‘We are no new imperialists’

‘We are no new imperialists’

MASERU – EVEN their bitterest critics begrudgingly acknowledge the massive role they have played in improving infrastructure in Africa.
They have built roads, school, clinics and a state-of-the-art 1 800km railway line that snakes from Tanzania to Zambia.
In Lesotho, the Chinese have built the stunningly beautiful parliament building in Maseru and a new State House that is due to open soon.
Yet, despite all they have done for Lesotho and Africa, there is still a lingering bitterness among some communities.
Others view them as the “new colonial masters” in Africa.

Chinese ambassador to Lesotho, Sun Xianghua, told thepost in an interview recently that the allegations of neo-colonialism are false.
He made the comments while speaking about China’s flagship foreign policy, the China Belt and Road Initiative in Africa.
The policy will see China underwriting billions of dollars of infrastructure investment in countries on the old ‘silk road’ linking it with Europe, Asia and Africa.

China wants to integrate and revitalise the ancient ‘Silk Road’ and maritime ‘silk road’ into a cohesive economic zone.
Xianghua rejected charges that the Belt and Road Initiative will be used by the Chinese to exploit African resources.
“In my opinion this kind of talk is not true. It’s unfounded, misleading, biased and even ill-intentioned,” Xianghua said.
“China shares similar historic experiences and fully understands and sympathises with African countries suffering from colonialism and being exploited under colonial rule.”

Xianghua said China will never and has never exploited African resources.  “China has never colonised Africa and will never colonise it.”
The ambassador spoke glowingly about the major infrastructure projects that have been undertaken by China in Africa.
He spoke about the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, the Mombasa-Nairobi railway, the Abuja-Kaduna railroad and others in Europe and Asia.
He said China is in the process of completing some major airport projects in Togo, Djibouti and Benin and the Souapiti hydro-power plant in Guinea which is expected to produce 510 megawatts of electricity.

Xianghua said in trade and industry, trade volumes between China and the relevant countries have reached US$3 trillion.
“China’s investment has surpassed US$50 billion. Fifty-six economic cooperation zones have been built in over 20 countries,” he said.
Xianghua said the initiative is open to all like-minded countries and regions.

“The initiative is not a member club but a circle of friends with extensive participation,” Xianghua said.
Lesotho is an important member of the African family and important partner of China and has therefore according to Xianghua started to benefit from some of the measures of BRI.

“We have just signed an agreement with the Lesotho government that China will provide RMB 20 million (about M40 million) worth of food aid to Lesotho this year,” Xianghua said. He said the further development of the countries and regions along the Belt and Road will have a positive impact on Lesotho’s economy in terms of trade and investment opportunities.

That is because the world is becoming an integrated village, Xianghua said.
“With the African continent benefiting from the initiative, Lesotho will also positively be affected either in terms of trade, services, finance and investment,” he said. Xinaghua said when he looked at the SADC region and SACU, there is a huge potential for Lesotho.
“I think the manufacturing and agriculture sectors are where most of the potentials are,” he said.
Meanwhile, China has also adopted a preferential trade policy toward Lesotho.

China has given zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of Lesotho’s products. He further said with China’s economic structural adjustment and upgrading it will increasingly provide a huge market for Lesotho’s products. Currently Lesotho’s annual export volume stands at US$20 million.
“With more investment in Lesotho’s manufacturing and agriculture, Lesotho will definitely find more markets both at home and abroad,” Xianghua said.

Each year roughly 280 Basotho are sent to China for training in various programmes. Xianghua said from as early as the 1960s China has supported various development projects in Africa. He said China used a large share of its foreign reserves to fund and construct the more than 1 800km Tanzania-Zambia railway in the 1960s.

“Since 1956, China has been sending tens of thousands of doctors to Africa and treated more than 200 million Africans,” he said.
“China is not only among the top donors to Africa, but also a leading country in helping Africa to realize industrialization and modernization.”
He said China has become the biggest trading partner of Africa and is involved in some of the biggest infrastructure construction projects in Africa.
“China’s cooperation with Africa is development-oriented not resource oriented,” he said.

“According to a recent Mackinsey Company report, China’s investments in Africa are mainly engaged in manufacturing (1/3), service sector (1/4), construction (1/5) and real estate (1/5).  “More importantly, China’s investment creates millions of jobs for Africa and transfers techniques, knowledge and skills” Xianghua said.

The Mackinsey report said: “We found no particular preference in terms of the resource-base of countries. Chinese investment is everywhere. Non-resource-rich countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda were just as popular as resource-rich countries like Nigeria and South Africa.”

Rose Moremoholo

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