As China becomes more heavily involved in the business and affairs of Africa, push back is inevitable—coming in the form of African commentators and observers wondering if China is getting by far the better deal in its business arrangements with countries like Nigeria.
In fact, in a piece in the Financial Times reprinted on AllAfrica.com, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the governor of Nigeria Central Bank, suggests that the imbalance in Nigerian trade with China is a new form of colonialism.
“So China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones,” Sanusi wrote. “This was also the essence of colonialism. The British went to Africa and India to secure raw materials and markets. Africa is now willingly opening itself up to a new form of imperialism.
“African nations will not develop by selling commodities to Europe, America and China,” he continued. “We may not be able to compete immediately in selling manufactured goods to Europe. But in the short term, with the right infrastructure, we have a huge domestic market. Here, we must see China for what it is: a competitor. . . Africa must recognize that China – like the US, Russia, Britain, Brazil and the rest – is in Africa not for African interests, but its own.”
But the Director-General of the Department of African Affairs in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lu Shaye, struck back in Beijing, saying the Chinese government was not to blame for the de-industrialization and less developed state of African countries. In an impromptu news conference with African journalists in Beijing for the Forum on Chinese Business in Africa, Shaye said this belief was a result of Western media hype.
Shaye said most of the countries in the world that have trade relations with Africa were practicing colonialism.
“African countries are purchasing energy, minerals and other primary products from other countries who also sell their own manufactured goods to the African market,” he said.
Even when “African countries think they are independent, their economic life lines are still controlled by the previous colonial powers,” Shaye said.
“The de-industrialization of Africa is not as a result of China’s activities on the continent. It happened long before African countries began enhanced trade relations with China. It would be recalled that in the 80s and 90s, some western international financial institutions cajoled Africa into adjusting some of its economic structure and privatization of some of its policies which led to the decline of industries in Africa,” he added.
He also said China would assist Nigeria in fighting against terrorist groups like Boko Haram.
“As long as the Nigerian government raise their request, we will provide our support. This is undoubted,” Shaye said.
“While the Chinese government would not want to meddle in the internal affairs of Nigeria, they won’t stand by and watch terrorism destroy the relationship both countries had built over the years, especially considering the fact that our biggest market in Africa is in Nigeria. We are aware of the implication of this,” he added.