News round-up: 27 July 2013 to 03 August 2013

CAN comment: This article highlights the apparent risk that African countries have taken by allowing Chinese telecoms provider Huawei to build their communications infrastructure. The article posits that the Chinese government will be able to use in built ‘back doors’ to snoop on Africans. Considering recent revelations in the US about relationships between major US companies and the NSA it seems Africans will have a tough choice to make in deciding who they would prefer spying on them.

CAN comment: Liberian peace keeping and state building has long been a key concern of Western governments in Africa, and President Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia has been held up as an example to other African leaders, by the West. Therefore it is interesting to read here about the role the Chinese have played and continue to play in the UN’s peace keeping mission to the country. While China has its own bilateral relationships it has been taking an increasingly prominent position in multinational bodies.

CAN comment: Unlike in Liberia, China’s close relationship with Zimbabwe is not shared by the West. China’s attitude to the recent elections in the country are instructive in explaining why Africans sometimes prefer China’s ‘non-interference’ to the West’s hectoring. China presents itself as a willing partner happy to work with whoever the people select, while Western countries have made it clear that they do not accept the legitimacy of an election which Mugabe wins. This rankles many Africans who lionize Mugabe for his role in the African independence movement, and resent US and Europeans attempting to influence the result.

CAN comment: This article from China Daily’s new African service interestingly advertises/comments on Foton motors efforts to crack the tractor market in Africa. This is the first example I have seen of China’s increasing media presence directly supporting Chinese firms. Foton has been selling tractors in Sudan and Angola but also providing after-sales services sending technicians out to farms to do training and repairs. One such technician Fan Ziqing said, “The days were scorching hot, and often we didn’t have enough food or water. It was common to work through the night. But the smiles on the farmers’ faces when problems with their equipment were solved drove all the exhaustion away.”

CAN comment: As well as its media presence China  has been devoting effort to cultural and scientific exchanges with Africa. This project supports developing countries in areas of key relevance such as climate, water, biotechnology, green technology and space technology for disaster mitigation. Yongqiang Liu, a meteorologist said of the program, “it is critical to prepare future leaders to lead climate change research for developing countries”.

CAN comment: This story from Uganda involves a Chinese loans company offering to re-finance the debts of a large proportion of Uganda’s MPs, who are on the verge of bankruptcy after taking out loans with local moneylenders.  The money lenders interest rates are at 30% while the Chinese company is offering 6%. However the Ugandan intermediary organizing the deal wants guarantees from government in order to agree the deal, and before revealing the name of the company.

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