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April 18, 2015

China-Africa in the news: Xenophobia, fake Kente, Kenyan tea, AIIB founding members

Police Officers in South Africa. Security services in the country have struggled to contain attacks on foreign nationals which broke out two weeks ago. Wikimedia Common Photo.

Police Officers in South Africa. Security services in the country have struggled to contain attacks on foreign nationals which broke out two weeks ago. Wikimedia Common Photo.

The anti-foreigner attacks in South Africa have been described as Afrophobia on some forums. This is because the first attacks - about two weeks ago - were made on African immigrants, mainly those from Ethiopia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. However, immigrants from nations outside Africa, especially those from South Asia, have also been attacked this week.

Chinese immigrants have also been attacked, according to the Chinese embassy in South Africa and Chinese media. The embassy made a formal complaint to the South African government over attacks on its nationals, a rare departure from China's non-interference foreign policy. Although no Chinese national has been reported killed in the attacks, the embassy says shops run Chinese nationals have been looted. China News Service - which is owned by the Chinese state - says 40 businesses belonging to Chinese nationals have closed in Durban because of the ongoing xenophobic looting and attacks.

Ghana moves to limit smuggled Chinese textiles. Kente is one of the most iconic Ghanaian products, and has almost always been made in Ghana. That is until Chinese manufacturers decided they wanted in on the action, and started producing cheap and poor quality imitations of the fabric. The cheap Chinese imports have hit Ghanaian manufacturers of the fabric hard, forcing some out of business. However the Ghanaian government is fighting back. It has set up a "taskforce to hunt down the fake textiles and remove them."

China cools on Kenyan tea. Kenyan tea growers are perplexed over a decision by the Chinese government to reject their tea leaves because of their high fluoride content. The new Chinese requirements are all the more surprising since they are not implemented in any of Kenya's traditional tea markets, according to the growers. China exports far more to Kenya than Kenya imports to it, according to a Kenyan Parliamentarian, and hence should not be coming up with such unfamiliar requirements.

South Africa among AIIB founding members. South Africa was among the 57 nations announced by China as founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a China-led initiative that some have interpreted as a competitor to the US-dominated World Bank and Asian Development bank. Egypt is the other African nation among the 57. Like the Quartz headline said, "half of the EU and all of ASEAN are now members of China’s alternative to the World Bank."

Meanwhile, the African Development Bank head, Donald Kaberuka welcomed the AIIB, and said he hopes the two institutions can work together.

Banks woo Chinese business in Africa. In West Africa Societe Generale, headquartered in France, wants to expand its operations to target Chinese businesses and investments in the region. It has appointed Chinese client advisers in Cameroon, Benin, Ghana, and Paris, and says it will increase staff of Chinese origin.  In Namibia, Standard Bank  recently held a networking event for the Chinese business community.

South Africa Airways considers a Chinese fix. Struggling South African Airways is reportedly in negotiations with Air China Ltd. "about a partnership that could see the pair set up new African hubs and even pave the way for the Asian carrier to take a stake in SAA." In December the South African carrier eliminated direct flights to Beijing, opting instead for a code-sharing deal with Air China.

China sends anti-piracy ships to Somalia. Three ships with 800 sailors left Zhoushan in China for the Gulf of Eden where they will conduct anti-piracy patrols. Chinese ships that had been stationed in the area were diverted to Yemen to evacuate Chinese nationals trapped in the fighting there, the first time the Chinese military "rescued foreign nationals from a danger zone".

Brics bank officials to be named. Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa will name representatives to their $50 billion development bank by the end of April, according to Bloomberg. The bank's first president will be nominated by India, while the rest will nominate vice presidents.


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