LOS ANGELES, April 4, 2013 — China’s extensive investment in Africa is starting to raise concerns from residents of the continent. Many Africans accuse China of exploiting the naturally endowed, but poverty stricken, continent with little concern for Africa or the destruction China leaves behind.
In Africa, some nations have moved to block the voracious raw material quest by international companies.
In the past weeks, the mineral rich country of Zambia revoked the mining license of a Chinese run coal mine near Lusaka, the capitol of Zambia. The southern African nation’s decision against the Collum sparked angry reactions from the Asian giant, but Zambia maintains its position, citing the prevalent unfairness to the sector from the Chinese investors.
“The owners of this mine are embarrassing the profession. They are also embarrassing the Chinese government who sent them here,” Zambia’s Mines and Mineral Development minister, Wylbur Simuusa, said.
In Zambia, the Chinese mining companies have often been accused of deviating from their contractual obligations and showing a disregard of the country’s laws. The direct exploitation of workers has often sparked uprisings, sometimes ending in bloodshed.
In a 2010 faceoff, the Chinese mine managers were accused of shooting directly at demonstrators and killing two. Last August, a Chinese manager lost his life in a conflict over mining.
As for the ill-fated Collum mine, the Mines and Minerals Ministry maintains that “the safety [and] environmental protection” were inadequate due to the incompetent management of the Chinese firm.
There were no emergency medical treatment facilities, such as ambulances and underground first aid stations for workers, at the mine.
However, the largest transgression by the mine was the failure to declare the mineral production, as required by Zambia law.
Zambia does not have the capability to develop the mines themselves. They are forced to depend on other partners to do so, while using the taxes and royalties from these ventures to tackle the looming unemployment and insufficient infrastructure.
While western corporations have been accused of bribery to gain access to African minerals, China uses other sophisticated methods to secure its position. For example, in Tanzania, China is investing in a $10 billion port, Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo will be able to handle 6,000 to 10,000 containers at a time, making it the country’s largest port.The Government o Tanzania sees the port development as important for the country, and welcomes the Chinese, who also gain entry to other projects in the country. The new port, of course, will also facilitate exports from Chinese-owned mines to China and other end users.
In some African countries, locals are expressing mixed feelings over the fact that the exploration of resources appears to so dramatically favor the Chinese.
“We have given them the go ahead to come and help us exploit our resources. Personally, I am not impressed by huge investments to exploit Tanzania’s resources, when the education sector is in shambles and it can’t produce adequate skilled labor to run such enterprises. Somebody should tell our bureaucrats that China is where it is today because it took education and skills development very seriously,” remarked Saumu Jumanne, a lecturer at Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam University College of Education.
For Africans, the cost of China’s investment may become too high.
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