News round-up: 30 May 2013 to 7 June 2013

CAN comment: The detainment of over 100 illegal Chinese gold miners in Ghana this week has caused controversy. Chinese immigrants taking on low-skilled work such as artisanal mining or market trading are very unpopular in Ghana, due to the perception they are taking jobs that should be reserved for Africans. This has put the Chinese government in a difficult position between its own citizens who feel the government should hold Ghana to account for violence committed against Chinese citizens, and the Ghanaian government who want Chinese support to help deport low skilled Chinese immigrants.

CAN comment:  This interesting new study helps to reveal what African civil society think about ‘South-South developent’. The consensus seems to be that China, Brazil, India and South Africa’s cost-effective contributions to basic infrastructure, technology transfer, telecommunication and access to scholarships have been beneficial and that improved access to affordable consumer products was also a plus. The primary concern was the toll on local economies. They felt that lower prices and widespread corruption enable Chinese, Indian and South African companies to undercut local producers and suppliers, forcing them out of the market.

CAN comment: China’s cheap labour and ample labour pool has been its advantage and its undoing in Africa. As the previous article points out the main benefit of China in Africa has been exported consumer goods (cheap labour within China) the construction of infrastructure (and within Africa). However enterprising Chinese traders and migrants have caused tensions in Africa, especially resulting from counterfeit medical goods sold in Africa. For the Chinese government, these counterfeit goods risk undermining the goodwill garnered through aid programs building hospitals and treating people across the continent.

CAN comment: China’s soft power campaign in Africa takes a two pronged approach: education opportunities in Africa and China; and increased access to Chinese media. This article provides some great detail on the positives and negatives of these approaches for Africa, and points out that while Chinese education and media may sometimes come with a rose tinted view of the role of China, it’s no more biased than the Western tinted education and media that scholars may have received otherwise.

CAN comment: Chinese shoe maker Huajian shoes has moved part of its production to Ethiopia in order to benefit from cheaper labour costs, and avoid the difficulties created by the strengthening Chinese renminbi. This is a trend that African leaders should be doing everything they can to encourage. Ethiopia has proved very succesful in building up a thriving shoe manufacture industry. Also in the news this week, another Chinese firm Hisense has opened its plant for the manufacture of electrical goods in South Africa.

CAN comment: Another interesting trend in Africa is the use of Chinese media to launch well reasoned defences of its activities. Once upon a time Chinese media offered bland reporting of government visits and funding promises, but more recent articles provide more nuanced critique of accusations around China’s role. This article queries why so much is made of China’s resource imports from Africa, when developed countries such as the US have just as strong a bias towards importing primary resources from the continent.