The South African civil rights organisation AfriForum and the think tank Opinor on June 21 released a report on China’s increasing influence on the African continent. The report shows that China’s involvement in Africa has negative implications for the continent and its communities.
These include environmental damage, anti-democratic practices, lack of transparency, unlawful behaviour and the violation of workers’ rights. China also abuses the situation – when African countries fail as a result of socialist policies or poor governance – to increase its influence by attaching unfavourable conditions to any assistance it provides to countries that are in desperate need of investments.
Opinor was requested by AfriForum to conduct high-level research into China’s involvement in Africa and South Africa in particular after the organisation had received numerous enquiries regarding Chinese operations in South Africa.
The findings also formed part of the discussions that Ernst Roets, Head of Policy and Action at AfriForum, had with various stakeholders in the USA earlier this year. AfriForum will now distribute the report’s findings locally and internationally to inform domestic and foreign stakeholders about the negative role that China plays in Africa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa undertook several trips to China and announced a partnership and trade agreements with China without providing any details about the implications for South African taxpayers or citizens.
The research found, amongst others, that:
There is a complete lack of transparency and information regarding the true extent and conditions attached to China’s financial support to Africa. The lack of information aids in the protection of the corrupt elite who plays a role in enabling projects.
China exerts undue influence over the economic and political systems of (among others) African countries through economic aggression and other influencing operations. Other anti-democratic practices include the granting of special privileges to Chinese companies, which results in non-compliance to legislation and the establishment of enclaves with a culture and law enforcement foreign to the country in which it is located.
China’s prioritisation of economic growth over the protection of the environment has devastating consequences. The environmental integrity of Africa is threatened by poor environmental regulation by China and lack of control over its multinational corporations. Chinese companies and nationals are involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in African waters, poaching of endangered species and illegal logging, which have dire consequences for the environment, biodiversity and communities in Africa.
‘The Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ) case study serves as a prime example of China’s modus operandi in Africa and the impact thereof on local communities. There is a complete lack of transparency and consultation with communities. Irrational decisions are taken, such as the implementation of a coal-fired power station that is not even included in the Integrated Resource Plan,’ says Barend Uys, CEO of Opinor.
‘The development is proceeding even though a definite source of sustainable water is still under investigation – this in an already water-stressed region described as the garden of South Africa. The development will have an irreversible and severe impact on food security, water resources, and air and soil quality, and is therefore not in the interest of communities,’ he adds.
‘It is important to those who take the interest of Africa at heart to be made aware of the content of this report. AfriForum has a responsibility to inform people both domestically and abroad about the findings of this research. We hope that this report moves the relevant stakeholders to engage in dialogue and take action to mitigate risks and reduce the negative impact on communities in Africa,’ says Ernst Roets, head of policy and action at AfriForum.