Following the airpocalypse of 2013, a terrible episode involving dangerously high
pollution levels, China has been trying to diversify its energy mix so as to limit the
environmental crisis within its borders. Among its strategies was to develop the Belt Road Initiative, creating maritime routes from China to Africa.
Since the years start of the new millennium, China has – mostly successfully – tried to extend its influence over the African continent presenting itself as an alternative to Western Imperialism. However, the Chinese government has not receded from the western powers in the continent and nevertheless exploits African wealth without hesitating to intervene in the governance of local nations.
With more than 10,000 companies established on the African continent with a $180
billion in revenue generated in 2017, China is by far Africa’s largest trading partner. Yet, the political and economic dimension benefit from the same level of importance. As a striking example that embodies the consequences of Chinafrica is Guinea, where since 2007, China has tightened its grip over its government. As a matter of fact, Guinea accepted a 20-year $20 billion loan in 2017 with the purpose of developing the country in exchange for access to its bauxite mining concessions, the main ones used to build aluminum.
What is even more worrisome is that China has been constantly improving its methods of exploitation accelerating the looting of African land. China’s leading mining company in Guinea (SMB) was planning to increase its bauxite production sevenfold in five years (from 12 to 80 million tonnes between 2016 and 2020).
As if this was not enough, the Chinese promise of development aid is quite paradoxical, since firstly, Chinese workers are the ones present on exploitation farms in Africa, and second, the processing of minerals takes place in mainland China. In other words, this represents a loss of thousands of jobs for local African workers.
Finally, to come back to the so-dreaded airpocalypse of 2013, the impact of Chinese companies on the environment is quite significant in terms of air pollution, rivers and
contaminated crops, since no environmental rules are respected.
One asset China seems well aware of is the inability of most African countries to pay back Chinese investors. It is actually one of its strongest assets. Times are critical, and it is high time African Nations found alternatives to Chinese imperialism before they are completely unable to get away from it.