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May 17, 2015

China-Africa in the news: Zuma on China, Zambia’s arms deal, Mandarin in Zim schools, Chinese textiles in Nigeria, West Africa’s iron mines

President Jacob Zuma at the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, Russia. Photo: GCIS

President Jacob Zuma in Russia at the Victory Day celebrations. Photo: GCIS

The West still regards Africa as "the third world," South Africa's president Jacob Zuma told Russian television network RT, and sees its relationship to the continent as one of former master-former subject. The same perspective informs economic relations between the West and Africa, resulting in an exploitative relationships, according to Zuma. He says: "Their intention has never been to make the former colonial countries develop."

President Zuma contrasts this relationship with the one between China and Africa. “The Chinese come differently. They come to do business with us. They are ready to help… The results would be that African countries will be empowered." Whereas China is financing the construction of railways and roads - through loans - the colonialists “only built roads from mining areas to harbours.”

The South African president's sentiments about the West also extend to western-led multilateral organisations. “It’s very difficult to pinpoint the real exemplary kind of delivery by these institutions,” Zuma says. He believes they have got Africa "into more difficulties." South Africa is a founding member of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Brics Bank which, according to Zuma, are "going to operate differently." Zuma was in Moscow as a guest at the 9 May military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany. China's president Xi Jinping was also at the parade.

Zambia’s ‘secret’ arms deal. Police in Zambia is investigating how a private newspaper, The Post, came to acquire a letter from the Ministry of Finance containing information about a $193 million arms loan from Poly Technologies, a Chinese state-owned defence contractor. Zambia's president says the loan is a matter of national security and should have been kept secret.

Four Chinese arrested in Nigeria for importing contraband. Nigerian police accuses the four for "illegally importing contraband and sub-substandard textile materials running into several billions of Naira." It says 20 warehouses in Kano were discovered to be storing the material. There was also a demonstration in the same city this week against "the importation of Chinese textile and engagement of the expatriates in retail sale of fabrics in Kano Market."

China-Equatorial Guinea relations. Africa Brains breaks down the agreements signed between Equatorial Guinea and China, the largest of which was a $2 billion deal with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The Central African country, which depends on crude oil and petroleum gas for 95% of its export revenue, "signed several agreements with Chinese companies to increase generation of electrical power and develop its industrial sector, a key goal of the government’s plan to diversify its economy."

Zimbabwe mandates Mandarin in schools. The education ministry in Zimbabwe says Mandarin, Swahili, French and Portuguese are to be made compulsory in primary and secondary schools under a new curriculum. The practicality of the proposal was however called into question: the Zimbabwe government struggles to pay civil servants, and might not have funding for the plan.

Iron mines in West Africa look to China. The fall in global iron prices has hit the mining industry in Sierra Leone and other West African nations hard. Sierra Leone's economy, for example, will contract by 12.8% this year because of the low prices, according to the International Monetary Fund. The industry is dormant, offering little incentive to developers and financiers in the West. However, there is hope that Chinese companies might resuscitate some projects.

A Chinese consortium is at the centre of a hospital project row in Kenya. The row involves the Kenya Deputy President, William Ruto, and a businessman who claims he had identified two Chinese companies - China Wu Yi, and China Machinery and Engineering Corporation - to upgrade the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. The project however fell through, and the government elected to build a new and more expensive hospital, which Ruto apparently championed. The businessman claims associates of the deputy president had earlier asked him to surrender 50% of his commission from the Chinese consortium so the first project could sail through.

ZTE to manage MTN's mobile networks in Uganda. Engineers working for MTN Uganda hired a lawyer to negotiate their transfer between the two companies. They say the Chinese telecommunications company might offer them worse terms or lay off some of them. ZTE was awarded the contract in February.

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