When India and China Scramble for Africa, Who Wins?

Chinese foreman, African workers

By Jemima Pierre, Black Agenda Report editor and columnist
June 15, 2011China and Indian have both boosted their trade and investment in Africa in recent years, but “South-South” solidarity is not all it’s cracked up to be. The continent’s relationship with the Asian giants is lopsided. “Africa is quickly becoming the largest market for both countries to dump their cheap commodities.” Both countries are focused on “land and resource extraction, and new markets for manufactured products.”

“While both countries argue that their engagement with the continent is non-ideological and has no imperialist goals, the new relations of trade look much like the old.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s attendance at the Second Africa-India Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this past May marked his fourth visit to the continent in his eight years in office. For Singh, such summits are designed to “respond to the needs and priorities of Africa and for India.” The relationship between Africa and India is one “based on equality, mutual trust and a consultative and transparent approach,” he continued. “It is a living embodiment of South-South cooperation.” For the Indian state, it also signifies the triumphant success of its “bilateral” relationship with Africa, one that has granted lucrative access to Africa’s vast resources while cultivating influence with Africa’s political elite. Other Indian and international commentators, however, hail these summits as India’s challenge [4] to China’s oversized [5] role on the continent. Meanwhile, the ever-compromised African Union seem to follow Robert Mugabe’s assertion [6] that Africa has “turned east, where the sun rises, and given [its] back to the west, where the sun sets.” Continue reading

Unsafe in Libya, Unwanted in Europe: Exiles of the Arab Spring

Thousands of desperate migrant workers have gathered near Calais

By Jerome Taylor
The Independent/UK
May 18, 2011


Asylum seekers fleeing Libya at 'Africa House', a refugee camp near Calais

In a derelict industrial complex to the east of Calais they shiver under their sodden blankets dreaming of a Europe that simply doesn’t exist. Seney Alema and his friends are the northernmost vanguard of a human wave that has swept across the continent as Nato’s bombs continue to pummel Libya.

While Europe has applauded the steady toppling of North Africa’s dictators, the continent has been unwelcoming to the thousands of people who have fled the region – the separate states bickering over who should take the responsibility for the refugees’ fates.

When the war against Muammar Gaddafi broke out earlier this year, people like Seney were trapped. European powers scrambled ships to evacuate their own nationals but sub-Saharan migrants, who did the kind of jobs Libyans simply didn’t want to do, were left to fend for themselves.

Related articles Libya’s oil chief ‘defects from Gaddafi regime and joins rebels’ Woman and child among 26 bodies ‘found in mass graves’ near Syrian city Mubarak’s wife freed after handing over £2.5m but may still face trial Search the
news archive for more stories As law and order broke down the beatings and robberies began. Some were press-ganged into
fighting the rebels, others simply disappeared. So thousands are now fleeing across the Mediterranean in barely sea-worthy
boats, hoping that somewhere like Britain will give them shelter. Continue reading

Mercenaries, AFRICOM, and the “Dogs of War”

Africa’s new breed of ‘dogs of war’

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 17 (UPI) — A new generation of soldiers of fortune, successors to the “Dogs of War” who fought in the Congo, Angola and other post-colonial wars, is operating across Africa, except today they’re known as Private Military and Security Companies.

While the modern breed is more likely involved in logistics than combat, they are still armed civilians operating for profit and aren’t recognized soldiers under the Geneva Conventions.

Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution said some of the PMSCs are operating at the “tip of the spear” in Africa and are directly descended from their mercenary forebears.

One catalyst for the mercenaries’ re-emergence in their latest incarnation appears to be the U.S. Africa Command. Continue reading

Protests across Africa: Different attention for different countries?

Sokari Ekine, Pambazuka

March 3, 2011


Focusing on Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Gabon and Zimbabwe, Sokari Ekine provides a round-up of international and social media coverage of the multiple sites of sustained protests across Africa and considers the differences in media attention between each of them.


What began as a people’s uprising in Libya has since moved closer towards a civil war as soldiers of the Libyan army defect and some protestors take up arms against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces, as shown in this graphic video (tweeted widely), with the Libyan army protecting protestors against pro-Gaddafi forces. @EnoughGaddafi tweets ‘Massive arrests being made in Tripoli, eyewitness from Jdeida prison says a lot of activists and injured are being held there’. One tweeter reminds us of the chaos and possible endangering of peoples lives by international media reports:

‘@bintlibya: @AlJazeera pls stop airing calls of ppl giving locations details of things that have yet 2 happen u are causing more harm than good #Libya’

Tens of thousands of mostly foreign nationals are fleeing the country and already there is a humanitarian crisis on the Tunisian border. The tweets from UNHCR stress the panic taking place:

‘@refugees: #UNHCR & #IOM ask govs 2 suply masive financial + logistcal asets incl planes + boats: overcrwding at #Libya #Tunisia border worsens by hour’

‘@refugees: Shelter! Shelter! Shelter! Tens of thousands need shelter at the Tunisian border, as Tunisia opens its borders for all. #Libya

As Gaddafi finds new ways to attack Libyans, Libyans unleash their fury against his deployment of mercenaries from West and East Africa as migrant workers from south of the Sahara face increasing attacks and are prevented from leaving the country. Given the racism in Libya and low status of foreign black workers, it was only a matter of time before innocent people were attacked. Continue reading

China and the Scramble for Africa: “Crouching Lions, Hidden Dragon”

Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Faisal al Yafai

3 January 2011

The Chinese are involved in countless infrastructure projects across Africa, which the continent desperately needs; yet, their presence has caused ructions.

The baggage lounge at Addis Abeba’s Bole International Airport is filled with activity as the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Beijing arrives. Young Chinese men, casually dressed in flannel trousers and shirts, gather around the luggage belt, lifting off large suitcases and heavily wrapped boxes. A crowd of these arrivals, perhaps 50 strong, queue up together outside to be collected by a fleet of waiting minibuses.

These young men are not tourists. They live in Ethiopia, and more part of the influx of Chinese labour over the past decade that has changed the face of Africa.

In countries across the continent, Chinese communities have sprung up. Some are based around the myriad infrastructure projects that the world’s emerging superpower is implementing. Many are simply trading on a small scale, importing buckets and work tools, the low-cost essentials that power rural life on this continent.

The year 2010 was the year that China became the world’s second largest economy, overtaking its Asian neighbour Japan and prompting much soul-searching around the world over the imminent arrival of the Chinese. Yet, in Africa, the Chinese have already arrived. Continue reading

Africa: World Bank Unsure About Land Grab

Africa: World Divided Over New Scramble for African Land

Paul Redfern

4 October 2010

Nairobi — A World Bank report has confirmed that 45 million hectares of land in developing countries were bought in 2009, a tenfold jump from the previous decade.

Moreover, two-thirds of these controversial “land grabs” have been in Africa where critics say public and governmental institutions offer weak defences against western multinationals and Far Eastern state companies seeking farm land for food and biofuels.

While many development agencies and African campaigners are aghast at the latest news some believe that good land development projects are exactly what the world needs to solve the food crisis as they bring investment, knowhow, and transport links, as well as creating jobs.

But the morality of the global land rush is finely balanced and even the World Bank appears deeply torn. Continue reading

Rebranding Neo-Colonialism in Africa: “We’re only here to help Africa”

A Change To Believe In?

[This article from the German press traces many of the historic features of the imperialist relationship with Africa.  It also claims that neo-colonialism, like its colonial prequel, is on the way out.  But readers may see that while the packaging of imperialism is again changing, its interests have not.   “A luta continua!” – “the struggle continues!” – “amandla awetu!” – “power to the people!” –ed.]

DW-WORLD.DE,  26.09.2010

Africa’s neocolonial era ending as US and France seek new partnerships

For generations, Africa’s fate lay in the hands of self-interested foreign powers. Today, the US and France promise a fresh approach to the continent that puts Africans in charge of their own security and development.

During the post-World War II period, the world’s major powers championed African independence in word, but undermined it in deed. As the Cold War broadened, the two superpowers manipulated the continent’s liberation movements for their own political ends.

Meanwhile, former imperial powers such as France pushed a hidden agenda that turned newly independent colonies into de-facto protectorates. Although African independence existed on paper, in reality the continent’s fate was still decided in foreign capitals.


The interests of imperialism have not changed

The consequences of this neocolonialism are far reaching. In a continent politically engineered by foreigners, national borders often are not worth the map they are drawn on. Many African states, designed in the mind of a European, cannot maintain legitimacy before competing indigenous interests. Some have become failed states in which government authority often does not reach beyond the capital city.

This instability has bred transnational crime and terrorism that jeopardize global security. The US and France have responded by initiating a strategy that seeks to stabilize the continent by strengthening African institutions instead of undermining them. In the 21st century, African unity – not division – serves the interests of world powers.

Drift into chaos

As the Soviet Union careened toward collapse, the governing principle of US policy in Africa became obsolete. Washington no longer needed to cultivate African allies to contain Moscow’s influence on the continent. As a result, the US began to refocus its involvement on humanitarian assistance.

But a policy driven by humanitarianism proved unsustainable after the botched Somalia intervention in 1993, in which 18 US soldiers died. Washington pulled back and remained aloof from African affairs even as genocide gripped Rwanda.

“After the Cold War you could say Africa was basically very low and this was strongly reflected by the management by the Clinton Administration,” Roland Marchal, an expert on Sub-Saharan Africa with the Center for International Studies and Research at SciencesPo Paris, told Deutsche Welle. “For the European Union the situation was never like that because of the colonial past.” Continue reading

Africa: First-class failure by Patrick Bond

[Patrick Bond, a leading critic of the post-colonial comprador-ist African governance, is what many consider to be the “left” of the civil society intellectuals.  Here is his latest, on the decades since many African countries gained formal independence.-ed.]

BBC-Africa magazine, September 2010

Frantz Fanon put his finger on the problem, in his classic The Wretched of the Earth: “The national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of intermediary . . . the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the mask of neocolonialism.”

Four decades later in 2001, the continent’s most powerful rulers attempted a self-help plan, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), and in the same intermediary spirit won an accolade from the Bush administration’s top official for Africa, Walter Kansteiner, who called Nepad ‘philosophically spot-on’.

The problem is that not only have Africa’s attempts to police its own elite – its grand project – failed, but in the process this failure has showed up the distance between that very same African elite and the continent’s people.

From the start it was obvious that Nepad – former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s brainchild – served Western rather than African interests: promoting export-oriented growth rather than balanced development, foreign debt repayment at all costs, foreign investment concessions, privatisation and the extension of structural adjustment ideology into state social services.

Continue reading

Namibia: “Government Loyal to Chinese, Not Workers”

Map showing China's Investments in Africa, 2005

[More information on the new scramble for Africa, and its effect on the people in the “independent” states still dominated by imperialism.-ed]

Jo-Maré Duddy, The Namibian

24 August 2010

WORKERS and employers alike yesterday accused Government of being more loyal to Chinese than to Namibians on the first day of the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union’s (Manwu) conference on challenges facing those working in the construction industry.

“We are suffering for the Chinese people,” a construction company owner summarised complaints varying from slave wages, unfair labour practices, poor living conditions and allegations of physical beatings, to local companies losing tenders to the Chinese.

“Where are we heading if these [construction] industries are run by the minority of employers which are given tenders to exploit workers day and night?”

“What does our Government do to monitor the situation on the ground?” Manwu president Jacobus Shirunga wanted to know in his opening speech.

Participants were particularly irked by what they thought was the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare snubbing them.

Deputy Labour Minister Alpheus Muheua, who is still the president of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) too, failed to turn up for the official opening, despite his office confirming his attendance. Continue reading

Neo-colonialism and the scramble for Africa

[This year, we are witnessing a new scramble for Africa.  Barron’s (financial newspaper) has highlighted Africa as The Final Frontier.  The US base in Dijibouti, on a former French Foreign Legion base, is being joined by a new Japanese base.  Chinese investments are rapidly multiplying and outpacing all.  India is building factories in Africa.  The US’ AFRICOM is applying the methods of the School of the Americas and of the joint US-Philipine Balikatan exercises to Africa, aiming to play headmaster in the training of African forces.  Here, CNN trumpets the 50th anniversaries–this month, August 2010–of the independence of African countries from “classical” models of colonialism.  We will be bringing attention to these developments, and to the developing understandings of dependency, semi-colonialism, neo-colonialism, and polyarchy in the present–and to the struggles for genuine independence, self-determination and revolutionary transformation.-ed]

CNN, August 2, 2010

CNN Editor’s note: This year 17 African nations mark 50 years of independence from their former colonial rulers. Eight of those countries celebrate their anniversary in August, they include Benin, Ivory Coast and Gabon. CNN.com is marking this major milestone with special coverage in August looking at the continent’s past, present and future.

(CNN) — The wave of Independence across Africa in the 1950s and 1960s brought to the end around 75 years of colonial rule by Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and — until World War I — Germany.

Before 1880, Europeans had only made small incursions into Africa, with forts and trading posts mainly around the coast, according to Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society in Britain.

The interior until then remained largely inaccessible to Europeans because of disease and difficulty of travel.

“Then the new unified Germany began to flex its muscles. It saw Britain and France ruling the world and wanted to compete for its ‘place in the sun’. Its explorers were beginning to penetrate the continent,” Dowden told CNN. Continue reading

AFRICOM: The ICC’s New Sheriff in Africa? But the real agenda is…


[The modern semi-colonial project in Africa continues without a break.  Having thwarted genuine independent self-sufficiency in Africa at every turn, the old and new imperial powers spin their justifications for dominance in barely concealed racist and condescending terms—“defense of international norms”, “humanitarianism”, “pursuit of justice.”   This article from Pambazuka details how these pretexts are utilized by the USA’sAFRICOM.-ed]

Africa: Africom and the ICC – Enforcing International Justice in Continent?

Samar Al-Bulushi and Adam Branch

27 May 2010

Nearly eight years since its establishment in July 2002, and with its first major review conference just around the corner, the International Criminal Court (ICC) faces a number of challenges.


The fact that it has prosecuted only Africans has provoked charges of neocolonialism and racism; its decision to indict certain actors and not others has triggered suspicion of the court’s susceptibility to power politics; and its interventions into ongoing armed conflicts have elicited accusations that the ICC is pursuing its own brand of justice at the cost of enflaming war and disregarding the interests of victims.[1] Each of these concerns is likely to provoke heated discussions at the review conference in Kampala next week.

But there is another aspect of the court’s role in Africa that will require scrutiny going forward: enforcement. Lacking its own enforcement mechanism, the court relies upon cooperating states to execute its arrest warrants. The ICC has found, however, that many states, even if willing to cooperate, often lack the capacity to execute warrants, especially in cases of ongoing conflict or when suspects can cross international borders. Moreover, the African Union (AU) has rejected the ICC’s arrest warrant for its most high-profile target, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and ICC supporters worry that the AU will continue to challenge the court’s authority, especially when the court targets African leaders. The court today thus faces an enforcement crisis: out of 13 arrest warrants issued, only four suspects are in custody. Apparently, having concluded that African states are either unwilling or unable to act quickly or forcefully enough to apprehend suspects, the court has begun to seek support from the one country that has shown itself willing and able to wield military force across the globe: the United States. Continue reading

Japan building navy base in Africa, joining US; is China next?

US base in Djibouti is former French Foreign Legion base

DJIBOUTI, Djibouti, May 11 (UPI) — Japan plans to establish a $40 million strategic naval base in the Horn of Africa state of Djibouti, where U.S. and French forces are deployed to combat al-Qaida jihadists.

The facility, intended to boost the fight against Somali pirates preying on vital shipping lanes, will be Japan’s first foreign military base since World War II.

“This will be the only Japanese base outside our country and the first in Africa,” said Japanese navy Capt. Keizo Kitagawa, commander of the Japanese flotilla deployed with the international anti-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden. He will oversee establishment of the base. Continue reading