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October 18, 2015

China-Africa news: FOCAC roundtable, ivory, farmland

The China-Africa Reporting Project's 'Roundtable 2015: Reporting FOCAC6 - A Turning Point for Africa-China Engagement' will take place on 12 November at the University of the Witwatersrand. The roundtable is happening a month to the Sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) conference (to be held on 4-5 December in Johannesburg), and will bring together international experts and journalists to analyse the public policy dimensions of the Focac conference, as well as reporting strategies for covering the conference. We welcomes those interested in attending the roundtable. They can register on our blog.

We also launched a new website on reporting FOCAC6. The website is a collaboration between the Project and the China in Africa Project. The site contains background on China-Africa (China-Africa myths, China-Africa relations, Chinese media in Africa), resources for reporters covering the conference (audio guides and key themes), and online resources (China-Africa Twitter list, books, documents and sites). There is also a Chinese language version of the website.

Tanzania arrested suspected ivory kingpin. A Chinese woman nicknamed 'The Queen of Ivory' for her role in the illegal ivory trade was arrested in Tanzania. She is alleged to have “operated in Tanzania for 14 years as the main link between poachers and international buyers." She speaks Swahili, having lived in Tanzania since the 1970s, and owns a popular Chinese restaurant in Dar es Salaam.

China does not own as much farmland in Africa as is claimed. Media reports claim that Chinese interests have purchased (six) millions of hectares in African farmland. In a new book, John Hopkins University Professor Deborah Brautigam finds that the actual figure is far lower: 240,000 hectares. This is because some of the announced deals stalled or were scaled back.

Sam Pa falls afoul of China’s authorities. The shadowy Sam Pa, a multinational business empire builder who has signed lucrative deals with several African governments was arrested in Beijing. His arrest is part of an anti-corruption investigation that has also snared Su Shulin, the governor of Fujian Province and a former chairman of state-owned oil group Sinopec.

Where are the local engineers? Top management at a Chinese-funded hydropower project in Uganda is 100% Chinese, while 76% of the engineers are also from China. The situation is not that different at another Chinese-funded hydropower project in the same country. Uganda's Daily Monitor looks at the reasons behind the disparity.

East Africa’s atypical economic relations with China. The China-Africa relationship is not all about African nations exporting raw materials to China. While resource exporters are stumbling because of China's cooling economy, a few countries are benefiting from trade with China, and Chinese investment in their infrastructure and manufacturing.

A smart investment. A Chinese company is planning to build Nairobi's most expensive apartments. It chose a good location: Nairobi is currently experiencing a property boom.

The BRICS cannot replace the US. The BRICS are a thing; they are just not the thing. They are more different than they are similar, their growth has slowed, and they have failed to lead. Therefore, "the international order... needs the US to guide it – with ingenuity, initiative, and stamina – in the direction of peace and prosperity."

China announced a one-year ban on ivory hunting trophies. The ban was probably announced to appease British royals, considering their stance on ivory; China's president will arrive in Britain on 19 October for a state visit.

Increased aid commitments a hard sell in China. China's president recently announced aid commitments worth billions of dollars to the world's poorest countries. While the announcement was greeted positively by the intended recipients, Chinese people were not so enthused: "most of the criticism... originates from the question of whether China, as a developing country itself, should provide such large foreign aid packages."

Chinese, Russian, and Korean fishermen operating illegally in W Africa. Mauritian fishermen off the West African coast have seen their catches dwindle over the years. This has forced them further into the Atlantic, where their small boats risk colliding with the larger boats that have caused their problem in the first place. Meagre stocks in their waters have pushed boats from China, Russia, and South Korea to the West African coast, where they are operating illegally.

African admirers of China’s model. Ethiopia has embraced China's state-led economic model and seems to be doing certain things right (along with crushing internal dissent, like China, some might say).  The governments of South Africa and Tanzania have also made explicit their admiration of China's development model. Will other African countries follow suit?

Construction on a new port on the Tanzanian coast has started. Tanzania says the port will be the biggest in East Africa once complete in two years’ time. A government-owned Chinese investment firm is paying for the $11 billion project.

Will renewable energy solve Zimbabwe’s energy woes? Zimbabwe needs about 2,200 megawatts of electricity at peak consumption, but is currently generating below 1000 megawatts. The country has pinned its hopes on Chinese investments in the renewable energy sector.

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