The choice of words by Foreign Policy is very telling. “Over-the-top headquarters”, the magazine writes. FP is dropping a clear hint: Africans don’t deserve such a modern HQs. Get the drift? Ain’t they supposed to be living on tree tops?
China’s coming into donor status has been unsettling for so-called traditional donors especially because the Chinese are proving they are “doers” not just “talkers”. The money spent on so-called studies to establish that hospitals in Africa don’t work as they should would have modernized or built many new, sophisticated hospital from scratch.
Take any African country and the Chinese are making a rather big development statement. They have no obligation to do so, given our leaders are willing to “sell us on the cheap”. Chinese funds, contractors and, yes, Chinese laborers have transformed not only the AU HQs but major road networks across Addis, Nairobi and Malabo, among other major African cities. In Equatorial Guinea, they have helped transform an entire nation almost overnight; a feat ex-colonial power Spain could not achieve. They have overtaken the debt-burdened, cash strapped Portuguese in the transformation ongoing in Angola.
Unlike the exorbitant, gpod-for-nothing European technical assistance and the cohorts of assistants they have deployed across Africa for at least 50 years; unlike European technical assistants who have assisted themselves to African resources, ensuring that the bulk of aid has been either ineffective or has just been “back to sender”; unlike those technical assistants who rode luxury cars, lived in five-star hotel suits, loitered nightlong with the hottest ladies in town (sometimes underaged, sometimes just ladies of the night); unlike these technical assistants who spotted the best Italian suits even to go into dusty public works sites; unlike them, the Chinese who love in shacks, work ungodly hours… the Chinese are clearly a different breed – and truth be acknowledged- yes, they too have their shortcomings of course.
I’m sure the French technical assistants who never bothered to build a facility like the Madagascar Sports Complex in Yaounde, must be looking at the indoor complex the Chinese built at the entrance to the Briqueterie neighborhood as a bit “over-the-top” for Cameroonians. I remember hearing non-African sports commentators during the 1987 4th All Africa Games in Nairobi describe the Chinese-funded, built and Chinese-gifted Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi as “over-the-top”.
As for Chinese workers developing Africa, we need to blunt any xenophobia on that front. African slave labor (in chains for hundreds of years by the Arabs) laid the foundations of the modern Arab states. Then, African slaves helped build Europe and the USA. Droves of predominantly Mexican labor continue to be at the heart of today’s labor force in the USA. At least the Chinese are not shipping millions of Africans into slavery to help sustain economic growth in China.
Africans are fully capable of finding out and I’m ready to swear they know what is wrong with the current Sino-African cooperation. The reason, I guess they are not complaining as much as Foreign Policy is about the “i
“over-the-top” Chinese “gifts” is that Africans know how much worse the alternatives are or have been.