Bright Simons is the director of development research with the IMANI group. He says China is no longer known only for giving loans and sending workers to build hospitals and roads. He says China is now a business partner.

    "My view is that it has just gone to another phase, a more mature phase, where Africans are much more sober about what it will take to engage China on a level playing field."

    Ghana has taken steps against foreigners involved in small-scale gold mining, also called "shallow mining."  Only Ghanaians can get government approval for this kind of mining. Bright Simons says Ghanaians then "rent" the permits to foreigners who have the money and training to actually get the gold.

    Observers say nations like Niger and Gabon, just want to get more for their natural resources - more money for the state, more local jobs and better living conditions. Worldwide demand for oil, coal, iron ore and uranium has made their negotiation position stronger. Some nations are also concerned about abusive or illegal operations.

    Ben Payton is an Africa expert for the risk study group Maplecroft, he says ties between China and African governments are for the most part "very good and getting stronger." But he says the reported poor treatment of local workers by Chinese businesses could test those relations.
    "In places like Zambia, like Ghana, there’s a lot of resentment towards the Chinese and a lot of pressure on the government to avoid granting concessions to Chinese companies. In the longer term, pressure from below really is going to be the challenge for the China-Africa relationship."

    He says African nations are limiting the number of foreign employees and demanding that investors process natural resources locally. In Gabon, the government says it is planning not to extend operating promises for oil fields held by three companies, including Addax, which is part of China’s Sinopec. The government blames Addax for reducing Gabon’s cut of the profits. Addax has denied this.

    Ben Payton says this dispute shows Gabon’s desire to get more from its own natural resources. Despite the recent problems, most experts believe the partnership between China and African will grow - but perhaps on more equal terms.

    And that’s the Economics Report, I’m Christopher Cruise.