Sunday, May 16, 2010

China Colonialises Ghana over fois gras

As we pulled into the tiny obscured driveway of our favourite restaurant in Ghana the other night for a predictably lovely supper, we were flanked on both sides by two heavily armed, camouflaged soldiers.

We didn’t expect that.

We also didn’t expect the four police cars and long black limos with tinted windows that filled the parking lot with their ominous presence and a disturbing but electric energy. The feeling that something important was about to happen.

As a sliver of gravel was found by the security guards for our car, we emerged hesitantly, and noticed the suited Chinese robot-types standing strategically around the lot. It was like an Asian replica of an American presidential security force.

It turned out that Ghana’s Vice President was meeting some Chinese foreign officials for a discussion over supper, and they happened to have good taste.

They dominated the space and the energy of the evening, as politicians and others with overblown egos tend to do – the entourage on both sides, ensuring their heavy presence was known and felt.

So throughout our supper, between my goat cheese and honey rocket salad and peppery yet creamy Portuguese chicken livers, I pondered the three Chinese guys standing outside, through the window in the front garden.

I thought about what the supper on the other side of the dining room really meant. I wondered what deals were being sealed over Cabernet Sauvignon and sole meuniere. I also thought it strange – important men from two cultures, both with strong and defined cuisines, choosing to dine together in another totally foreign restaurant…

Witnessing that meeting just brought home to me what I’ve been reading about and seeing from afar for years in Ghana – the slow undercurrent of Chinese stronghold in Africa. The new colonization in progress.

I thought it strange, when a few months ago we noticed the team of labourers who were busily erecting the colossal new Ministry of Defense building (funded entirely by a $50m grant from China), in Accra. They were all Chinese! In Ghana! Pushing wheelbarrows and heaving loads of cement.

You had to ask yourself why on earth there would be a need to import unskilled Chinese labourers to do grunt work in a developing country where the unemployment rate hovers around 71%!!!

A few years ago, China fronted $622m for the Bui Dam project in Ghana - and imported 500 workers from China at that time as well.

The stories about China’s extreme generosity toward Africa and specifically Ghana are abounding.

But the real question is what lies behind the grants and loans and projects.

The truth is that China stands to benefit, and indeed is already benefiting far more than Ghana. Government policies are bent and stretched and molded to facilitate China’s aims.

Ghana currently imports more from China than any other country in the world.
“From 2000 to 2008, China’s exports to Ghana increased manifold from $93 million to $1,512 million.” Something like 1500% increase?! I sense a trend here…

In terms of trade, Ghana exports raw materials like cocoa, gold cotton and timber at less than $50m per annum to China, while imports of cheap Chinese electronics, textiles, plastics etc. flood the market and threaten the precarious position of local manufacturers and merchants.

And China’s eye is on the big prize. Oil. China is only second to the USA in terms of oil consumption in the world, and large offshore deposits of oil have been discovered off Ghana’s coast in the past few years… a match made in heaven?

Recently a consortium of Chinese companies (CNOOC) out bid Exxon Mobil for a share in Ghana’s oil exploration. They allegedly added a $2billion concessionary loan to the Ghana Government, to help increase it’s infrastructure in gold exploration.

So they have secured their place and guaranteed China’s position to reap the rewards as the oil starts to flow.

Ghana’s professor George Ayittey, interviewed this week on TV3, warned that:

“Barter deals with China - in which China sets the rules - have a huge potential for graft and corruption. Everybody should be able to see exactly how much Africa is getting from the deal.”

Despite CNOOC’s dismal track record for human rights, environmental protection and general lack of experience, they now have a foothold and Ghana’s new oil business.

I wonder if the Vice President, having shaken hands with his Asian counterparts, then washed his French supper down with the bittersweet wine of his country’s impending colonialization.
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Janet said...

I hear you! This rape is happening all over our continent.

They (East) have used up all their natural resources and now they're after ours - all to sustain unnecessary lifestyles in overpopulated greedy countries. This is fueled and supported by greedy politicians in African countries wanting to sustain their personal unnecessary =over=the-top lifestyles at the expense of their countrymen and their heritage.

The East is funding and stocking the arms for unnecessary wars in Africa in return for our precious natural resources.

Freaks me out!

The pale observer said...

Yes Janet - there is something quite scary about China's involvement since they openly feed the corrupt practices of African dictators...

Alexis said...

I just want to say that although I don't always comment after reading your posts, it always gets me thinking.
Sometimes I just don't know what to say after reading an article like this. You pretty much summed it all up and yes, it is scary.

deb said...

I certainly did not realize it was this huge an issue.
Thanks for bringing it to attention here, and for giving me cause to do some further reading.
It's such a shame.

Heather GG said...

I'm in China, so I'm watching this all from the other end. I fear China's actions in Africa may very well be another form of colonization. The Atlantic just had an interesting article about this:

The pale observer said...

Heather - thanks will go and read the article!

Alexis and Deb - thanks for the comments and yes, there is not as much global coverage of these issues as there should be. But if you Google China Ghana you will see quite a few interesting and worrying articles!

Jingle said...


Kodjo said...

Great post! As troubling as this is, none of it is new. China has just found an "in-your-face" way of doing what the West has been doing since African countries became "independent" in the 60s.

Anonymous said...

Holli, this is a very good post. I am glad you were able to shed light on the shadowy deals China is cutting all over the African continent. In your case you were almost a witness to the gross and blatant way these guys are throwing their weight about in Ghana. Unfortunately and unbeknowest to the greed infested power houses of the African political elite, China has a major and far reaching global agenda. Unlike the West, thay totally have a blind spot to corruption as long as its interests are being met. Beijing's game is about global dominance and the utilization of any and all resources to get there; minerals, oil, food etc etc. China has a silent media at home and very few international media are exposing China's "International Business Methods" (IBM) from Argentina to Zambia. The Red Empire's business dealings in Africa and elsewhere is almost like that of the Marfia; no doubt. Their contracts are a sweet deal for Africa's politicians, but the truth is that very soon they will have to "pay the piper". When the pretences are over, Africa will know that China is not "Mr. Nice" after all.
Holli, obo moden waa!

Expat mum said...

I was at a round table discussion this morning with the Ghanaian Ambassador to the US. He was talking about his efforts to get the US and other western countries to invest in Ghana. The impression I got was that Ghana is very worried about the oil discovery being a curse instead of a blessing, and he very much implied that they wanted more countries than just China to get involved. Very interesting.

Steve Finnell said...

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The pale observer said...

Expat Mum - interesting that you were at a roundtable discussion with the Ghanaian Ambassador! I'm sure I would have ahd a few questions for him and a few comments on how things are being run here.

Already there are signs that the oil is being dealt with as it has been in Nigeria as opposed to the Middle East... bad bad news I'm afraid.

Pauline said...

Hi, I have written a lot about China-Africa and I have a feeling the issue is much more a western preoccupation than an african one.
To answer the question why Chinese companies use Chinese laborers: because they are prisoners sent by the government.
Now, how come France staued silent when president Tandja of Niger shoved all democratic instituions aside to stay in power? Well, because a French company is mining uranium there, ofcourse.
And why has the West been turning a blind eye to the brutal rule of Obiang in Equatorial Guinea? Because the US is getting its oil from there.
These are just two examples to show that what China is doing, is not different or new.
The real question is: are African governments putting regulation in place to make sure trade is conducted on an equal footing? Have they devised policies to make sure the populations in Africa will benefit from China's involvement?

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