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October 4, 2015

China-Africa news: More aid for Africa, ivory ban, Niger refinery

More Chinese peacekeepers and money to poorest countries. Xi Jinping used his speech at the UN General Assembly to announce commitments that have been interpreted as a play for global prestige. It will commit 8000 peacekeepers to the United Nations, contribute $100 million to the African Union for an emergency-response unit, and donate $1 billion to a UN "peace and development fund."  Xi Jinping also said China will increase its aid to developing countries, forgive some debts, and help poorer countries combat the effects of climate change.

China and the US sign agreement on ivory. China is by far the largest consumer of ivory - its voracious appetite for the product has been blamed for the unsustainable deaths of African elephants - with the US coming second. The two countries said "said they would enact a nearly complete ban on the import and export of ivory." No timelines were given.

Two tales of Chinese aid. Ethiopia and Nigeria both borrowed roughly the same amounts of money from China for massive infrastructure investments. Ethiopia ($475) wanted to transform its capital’s transit system with a light rail system ($475m), which it recently launched. Nigeria ($470m) was aiming at boosting security in its capital by installing CCTV cameras; the project flopped. Nigerians on Twitter were not too pleased when Ethiopia launched its light rail system.

Can African elites change the way the continent looks at China? The recent China-Africa Think Tanks Forum in Pretoria is an attempt by China to influence Africa's academic elite and opinion leaders. China is aware of its soft power deficit in Africa - which it blames on Africa's colonial history - and the forum, which it funds, is one of the efforts it is undertaking to shape how African elites perceive the country.

Railway managers admit bribing Kenyan officials. Two managers with the China Road and Bridge Corporation pled guilty to bribing Kenyan road officials. They were freed after paying a $3500 fine.

The troubling questions behind a refinery closure in Niger. One of Niger's most important pieces of structure, an oil refinery, is controlled by a Chinese firm, which also controls the pipeline connecting the refinery to oil fields. The refinery was shut down in August over suspected defaults by the Nigerien government. China's control over the refinery and pipeline is just one example of a number of stilted arrangements between Chinese companies and the Nigerien government, leaving the later relatively powerless in its own territory.

The Chinese company that defied Ebola hysteria. While other foreign companies were abandoning the western African countries hit by an Ebola outbreak last year, China International Water & Electric Corp. completed a dam on budget and a year ahead of schedule. The dam is in Guinea, where the London-based Rio Tinto Plc and Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal SA paused projects at the height of the outbreak.

Zambian MP gets emotional over non-expatriate Chinese. Chinese migrants caused a disagreement in Zambia's Parliament, with the Home Affairs minister having to counter an opposition parliamentarian who said he had seen Chinese people “selling vegetables, roasted maize and pushing a wheelbarrow by the roadside and [yet] called themselves investors.” The minister said the MP should be grateful that China was investing in the country. Anti-Chinese sentiment has in the past blown over in the country, fanned by politicians.

A Chinese firm will build roads in Zambia's most important province. China Henan International Cooperation was awarded a $492 million contract to build 06 kilometres of urban roads in Zambia’s Copperbelt region. A government official also said a Chinese firm won the tender to migrate Zambia to digital broadcasting.

Meanwhile, Zambia is in the process of “including Chinese onto the national curriculum."

First phase of South Africa's $6.4 billion city complete. The project is being undertaken by China's Shanghai Zendai Property, and is expected to be complete in 15 years. It will include "offices, a light industry park, housing for 100,000 people, schools and entertainment centres."

China's stereotypes of Africa mapped. Africa is a continent of fast runners (Kenya), Ebola (Sierra Leone), beautiful women (Eritrea), and also has countries with "so many white people" (South Africa). A sore point, however: why is Egypt more ancient than China?

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