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15 Jul 2020

Pulse (Ghana)

Africa: China-Africa relations seem to benefit the political elites, whilst neglecting the average citizens

'Zambia case study: Chinese labour practices marring relations on the African continent?’ 16 July 2020

The Belt and Road Initiative by China resulting in China providing billions of dollars in loans to African countries for infrastructure projects and development has reeled in Zambia, the second largest copper producing country in Africa. Consequently, Zambia is in a position with a spiralling debt and in default of loan repayments accrued from China through this initiative. China’s measures in response to the default of loan repayments such as the seizure of the country’s key infrastructure such as the airport, the Zambian port and control over mining assets in the Copperbelt region has done little to quench the neo-colonialist agenda China has been accused of. China has been criticised and accused of being incentivised to lend money to Zambia they cannot repay, with the intention of exploiting the country for their large copper reserves.

…The exploitation and discrimination of local Zambian workers by Chinese business owners have been long-standing and have led to a clash between the mayor of Lusaka and the government according to the BBC report. The numerous complaints of discrimination and exploitation levelled against Chinese companies by locals has inspired a national debate on Chinese presence and engagements in the country. The debates around the profitability of Chinese engagement at the state and local level has been raised, with the general perception being that these Chinese engagements have mostly benefited the political elites at the state level.

Zooming out of Zambia and into the continent, there have been reports of several incidents of mistreatment, discrimination and exploitation of low paid local workers by Chinese employers. In Zimbabwe for example, it has been reported by The South African, an online news publication, that an activist group has accused Chinese companies of abuse of local workers and overall non-compliance to the labour laws of the country…Unfair Chinese labour practices in Africa have been a great source of discontentment to Africans and some experts. This phenomenon has fuelled anti-Chinese sentiments, translating into violence against the Chinese by the exploited and under-paid workers. It is evident that merely satisfying the elites at the state level is not enough for a beneficial collaboration between China and Africa, especially when anti-Chinese sentiments are on the rise.