China, eager for oil, expands investment in Nigeria and Guinea
Chinese investments and influence in Africa increase as the government ties state aid to investment projects and is willing to sell arms to countries like Zimbabwe. Some African leaders credit China for being willing to invest where the West will not out of human rights concerns.
Johannesburg, South Africa
The global economic crisis may have forced other nations to put their African investments on hold, but not China.Skip to next paragraph
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This week, the Nigerian government announced that China would double its current direct investment from a total of $3 billion to $6 billion, most of that in Nigeria's oil sector. Last week, the government of Guinea – where a coup brought a military captain to power last December – announced that a Chinese firm planned to invest $7 billion in oil and mining infrastructure in return for preferential treatment in all mining projects in Guinea.
China's increasing investment in Africa has raised concerns among human rights activists and others who warn that Chinese money props up regimes such as those in Zimbabwe, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo who are either undemocratic, corrupt, or carry out mass-scale human rights crimes, or combinations of the above. Yet many African leaders applaud Chinese investment, saying that they create jobs, infrastructure, and business opportunities in African countries where Western companies fear to tread.
"Huge Chinese investment in African companies and infrastructure is helping Africa develop. The Chinese bring what Africa needs: investment and money for governments and companies," Rwandan President Paul Kagame told reporters for the German business daily Handelsblatt earlier in October. "European and American involvement has not brought Africa forward," President Kagame added, complaining of trade barriers erected by the West.
China's long-stated policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of its African partners plays well here in Africa and is a stark contrast to the starchy human-rights focus of many post-colonial European nations and of the United States. While Western nations balk at investing in a country like Zimbabwe, where state security agencies round up, beat, and sometimes kill opposition members and human rights activists, the Chinese are happy to do business. They also sell arms to those regimes.
Arms for Zimbabwe
Consider China's arms deal with Zimbabwe, which went largely unnoticed until June 2008, when South African trade unionists refused to unload a cargo ship carrying the weapons in Durban harbor (Zimbabwe is landlocked). The Chinese ship eventually unloaded the arms in Angola and Zimbabwean planes carried them the rest of the way to Harare.