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May 18, 2016

China-Africa news: Taiwan suspects, Tazara, myths, Nigeria deal

The truth about the Kenya-Taiwan-China deportation controversy. Most of the debate ignited by the deportation of Taiwanese fraud suspects from Kenya to China has focused on the tense relations between Taiwan and China. Additionally, China has been cast as the aggressor and a bully, the argument being it pressured Kenya to deport the suspects to Beijing instead of Taipei. Those narratives have been at the expense of vital facts, Michael Turton writes in The Diplomat. The truth is that fraudsters based in Taiwan have increasingly targeted Chinese citizens, taking advantage of Taipei's relatively weak deterrent measures. The scammers have not only spread out across South East Asia, but have also moved to Africa to escape Chinese pressure.

China to take over Tanzania-Zambia railway. A plan is underway to turn the management of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) to China. Technical teams from Tanzania, Zambia and China are working on the details of the handover, which will essentially privatise the transnational railway and give it a bigger profile in regional trade. Built in the 1970's by China as a gift to Zambia and Tanzania, the railway has failed to live up to its potential, and has been poorly maintained by the two African countries so much that China has had to occasionally dispatch maintenance teams  to service it.

Brexit more harmful to Kenya than China’s economy. The Governor of Kenya's Central Bank believes that Britain's exit from the European Union (Brexit) will be more harmful to Kenya's economy than the slowdown in China. Patrick Njoroge says Kenya has "insurance" for China's economy, while there is no insurance for Brexit and the volatility it could cause.

China deal won’t save Nigeria. Nigeria will still have to devalue its currency, even after signing a currency swap deal with China that it hoped would relieve pressure on the naira and its foreign exchange reserves. President Muhammadu Buhari signed the deal - aimed at encouraging trade with China - with Xi Jinping on his first visit to Beijing in April. But experts believe it will buy Nigeria only a few months of relief before it has to confront its longstanding currency troubles.

These three myths about China in Kenya could as well be three myths about China in Africa. They touch on three sore concerns: China's trade with African countries, employment on Chinese projects and in Chinese-owned companies, and China's investment in natural resources.

Morocco's King was in Beijing. Fifteen public-private partnership agreements between Morocco and China were signed during Mohammed VI's visit. He also announced that Chinese citizens will no longer need a visa to visit Morocco.

The West walks out on Ugandan president. European Union and American envoys walked out of the swearing-in ceremony of Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni. This was after Museveni called the International Criminal Court "a bunch of useless people." The comment, combined with the presence of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir - an indictee of the ICC - led to the envoys walking out in protest, the US State Department told the BBC. China's Xi Jinping was represented by a special envoy, deputy head of the national legislature Yan Junqi; she had also represented China at the swearing-in of Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh a few days earlier. There were no reports of Yan Junqi walking out of the ceremony. The United States and China (and Sudan) are not members of the ICC.

South Africa detains Chinese boats. A Chinese fishing vessel was arrested off the Eastern Cape for being in South African waters illegally. It was one of ten Chinese vessels that had switched off their navigational equipment to avoid detection; the rest got away from South African authorities. The vessels were sailing from China to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they have a permit to fish.

A Chinese company is building an optical fibre manufacturing plant in South Africa's Kwa-Zulu Natal Province. The company aims to supply cable and fibre-to-the-home solutions to telecom companies operating in Africa. The plant will become operational at the start of 2017.

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