China sets up shop as the West loses sight of Africa’s future

China sets up shop as the West loses sight of Africa’s future, by Roger Boyles.

Africa is being let down by its leaders. When Robert Mugabe was forced to step down there was an expectation in the West that Zimbabwe was about to turn a corner and end its descent into chaos.

Today the beaten protesters, the mass round-ups and the internet blackouts tell a different story.

Across the continent — even in the heavyweight nations such as Nigeria and South Africa, which both have critical elections this year — there is a sense that any leader who promises democratic change must be either deluded or corrupt.

The idea that every African country has a Nelson Mandela if you just look hard enough turns out to have been a dud. And there’s not much mileage left either in the Africa Rising brand that reduced the continent to a crude equation: charismatic leadership + rapid growth = prosperity. ..

China, the largest foreign investor in Africa, adds to the continent’s problems rather than their solution. It allies itself with veterans of the independence struggle — in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia to name a few — and it favours their security establishments. It does not attach onerous political conditions to its aid, nor demand transparency or respect for a democratic opposition.

Weak and segmented African governance works in its favour, giving it access to the extractive industries that it covets. The debt that accumulates from ambitious, often overblown Chinese infrastructural investment helps spin a web of neo-colonial influence.

hat-tip Stephen Neil