China’s debts and investments in the African continent have been turning sour. Chinese ambitions of colonising the continent too, as a consequence, are taking a massive drubbing. For quite a long time now, China has been behaving like a power that owns Africa and all its resources. Having debt trapped countries, the red rogue nation has been looking to seize control over their strategic assets, with the ultimate goal of establishing bases for itself across the continent. China has been pursuing a neo-colonial agenda for quite some time, but countries of Africa are now coming together to kick China out of the continent.
According to the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies’ China-Africa Research Initiative, between 2000 to 2019, China signed 1,141 loan commitments worth $153 billion with the African government and their state-owned enterprises. Unlike previous instances, when solitary countries would take action against Chinese interests, investments and projects in their territories, the African Union seems to be rising as one now to hurt China.
According to a report by The Singapore Post, China is increasingly finding itself being cornered by African countries on investment-related matters with some of them cancelling contracts with Chinese companies as their “shoddy” work has become a source of tension for the ruling dispensations in several nations across the continent.
Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Kenya have begun cancelling Chinese projects, and Beijing is practically running helter-skelter for cover, as its expansionist dreams get jeopardised by African nations despite it having crushed them under the weight of massive debts. Meanwhile, a coup in Guinea threatens to bring China’s aluminium industry to a standstill.
China accounts for 16 per cent of Guinea’s exports. China relies on Guinea for more than half of its total bauxite imports needed to produce aluminium. Guinea is one of just 15 African countries that have a trade surplus with China. So, China has really come to fear the emergence of military rule in the African country, and it would not be hyperbole to suggest that the fate of China’s aluminium manufacturing industry rests in the hands of one African nation now.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
In 2008, the then Congo President Joseph Kabila, who remained in power until 2019 had signed deals with Chinese state-backed firms Sinohydro Corp and China Railway Group. Under Xi Jinping’s exploitative Belt and Road Initiative, these Chinese companies were supposed to build roads, hospitals and bridges in the Congo. In exchange, China would receive a majority 68 per cent stake in the country’s Sicomines venture, allowing it to extract minerals out of DRC as it fancies.
According to The Singapore Post, while Chinese companies got busy in the extraction of minerals from Congo’s mines almost immediately after signing the agreement in 2008, they did little to complete their end of the deal – which was to develop Congo by building infrastructure. So, the people of Congo protested against the Chinese presence in their country, and called on their current President – Felix Tshisekedi to kick China out of the DRC.
Now, President Felix Tshisekedi has called for a review of mining contracts signed with China in 2008, while also mounting an attack against China’s exploitative tendencies, saying, “Those with whom his country signed contracts are getting richer while DRC people remain poor.”
In Sierra Leone, China was building a $400 million international airport, just outside the country’s capital of Freetown. The construction of the airport was to be completed by 2022. However, in what turned out horribly for China, Sierra Leone has cancelled the airport project in its entirety, with President Julius Maada Bio deeming the project to be ‘unviable’ and pitching for the renovation of the current international airport instead.
In a very bold decision, which has led to China regretting over embarking on an African safari, Ghana has cancelled the contract for China-led Everyway Traffic and Lighting Tech Co Ltd in February. The project was supposed to develop an intelligent traffic management system for the country, apart from also helping improve security in Ghana. But the Ghana government found Everyway Traffic and Lightening Tech’s work not up to any satisfaction and cancelled the project outright.
Meanwhile, Russia’s energy diplomacy in Africa has been going just as planned. Russia has historically made many efforts to help the African Continent overcome its energy deficit. Moscow has inked many nuclear energy agreements with African countries ready to adopt Russian nuclear energy. Among the countries that have transacted with the Russian nuclear energy conglomerate Rosatom is Ghana.
Kenya’s cumulative public debt has ballooned to $65.3 billion, and it is feeling the weight of its financial obligations, particularly servicing the Standard Gauge Railway, or the SGR, loans. The country is spending 40 per cent of tax revenues on servicing public debt. The SGR project was constructed under the Belt and Road Initiative. Last year in July, a Kenyan High Court ordered the cancellation of a $3.2 billion contract between Kenya and China for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway. The court termed the whole project “illegal”.
It must be remembered that the costs of operating the SGR project far outran the revenue collected from it. Essentially, China helped Kenya build a non-performing asset, with the hopes of taking over the strategic Mombasa port in exchange for inevitable loan defaults. In the first year of operation itself, the railway project reported a cumulative loss of $98 million. In such a situation, China was salivating at the prospect of taking over the Mombasa Port. However, the intervention of the Kenyan judiciary sabotaged all of China’s devilish designs.
Countries in Africa are increasingly realising the threats of associating with China and falling prey to its Belt and Road Initiative. Now, despite owing debts to China, African nations are simply showing Beijing the finger.