A Chinatown in Algiers? It’s All About Oil

From the SF Gate:

While still struggling with the aftermath of a decade-long Islamic insurgency, oil-rich yet impoverished Algeria is getting a makeover: a new airport, its first mall, its largest prison, 60,000 new homes, two luxury hotels and the longest continuous highway in Africa…Some 50 Chinese firms, largely state-controlled, have been awarded $20 billion in government construction contracts, or 10 percent of the massive investment plan promised by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a nation where jobs and housing are scarce and al-Qaida has struck roots.

Algiers, the tense and rundown capital, now has something relatively new to the Arab world: a Chinatown… The Algerian story mirrors China’s inroads elsewhere in Africa, which are helped not just by its bulging coffers but by the fact that unlike some Western countries, China doesn’t make human rights and corruption-free procedures a condition for investment.

It has drawn heavy criticism from human rights groups accusing it of bypassing the arms embargo on the embattled Darfur region by trading weapons for oil with the Sudanese government. Elsewhere it is accused of failing to spread the jobs among local workers, and of mistreating those it hires… “Africa shouldn’t have eluded one form of neocolonialism to fall headfirst into Chinese neocolonialism,” Rene N’Guettia Kouassi, the head of the economic commission at the African Union, was quoted as saying in Jeune Afrique, the leading French-language weekly on the continent.

See also this past CDT post about frictions between Algerians and Chinese workers.

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