Fri 17 Sep 2010
The BBC has a remarkably feel-good story about Angola’s newly-refurbished Luanda-Malange train route. While I love positive stories about Africa in any media – if for no other reason than to offset the over-reporting on conflict and poverty – this story completely misses the important point here. This line was refurbished through Chinese financing . . . despite the fact Angola cannot really pay the bill. The story intimates that China was somehow surprised or dismayed at the non-payment, and held up the opening of the line until they were paid. Really? Anyone who has been paying attention to the growing Chinese presence in sub-Saharan Africa will find this storyline borderline hilarious. The Chinese simply don’t care all that much about getting paid now. Their interest is in the rich agricultural areas around Malange, and securing reliable transportation routes in and out to enable the movement of agricultural goods from this area to future Chinese markets. In other words, they will get theirs later – this is an investment, not a repayable loan. The new scramble for Africa has been on for nearly a decade, but nobody seems to be paying attention except the rank-and-file Africans, who grow more leery of this sort of thing all the time. At what point will the US or another power step in to try to counterbalance the massive growth of Chinese influence in Africa?