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Chinafrica : Honeymoon Over.

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Victoria MADONNA

China and Africa: the Honeymoon is Over. 07/2015






For the new geopolitical reality called « Chinafrica », the future may not be destined to be as radiant as the official win-win rhetoric would have us believe.

In 2008 two Chinese were killed in Equatorial Guinea by Guinean workers protesting against their working conditions. This incident occurred because the Chinese workers refused to stop work and take part in protest. In 2012, the manager of a Chinese coal mine in southern Zambia was killed by two Zambian miners. More recently, in 2014, two people were killed and nine others wounded in Madagascar during clashes between the Chinese managers of a sugar factory and their Madagascan employees.

Chinese goods are being imported on a massive scale at rock-bottom prices, and the Chinese workforce has arrived… This translates into very strong competition from Chinese goods on the domestic market, exemplified by the presence of Chinese shopkeepers even in rural areas of the smallest countries in the continent.

Chinese penetration of the African retail sector is feeding anti-chinese feeling among the population. In 2009, in the eastern suburbs of Algiers, clashes between Chinese and Algerian shopkeepers resulted in several shops being trashed.

In several African countries the anti-Chinese feeling has forced the government to react, and in Zambia it even contributed to Michel Santa’s election as President, since his condemnation of the working conditions for Zambian miners in the Chinese mines became one of the main themes of his campaign.

A wave of legislation regulating foreign workers is being developed in Africa in response to the influx of Chinese migrant workers.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo a law was adopted banning foreigners from working in retail. In Malawi foreign shopkeepers are now obliged to leave rural areas and, henceforth, must conduct their business in one of the country’s four largest cities.

The critical volte-face by certain African governments also extends to mining and oil contracts, which are now being minutely examined. In Gabon in 2013, the State decided to withdraw Addax’s oil production rights, accusing the company of tax fraud and of breaching environmental standards.