Yes, days of outsiders taking our wealth for themselves must end
When Bill and Hilary Clinton occupied the White House, the couple made a memorable trip to Africa that emphasized America’s readiness to help Africa increase its share of global trade as a better alternative to aid.
This was not empty talk. Bill had initiated and pushed through new legislation—the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act that gave selected goods from a selected African countries quota and duty free access to the American market. This touched many hearts.
In the last two weeks, the Clintons were again in the continent, but separately. Bill dropped in first through South Africa to follow up on the charitable activities of his foundation. Last week, Hilary entered through Senegal on a security and economic mission.
While Bill’s visit passed quietly, Hilary’s sent shockwaves that were felt as far as China. Like Bill’s, Hilary’s visit to would have ended without any tremors had she not delved in what now appears to be a very sensitive diplomatic issue—the new scramble for Africa’s resources.
While in Senegal where America’s highest diplomat enraged the Chinese government when she insinuated that China is in Africa to promote its own interest.
There couldn’t been any better time than during this tour that also saw her visit Juba, the capital of the oil-rich South Sudan for Clinton to jolt the Chinese. China has big oil interest in the two Sudan.
While she did not mention China, Hilary suggested that the USA is genuine in its relationship with Africa because it seeks to build partnership that adds value to the continent, rather than extract from it. The mention that the days when outsiders flocked in to take away Africa’s wealth for themselves must end rubbed the Chinese the wrong way.
They reacted angrily saying Hilary Clinton is either ignorant of the facts on the ground or simply chose to distort them.
“Ironically, it was the Western colonial powers that were exactly the so-called outsiders, which, in Clinton’s words, came and extracted the wealth of Africa for themselves, leaving nothing or very little behind,” China retorted.
Both the Chinese and Hilary have a point. It is true west exploited Africa. Of course not only did they take (and continue taking) raw materials from the continent, they also shipped out young men and women to work in their plantations as slaves. Americans especially benefitted from that free labor from Africa that built their economy into what they now call “the American dream.”
And yes, like the Chinese are saying, they left nothing behind except proxy corrupt and dictatorial regimes through which they would continue stealing from the continent.
That is why, the west supported men like Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire to continue looting the country’s mineral wealth. And having built a system to perpetuate the continent as a source of raw materials for their industries and an importer of finished products, the west continues to grab from the continent even today.
Yet that is not to say that Hilary is wrong to suggest that Chinese interest in Africa have selfish inclinations. China is arguably the fastest growing economy in the world today with a huge demand for energy and other resources like timber and minerals. That is the context within which its interest in Africa should be seen.
It is not an act of charity when the Chinese, for example, build and furnish a magnificent headquarters for the African Union in Addis Ababa. Neither is it charity when they finance big road construction projects. Rather it is an investment meant to endear that country to the continent while at the same time finding work in terms of contracts for Chinese companies in Africa.
That is why today, the most competitive construction firms in Africa are Chinese.
Therefore the difference between China and the west is that the former has given exploitation human face. But still in end, the Chinese too will take from the Africans more than what they will give.
The question now is; are Africans willing to settle for less—just a token from the Chinese because it is better than the “nothing” that the west left behind?
No. I agree with Hilary. Days of outsiders taking Africa’s wealth for themselves should end.