China in Africa Round-up 07.22: Booming Business in Angola, Elephant Poaching, and Hui Li, the” Chinese Schweitzer”, African Traders Rebuffed
Angola’s Business is Booming with China
While the exact loan amounts are unknown, media reports have indicated Angola has taken between $4bn and $11bn in loans from China in recent years. Trade between the two nations is estimated to be worth $4.9 billion per year. The former Portuguese colony has now become China’s biggest African trading partner, primarily due to huge oil deposits in the Gulf of Guinea. Yet, for all its oil and diamonds and projected growth of 24% this year, Angola is rich in appearances only – most people still live in abject poverty and Angola has one of the continent’s worst infant mortality rates.
In a recent “Backgrounder” on Angola’s political and economic development, the Council on Foreign Relations reports that business is booming with China:
Angola’s most successful business relationship is also a diplomatic one: China. As President Dos Santos said when the Chinese prime minister visited Angola in 2006, “China needs natural resources, and Angola wants development.” Angola is China’s largest trading partner in Africa, and it is also China’s single largest source of oil. Oil exports to China have increased sevenfold since 2002 (twice the growth rate of Angolan oil exports to the United States over the same period).
Some analysts have expressed concern that the Angolan government has grown closer to China at the expense of its other diplomatic relationships. But Western oil companies have many projects in Angola, and Luanda has sought to expand its ties with a variety of countries—from France to India to the United States. Some of these countries have also offered credit lines to the Angolan government (albeit smaller ones). Angola likes Chinese financing because it offers better conditions than commercial loans, lower interest rates, and longer repayment time. Chinese companies pursue construction deals in Angola because there is limited competition. But there are signs of strain in the relationship; rumors of halted construction on the railway to Lobito have abounded, and negotiations with a Chinese petrochemical firm on building a refinery in the same port city collapsed in 2007.
Experts express concern about the government’s ability to maintain Chinese projects after they are completed. “The government will need to focus more attention on planning and organization to ensure the sustainability and transfer of know-how—or risk relying on the Portgueuse and others returning in the near future to rebuild what the Chinese have just completed,” write Campos and Vines. But building a more educated and skilled population will take years. “The greatest deficiency in the country is institutional and human capital,” says Hare. Angola’s political and economic development will require “patience and forebearance—rebuilding a country after so much destruction, and creating a more equitable society in which Angola’s leaders are politically accountable, will not be achieved quickly,” cautions the 2007 report from CFR’s Center for Preventive Action.
China Behind Elephant Poaching in Africa?
For background on this story, please see previous CDT posts, Anger at China’s Approval as Ivory Buyer, China Gets Permission to Import Ivory From Africa and UN May Legalize Ivory Sales from Africa to China.
Experts at the University of Washington, say that China’s appetite for ivory has led to a boom in illegal poaching, even in countries such as Kenya where it had previously appeared to be under control, warning that the lifting of the ban will raise illegal trade on ivory to record levels.
“It will mean more elephants being poached – it’s as simple as that,” said Michael Wamithi, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
“It will be impossible to know which is illegal and which is legal.”
“In a meeting organized in Mombasa this year, by the African Elephant Coalition, the group of 19 African countries present declared their opposition to the Cites pan to allow ivory trade by china. Elephants inhabiting protected areas are relatively safer from illegal poaching.”
“Of the 2.6 million square kilometres now available for elephants on the continent, only 31 per cent are protected areas.” [Patrick Omondi of Kenya Wildlife Service] said such protected areas in Southern Africa constitute 39 per cent of the elephant range, 22 per cent in East Africa and 39 per cent in West Africa.
In Africa, much of the elephant decimation has taken place in conflict areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, Central African Republic and Chad.
According to the Independent UK, Experts have warned that militias such as the Sudanese Janjaweed and rebel groups in Congo have begun to use ivory as a source of income. The slaughter of elephants is now funding the killing of humans.
Sudan has become the main transit point for shipments to China. It is also home to one of the world’s largest centres of illegal ivory trade, in Omdurman.
“The upsurge in elephant killings in Virunga is part of a widespread slaughter across the Congo Basin and is being driven by developments on the international scene: the liberalization of the ivory trade, being pushed by South Africa, and the increased presence of Chinese operators on the ground, who feed a massive domestic demand for ivory in their home country,” [Emmanuel de Merode, director of Wildlife Direct] said.
China’s African father of hope
From Shanghai Daily:
Hui Li has dedicated many years of his life to helping African orphans find a better life. On the eve of a visit to China with a talented group of the youngsters, he says he will continue the work to his last breath, writes Yao Minji
Chinese monk Hui Li may not be so well known in China, but in Africa they call him “the Chinese Schweitzer” after the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize-winning French missionary Albert Schweitzer.
Over the past 17 years, the 53-year-old monk has helped raise money to build care centers and “hope schools” for orphans across Africa.
Hui Li went to South Africa to promote Buddhism in 1992 when there was no Buddhist temple in Africa. He knew nothing about the continent before making the journey and found it a difficult, virgin land for Buddhism.
For the first 10 years, Hui Li worked painstakingly to build the first Buddhist temple and Africa’s first Buddhist Institute.
Hui Li sees his work as a process of cultural exchange in addition to being a charity project. The orphans receive three types of education in the orphanage. In addition to schooling required by the Malawian government, a local ayi takes care of the kids and influences them with local culture including tribal dance and local songs.
On top of that, Chinese volunteers teach them Chinese language, traditions and songs. Hui Li also invites monks from the famous Shaolin Temple to tutor them in Chinese kung fu.
China Turns Back African Traders
China is stopping West African traders from entering the country’s south, African diplomats said Tuesday, adding they were approaching Beijing authorities about the problem.
Businessmen from Liberia, Nigeria, and some other West African countries had been denied entry into Guangzhou city in recent months even though they had valid visas, said Liberia Minister Counsellor Mohammed Kenneth.
A Nigerian diplomat in Beijing, who declined to be named, confirmed the Chinese practice of turning back traders.
“A lot of African countries had that problem,” the diplomat told AFP.
Kenneth said five African countries expected to eventually pass on their concerns to China’s foreign ministry.
For background on this story, please see the previous CDT post, China Is Growing Unfriendly to Foreigners, Visitors Say.