Today we witness a big influx of Chinese wares, funds, influence and investments. Most of these are unquestioned and there is simply no peer review of this massive influx of men, money and wares. All across Africa they are snapping up every raw material, paying not as much, investing on infrastructures and slowly warming themselves into the political, social and Business corridors of the various states.
The governments and their acolytes see this as a quick fix for cheap money; thus failing to think through the deals, agreements and concessions. I am not aware of any control mechanism enacted to curb the influx of large sub standard goods and most of them brought in without duties or proper taxation. One then wonders what is going on….
Are we witnessing the next wave of colonialism? This time with the open connivance of our leaders to steal our raw materials, enslave our teeming unemployed populations and in return enriching our leaders, impoverishing the rest of us and flooding our markets with goods that are of no use to us?
I am not against foreign investments. Direct or indirect, but they must be beneficial to us in the long run. Over the years we have fallen prey to various colonisers and thieves… English, French, Arabs, Indians, Lebanese, now the chinese are the new kids on the block. With an enormous wealth, a large population and an imperial ambition they are stopping at nothing to get their hands on the raw materials to run their bloated ever growing industrial might, and to build new alliances to bolster their new money and ego. As before Africa is the playing ground.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, our arguments were that we were untutored, ignorant and uneducated. More so that the colonial powers applied undue force to get their way. Given, what then is the arguments today? Like then, little is big to us and we sheepishly jump on it and at the end are shortchanged. In spite of the glitter and attraction of what is been offered, we must apply knowledge and wisdom which in turn must be tempered with patience. This is our land; we’ve got what they need and they’ve got what we need, so we are in no way supposed to act as the junior partner here or the beggar.
Laws protecting our lands, resources and rights of the people’s must be topmost. We must ensure that transfer of technology and expertise is embedded into whatever agreements we sign. Mine or extract our resources, you must return equal measures to us and there must be very implicit laws of hiring our local talents, not as menial and seasonal labourers, but at corporate and professional levels. We are not poor and needing help, so we must simply not act that way. It is both worrying and heartwarming the recent news coming from Ghana and Zambia of how the Chinese have abused the agreements and illegally started exploiting the people and their resources, and the quick responses by the governments in question.
Stringent laws must be put in place. These laws must be active and functional. Break our laws, you go to jail or you are expelled. That should be the message and we must not waiver on these. While we welcome investors, whose aim is for mutual economic benefit, we must not allow this bilateral relationship degenerate to mere handouts or become another dubious case of material, mental, social and eventually political colonisation.
We can do better…
Ireke A. Kalu-Onuma
June 13, 2013