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Is Africa China’s Greener Pastures?


Decades ago, very few Africans can admit they barely knew of China, let alone seeing a Chinese. For those who had seen one, was probably through Chinese martial arts films – I am talking Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Li and the likes.

Personally, the only little information I happened to know about China was about Chairman Mao Zedong, his little red book and the famous long march, and obviously the great wall!

Fast forward 21st century – Around Africa, so many Chinese and “China Towns” mushrooming. Most government projects are contracted to the Chinese; from roads, to bridges, airports name them all. More so, a majority of electronics and smart phones have a “made in China” emblazoned on them.
So the question that remains begging- Is Africa facing east or It’s Africa that happens to be China’s greener pastures? The answer depends on which side you argue for.

Hundreds of thousands of Africans leave Africa annually in the quest to find a better life either in Europe and or the America’s.

On the other hand, Chinese influx in Africa is deemed at about 400,000 Chinese per year. The surprise here is that these numbers do not go back to China but decide to reside in Africa instead.
This is to say that if the statistics are anything to go by and the trend continues for the next half a decade, for every 10 Africans, there will be about 6 Chinese!

So what is it that we as Africans are failing to see as viable in our own mother continent that the Chinese are able to appreciate?
Is it that the opportunities are lesser for us and much more for the Chinese?

Not so long ago, I was being chauffeured in Dar es Salaam in one of the suburbs. New establishments were under construction. “Great designs these are!”I engaged my driver in a chat. My driver obviously understanding my statement retorted in Swahili “Unaona hayo majumba yote yanayojengwa? Yote ni ya Wachina. Sasa huu umekuwa mji wao”. Translation “You see all these houses under construction? They are Chinese owned. This has become China Town”.
A move further North of Tanzania in Mwanza clearly gave me a vista of how the interior has opened up to Ching-chong. From ownership of Beach front hotels, to hawkers of bicycle spare parts and Chinese herbal medicine !

In Angola, the situation is no different either. The Chinese have embarked on a major government roads and housing projects. Apparently, these projects are conducted “pro bono” by the Chinese government. Critics however tend to think otherwise. They argue that China in return is taking oil from Angola back home in exchange. Must be the case of the Chinese “crossing the sea by deceiving the skies?”. What an economic stratagem this is! For the readers benefit, this is one of the 36 stratagems that was employed in ancient China. It simply means acting in the open, but hiding your true intentions all together.

In the rest of Africa, walk into government Universities and you will feel like you are in Beijing. “Confucius Institute of Chinese language” dot the literature department.
Back home, China Roads and Bridges Construction (CRBC) rings a bell in the minds of many. Projects such as the JKIA expansion, the famous Thika highway, and the controversial standard gauge railway need no introduction either.
ConfuciusInstitutes in our local Universities is not a new phenomenon either.

The ministry of education announced weeks ago that Chinese language shall be incorporated into the primary and secondary curriculum. This announcement sparked a debate. Some pundits term it suspect. How come it is being done ahead of Chinese premier’s visit to Kenya?

Is someone in government trying to take away a Goat in passing or is simply beating the grass to startle the Snake?
Whoever it is, he must for sure be trying toss out a brick to attract a piece of Jade!

While we are at it – facing east or being the greener pastures for the Chinese, we must not forget what happened around Africa in the 18th and 19th C. When the white man came with the bible, the African had the land. The white man asked to the African to close his eyes so that they may pray. When they later opened their eyes, its’s the black man that had the bible and the white man the land!

Our founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta couldn’t have put it better in his book “facing mount Kenya”; the case of the elephant that was escaping the rains and the man who sheltered it in his tiny hut. It is common sense how the whole story ended, unless we mean to say that common sense is not common.
Otherwise, by the time we “open our eyes”, Africa’s natural resources will be long gone and we may no longer be that “greener pasture” to the east. Neither shall we want to “face east” ever again!


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