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Why Africa Likes China, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two part series. Find a link to Part 1 at the bottom of this article in the Related Articles box.

Margaret Gangte

Sense of Security: The Chinese systemically infused psychological security to the insecure Africans who felt exploited under colonialism and new imperialism. The incentive schemes are in the form of charity, donations in social sectors and write off loans in billions to help them from future debt traps. Their greatest appeal lies in the unconditional aid and in following a policy of political non interference. The crumbling walls exhibited in the media at best stirred a mixed feeling, perhaps insufficient to shake the relationship. That is the ‘trust’ which the world is admiring now and some would even wish to contest it.

The lesson clearly is about focusing on the objective and designing the plan and activities to achieve that objective guided by the principle of providing what people actually need most. If the need is bread, do not give dress or shoes which cannot satisfy the immediate hunger. And give the help unsparingly without subjecting the hungry man to learn complicated table manners to eat the bread. The traditional aid was offered with conditions to learn the table manners first and create a cozy environment palatable to developed country standard. The recipients were made to believe that unless the table manners are learned and the setting done based on Western notions, the consumption of the aid will produce no tangible results.

This approach may help some countries with established systems but it stressed and strained many countries with very low capacity and worsened their situations. The intended Samaritan help ended in frustrating the recipients only to downgrade the trust level. In that process, the outcome had neither satisfied the hunger nor were the governance techniques adapted well. The Chinese reverse the approach with clear business agenda and their success is looked upon with mixed feelings of admiration and criticism on the lack of concerns on social outcomes.

The Speculation: While the aid flow may increase or decrease from traditional donors and the delivery improve or not, the concern is on the new donors’ unilateral approach, which marked a distinct departure from the traditional aid donors approach of operating within a multilateral and bilateral framework. This new development challenges the present structure of aid flow led by the western power block along-with associated aid principles and management. The entry of the new donors like China and India is changing the international aid structure. It is challenging vehemently more than before the traditional theory of development and change based on western model and idea.

The changing paradigm in the aid structure questions the future role of traditional and new donors including private sectors and NGOs. It warns the traditional donors of the new power lobby for their new found independent rights to administer their respective aids outside the agreed principles and objectives as members of the UN, World Bank, WTO etc. It speculates the role of the new donors to global challenges and crisis and conversely; it questions the role of the traditional donors in responding to these changes in development international forums. Can the new donors, including China, justify freedom of operation as a next step in capitalism advocating a highly individualistic approach for which the West has been criticized? Will this chaos be resolved through storming, norming and forming a converging point for a new global order or is this a prelude to the dreaded anarchy to replicate history for Africa?

Wisdom of Choice: Amidst the many unanswered questions, the relations between the richest continent and the fastest rising nation of the world seemed unperturbed by the ruffles around. Decades of oppression under abject poverty, neglect and deprivation has driven Africa to accept the bread and other related offers from China. They have not prioritized accountability in their agenda at present due to their current preoccupation for satisfying their core needs first.

Whether these offers help or exploit, as long as the African citizens are not emerging as a strong force for voicing accountability (as happened in India), the democratic process will remain tardy and the institution incapable of fixing accountability. The endemic corruption will continue to weaken capacity and dilute ownership of development process. If it is feared that the Chinese may opiate the Africans in order to disabled them from making good choices, the West, in exercise of moral and social responsibility, can infuse moral virtues, ethics and principles demonstrated by examples, build the capacity of institutions and leadership to reduce dependency and increase the aid towards green projects to bring out the best of Africa.

The guiding principle for all to help this continent ought to be based on ‘enabling and empowering’ the Africans to realize their full potentials so that they can use the potentials to make good choices. The resource box for Africa needs positive inputs to produce the desired outputs and outcomes. The truth is that the Africans are presently happy with the Chinese project development and management.

ASPA member Margaret Gangte is deputy
financial advisor for the Ministry of Defense of the Government of
India. Email: [email protected]

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