027_G17_InSight_BrandChina

Global_17

Global Insight Brand China Culture clash: Africa’s lukewarm welcome for the Chinese While Chinese investment is mostly welcomed by Africa, the Chinese workers who are sent by fi rms to staff their African subsidiaries do not always get along with the locals Anver Versi “The Chinese presence in Africa has become like the tide; it ebbs and fl ows but it will always be there,” says Ghanaian businessman Julius Akufu. “You can either ride it or set yourself against it and get drowned.” The hullabaloo depicting China as an uncaring but unstoppable force washing over Africa has itself waxed and waned since the world’s second-largest economy fi rst embarked on its Africa policy about two decades ago. China’s astonishingly rapid advance over most of the African continent has aroused both fear and hope in almost equal measure, not only within the continent but also outside it. As China’s trade, investment and diplomatic relations with Africa have expanded and intensifi ed, so there has been a reluctant but unmistakable retreat by the West. Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State until last year, expressed the West’s alarm at China’s “creeping colonialism” in what some have described as hysterical tones when she said during her tour of Africa in 2011: “We saw that during colonial times it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave. And when you leave, you don’t leave much behind for the people who are there. We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa.” But the majority of African leaders scoff at this warning. The former President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, argued: “When it comes to China and Africa, the EU and the USA want to have their cake and eat it. In an echo of its past colonial rivalries, European leaders and donor organisations have expressed concerns that African nations are throwing their doors open too widely to Chinese investors and to exploitation by their Asian partners. But if opening up more free markets is a goal that the West prizes – and extols as a path to progress – why is Europe fretting about China’s growing economic role in Africa?” Ali Hassan Mwinyi, the former President of Tanzania, says that Africa’s Chinese imports in 2012 $85.3bn China’s African imports in 2012 $113.2bn Chinese fi rms tend to bring their own workers with them to Africa, only hiring locals for the most menial – and the most dangerous – jobs global f i rst quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 27 


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