by Staff Writers
Lusaka, Zambia (UPI) Jun 22, 2011
China, armed with $3 trillion in foreign reserves, is stepping up its scramble for Africa's mineral riches, including oil, copper and gold, to fuel its ever-expanding economy.
This has alarmed the United States, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning African leaders earlier this month in Lusaka, capital of copper-rich Zambia, of the perils of creeping "new colonialism."
"We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave And when you leave, you don't leave much behind for the people who are there," Clinton said.
"We don't want to see a new colonialism in Africa."
Clinton's unease about China's massive expansion into Africa in recent years, and its "no strings" approach, is also causing unease in Europe, from whence Africa's former colonial masters came.
In a world in which finite resources are dwindling and likely to be the casus belli of future conflicts, China's widening engagement with Africa is increasingly seen as one of the main dynamics shaping the continent.
Clinton's outburst at the Lusaka gathering underlined the tension between the United States and China as the new scramble for Africa opens up.
Washington is having to safeguard U.S. interests in Africa, which are increasingly threatened by the bullish BRIC group -- Brazil, Russia, India and China.
India, Asia's other economic titan, is also flexing its muscles to build a stronger relationship with the continent, for the same reasons as China -- the pressing need for oil and other raw materials vital for its continued growth.
In "Africa: Genuine Partnership or a Marriage of Convenience," a new book on Africa's relationships with the Asian giants, Swedish researchers Fentu Chenu and Cyril Obi observed that these have provided "an alternative to the condition-laden, asymmetrical relations into which African countries had been hitherto locked with their Western trading partners and financial institutions."
For India, "securing cheap energy and other strategic raw materials from the African continent on a long-term basis has become an economic and political imperative," Chenu and Obi noted.
Trade between China and Africa grew from $20 billion in 2001 to more than $120 billion in 2009.
India's trade with Africa, excluding oil, mushroomed from $914 million in 1991 to $25 billion-$30 billion in 2008. India, which imports 70 percent of its oil, is driving to boost trade to $70 billion by 2015.
Direct Chinese investment in Africa has soared from under $500 million in 2003 to more than $9 billion in 2009.
Over the last decade, the Chinese, flush with concessional financing channeled through state enterprises and institutions, have plowed billions of dollars into building roads, bridges, railroads, airports, factories, telecommunications networks and power plants across Africa.
In return, they have secured access to huge markets and vast resources.
"The extremely favorable loan terms that Chinese state banks can offer state companies to help them with their offshore acquisitions have become a sore point for many of the international companies trying to compete for those deals," the Financial Times observed.
"State bank financing flows especially to companies -- particularly state-owned 'national champions' -- that are buying overseas companies in the high-tech, energy, mining and environmental protection sectors."
China regularly asserts that its seemingly insatiable appetite for African oil and minerals is a gross over-simplification of its wide-ranging activities.
But, according to the Financial Times, 89 percent of China's imports from sub-Saharan Africa in 2010 were oil, minerals and other raw materials. The value of these exports has grown at an astonishing pace over the last decade, from $4.2 billion in 2000 to $38 billion in 2009.
Angola and Sudan provide much of the African oil that flows to China. In both countries, state-owned Chinese companies have played a key role in developing their energy sectors since the 1990s.
South Africa, one of Africa's biggest economies, exports ores and precious metals to China, the world's biggest importer of commodities like copper and iron ore.
In May, a Chinese consortium, discreetly owned by the Beijing government, became a majority shareholder in Gold One, an Australian miner whose main asset is in South Africa.
China's latest interest is African coal. Wuhan Iron and Steel is investing heavily in Mozambique's Tete fields.
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World Bank to fund environment projects in Madagascar
Antananarivo (AFP) June 22, 2011
The World Bank said Wednesday it was loaning an extra 52 million dollars (36 million euros) to Madagascar over three years to fund environmental projects despite the unsettled political situation on the Indian Ocean island. "The financing will help boost conservation efforts in 30 national parks and three new protected zones covering a total area of 2.7 million hectares (6.6 million acres), ... read more
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