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China lends Angola $15 bn but creates few jobs

Nigerian military says raze 500 illicit oil refineries
Yenagoa, Nigeria (AFP) March 6, 2011 - Nigeria's military said it destroyed 500 illicit oil refineries dotted along the creeks of the southern Niger Delta in a six-hour weekend raid. Around 100 troops backed by gunboats and helicopters flattened the makeshift refineries in the Mbiama area located in a key oil-producing state of Bayelsa, a spokesman said. "There were over 500 illegal refineries within the area the size of eight football fields," Timothy Antigha said in a phone interview on Sunday.

The military cordoned off the area and set it ablaze. No casualties were reported and no arrests made in what Antigha said was one of the largest raid ever conducted in Bayelsa state. "I believe we destroyed several hundreds of thousands of litres of petroleum products," he said. The "exercise is going to continue as often as possible, so that they would not have freedom of action to continue these illegal activities," said Jarafu Ibrahim, commander of the battalion that razed the refineries, many of which are not more than 40-square-metres each.

Oil theft, known locally as "bunkering" has been reponsible for the majority of oil spills in Nigeria, according to reports. Royal-Dutch group Shell, the oldest operator in Nigeria says 98 percent of oil spilled in the vast wetlands in 2009 was due to vandalism of its pipelines or theft. Nigeria is one of the world's largest oil producers, but the Niger Delta region remains deeply impoverished and badly polluted. Militants claiming to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue and criminal gangs have carried out scores of attacks and some were also suspected to have been involved in other crimes including theft of crude.
by Staff Writers
Luanda (AFP) March 6, 2011
China has extended almost $15 billion in credit to Angola since the African oil giant's civil war, but has struggled to hire trained locals for reconstruction projects, Beijing's ambassador told AFP.

China has taken a keen interest in helping the southern African country rebuild since its 27-year civil war ended in 2002, but details of deals between the two have remained opaque.

In the first official estimate of Chinese lending to Angola, Ambassador Zhang Bolun said that three state banks -- the Export-Import Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and the China Development Bank -- have extended $14.5 billion (10.5 billion euros) in credit to the resource-rich country.

"The total of the credit lines is $14.5 billion if we add up the three credits," Zhang said in an interview.

Angola, which vies with Nigeria for the title of Africa's top oil producer, repays the loans in crude -- guaranteeing the Asian powerhouse access to energy it needs to fuel its growth.

The deals have made Angola China's second-largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia. On Angola's side, they have helped restore road and rail networks and build hospitals, schools and houses.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in 2006 of the relationship, "China needs natural resources and Angola needs development."

But Angolans have criticised Dos Santos' government for allowing Chinese workers to flood the country under loan deals that require Angola to hire Chinese construction companies.

According to the ambassador, some 50 Chinese state-owned firms and 400 private companies are currently in Angola, with 60,000 to 70,000 Chinese expatriates working there -- despite bilateral agreements that say at least 30 percent of the work force on such projects should be Angolan.

"Chinese companies can't employ 30 percent Angolans. It's impossible, it's not realistic," Zhang said.

"In our contracts here, we have a very short time-frame and a high requirement for quality. The majority of Angolans can't satisfy that demand."

But Angolans have also criticised the quality of some Chinese-built projects.

Last July, 150 patients had to be evacuated from a brand new hospital in the capital, Luanda, after giant cracks were discovered in the walls.

But Zhang said the problem was again the lack of a trained work force in Angola to manage projects after completion.

"Chinese companies build the projects and hand them over. The distribution, the administration, all that is on the Angolan side. It's not the company's responsibility," he said.

The countries do not currently have a technical training agreement, he added.

China has resisted handing over some infrastructure projects out of concern that Angolans would not be able to manage them.

"There are essential elements that they can't manage well, it has to be the Chinese. It's a very big problem," Zhang said.

He cited as an example four stadiums that Chinese firms built for the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament last year.

"We can't hand them over to the Angolans," he said. "Take November 11 Stadium in Luanda: the Angolans don't use this stadium much. And there's a lot of equipment inside. Without monitoring, it will all be stolen. But Chinese companies send employees and technicians to care for the stadiums."

But the problem goes deeper than football stadiums. Zhang said the lack of qualified professionals threatens to undermine Angola's efforts to rebuild itself.

"Now they have schools but lack teachers. They have hospitals but no doctors," he said.

"If there are no executives, if there are no doctors and teachers, then who are all these schools and hospitals being built for?"

earlier related report
Mozambique police deny Swazi arms shipment report
Maputo (AFP) March 5, 2011 - Mozambican police denied Saturday that Swaziland tried to import two containers of arms through Mozambique, after Swazi dissidents accused the neighbouring country of aiding "a possible bloodbath."

An investigation "concluded that the containers had domestic utensils and plastic objects," national police media officer Raul Freia told AFP, adding that the containers had come from Iran.

Mozambican state newspaper Noticias on Friday said Swaziland attempted to import the two containers of firearms through the port in the capital city, Maputo, quoting an unnamed police source.

Police chief Jorge Khalau and spokesman Pedro Cossa had earlier declined to comment.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network, an organisation based in South Africa that often speaks out against the regime of Swazi King Mswati III, criticised the Mozambican government following the report.

"It is terribly insensitive of the government of Mozambique to aid a possible bloodbath in its neighbouring country," the organisation said in a statement.

"There ought to be an arms embargo against Swaziland until it yields to the demands for a multi-party democracy."

Swaziland has reportedly had trouble importing arms in the past because of concerns about how Africa's last absolute monarchy would use the weapons.

In December 2008, Britain blocked a Swazi move to buy arms worth $60 million (43 million euros) from a British company over "end-use concerns," according to a US embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks.

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Mozambique police deny Swazi arms shipment report
Maputo (AFP) March 5, 2011
Mozambican police denied Saturday that Swaziland tried to import two containers of arms through Mozambique, after Swazi dissidents accused the neighbouring country of aiding "a possible bloodbath." An investigation "concluded that the containers had domestic utensils and plastic objects," national police media officer Raul Freia told AFP, adding that the containers had come from Iran. Mo ... read more

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