The neo-colonial land grab of Africa by China and the West.
China has been aggressively funding infrastructure in Africa for the past few years, even trading with dictatorial regimes that have been given the cold shoulder by the west. Despite it’s resource rich nature, Africa is neglected by the west for various reasons. Its political volatility among the top of reasons why. Given this relative vacuum of trade and investment, China has moved in and since its history lacks negative qualities like colonialism, African nations have embraced Chinese investment and immigration. What’s also of note is that many African countries are or have been socialistic or communistic so there is an ideological relation to China especially since just over two decades ago, the USSR collapsed and it was the USSR who had dramatically supported and funded the development of many African countries if only to maintain resistance to American interests in Africa and to foster the spread of Communism through aid.
Furthermore, many African countries have embraced China since getting development deals from western benefactors and companies have often involved the African country reforming their oppressive regime somewhat for the deal to be sealed. For example, say, a Belgian company wanting to fund new rail lines from a coastal trade hub to a resource mine will require the African state’s government to commit to human health, anti-corruption and workers standards first before they will do the trade. But then China comes into the picture, offers double or more the European offer but also maintains that they don’t care how the African nation gets the job done so long as it gets done and China has top access to those resources.
Expanding China-Africa Oil Ties
As global demand for energy continues to rise, major players like the United States, the European Union, and Japan are facing a new competitor in the race to secure long-term energy supplies: China. The economic powerhouse has increasingly focused on securing the resources needed to sustain its rapid growth, locking down sources of oil and other necessary raw materials across the globe. As part of this effort, China has turned to Africa. Through significant investment in a continent known for its political and social risks, China has helped many African countries develop their nascent oil sectors while benefiting from that oil through advantageous trade deals. However, China faces growing international criticism over its allegedly exploitative business practices, coupled with a failure to promote good governance and human rights. At the same time, complex local and regional politics are challengingChina’s noninterference policy in the affairs of African governments.
While the majority of Africa’s exports to China are in oil, it also exports iron ore, metals, and other commodities, as well as a small amount of food and agricultural products. At the same time, China exports a range of machinery and transportation equipment, communications equipment, and electronics to African countries. In 2009, China surpassed the United States as Africa’s largest trade partner (WSJ). According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Sino-African trade reached $126.9 billion for 2010, while the trade volume between China and Africa rose 30 percent year-on-year during the first three quarters of 2011, signaling a new record high (ChinaDaily). China’s top five African trading partners (CapitalWeek) are Angola, South Africa, Sudan, Nigeria, and Egypt.
China has taken a two-pronged approach in its economic relations with Africa, American University’s Deborah Brautigam wrote at ForeignAffairs.com in January 2010. It has offered resource-backed development loans to oil and mineral-rich nations like Angola, and developed special trade and economic cooperation zones in several states, including Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Zambia. Special economic zones, Brautigam argues, allow African countries to “improve poor infrastructure, inadequate services, and weak institutions by focusing efforts on a limited geographical area.”
The Chinese Approach to Securing Africa’s Oil
China has pursued exploration and production deals in smaller, low-visibility countries, such as Gabon, while also targeting Africa’s largest oil producers—with whom the United States and Europe have longstanding relationships—by offering integrated aid packages.
In Angola, Africa’s largest exporter of oil to China, oil deals “are characterized by loans and credit lines in connection with infrastructure projects,” writes Shelly Zhao for China Briefing magazine. A series of credit lines and loans since 2004 has includedfunds for Chinese companies to build railroads, schools, roads, hospitals, bridges, and offices; lay a fiber-optic network; and train Angolan telecommunications workers. According to a Center for Strategic and International Studies paper (PDF), in September 2007 the Export-Import Bank of China extended a $2 billion oil-backed loan for a series of projects in Angola, including the construction of new schools and hospitals, as well as the development of the country’s energy and water sectors.
China has taken a starkly different approach from that of the West in Africa, argues Howard W. French of Columbia University in a May 2010 Atlantic article. “It has focused on trade and commercially justified investment, rather than aid grants and heavily subsidized loans,” he writes. French adds that unlike the West, China” has declined to tell African governments how they should run their countries, or to make its investments contingent on government reform.”
Then, 3 years ago in 2009…
During Obama’s first term, Uganda discovered that it has a lot of oil…
Oil find sparks new hope for Uganda’s people
Vast discovery could transform the economy – but only if managed well
On the remote western edge of Uganda the land suddenly drops down into the western arm of the Great Rift Valley to reveal the vast expanse of Lake Albert and the blue mountains of Congo beyond. Hippos and marabou storks wander the shoreline near the tiny fishing villages whose hauls of Nile perch, tilapia, catfish and white herring sustain the local economy. But now there are new, less natural features marking the landscape, ones that could change the course of the country.
“We never knew we were sitting on oil here,” said James Ocham, a 27-year-old fisherman outside the Classic Inn Lodge and Bar as he gazed towards an oilrig erected alongside a nearby lagoon. “In time we are all going to benefit – there will be jobs, even for the unemployed.”
The discovery of vast oil reserves in Uganda has caused excitement across the country, and more than a touch of anxiety too. Energy companies have recently found more than 700m barrels of commercially viable oil in the pristine Albertine Graben region, representing the first major petroleum strike in east Africa. Tullow Oil, the FTSE 100 company leading the exploration, believes the exploitable deposits could exceed 1.5bn barrels, reserves comparable to Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Chad .
If managed well, the petrodollars could transform the economy of the landlocked country, potentially doubling the state’s revenues, creating thousands of jobs and help realise President Yoweri Museveni’s dream of industrialising the country.
If not, sceptics point to Nigeria, where billions of dollars of oil income has brought great wealth to the few but failed to solve widespread poverty, and whose mere mention makes Ugandan government officials bristle.
So it’s interesting to me that, despite the LRA moving largely out of Uganda and being inactive for several years, that suddenly there is a heaping amount of attention on Uganda. If the USA clears out any political threat to the area, not only does it win Uganda’s favour but it also has a potentially resource rich ally in the centre of Africa.
So a year after the discovery of Uganda oil and despite the fact that the LRA has been active in Uganda since 1987, suddenly in May of 2010, Obama signed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northen Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 into law, which makes it American policy to kill or capture Joseph Kony and to crush his rebellion.
Stopping the LRA, by mandating President Obama to devise an interagency strategy to prevent LRA violence, which should include a multilateral plan to apprehend top LRA leaders, encourage defections of rebel commanders, demobilize child soldiers, and protect civilians from rebel attacks; and
Investing in sustainable peace, by targeting US assistance to recovery and reconciliation efforts in northern Uganda, which are essential to rebuilding and healing war-affected communities and preventing future conflicts.
To this end, the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act:
Calls for the US to dedicate $10 million for each of the next three years to support underfunded reconciliation and transitional justice initiatives in Uganda;
Recommends Congress increase funding for reconstruction assistance to northern Uganda in future fiscal years, provided that the Ugandan government takes steps to effectively implement economic recovery plans; and
Requires the Obama Administration to report on the effectiveness of US assistance to northern Uganda and work with international partners and the Ugandan government to strengthen accountability mechanisms to ensure the transparent and timely use of funds.” *
So basically if the USA is able to keep the LRA out of Uganda, they also get exclusive “reconstruction” rights. Similar to reconstruction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. US contractors get the megabux pretty much.
Which is interesting to be since all this effort is being focused on Uganda to fight an organization that is currently exacting massacres in the borderlands of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
If there was an honest effort to target the LRA, it would be directing much of it’s effort there, rather than North Western Uganda which is already largely LRA free. If Kony is anywhere, it’s there northwest of Uganda, not in Northern Uganda itself. Kony has recognized the US presence in Uganda so understandably he has left the country. Furthermore, the recent independence of South Sudan (borders the northern edge of Uganda) has cut off Kony from his allies in Khartoum.
Speaking of which, Sudan (Khartoum is the capital) has long been suspected and all but confirmed to be bankrolling and supplying the LRA. Then the recent rebellion and . That’s why the most recent attacks by the LRA has occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just south of the border of the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Uganda is actually pretty far to the east of where this has occurred. Not that the LRA has posed much of a problem since they number roughly somewhere between 1000 people with a ceiling of 3000 soldiers, mostly children.
Also, it it worth noting that the newly discovered oil fields in northern Uganda is also why South Sudan has become it’s own country as that same oil field crosses into former southern Sudanese territory. Just last year South Sudan gained independence from Sudan after a long struggle of independence. Sudan proper has been reluctant to let go of it’s oil rich south but finally relented last year.
The effort to defeat Kony is a just effort but a misplaced one and for a large number of wrong reasons. To put all of the effort in Uganda makes little sense. Even General Carter Ham, the head of the US Africa Command has said that Kony is probably hiding in the Central African Republic, rather than Uganda. The US presence is pretty much deployed to maintain peace in Uganda and not go after the LRA which is currently active in the countries west of Uganda. However, to the credit of the United States, if the neighbouring countries ask for it, they are willing to provide assistance in South Sudan, the DR of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Considering the United States relative disregard to African atrocities throughout recent history (IE: Rwanda, Sudan, Darfur, General Butt Naked of Liberia, Robert Mugabe’s ongoing oppression and support of genocide on Boers, etc etc) it’s surprising that suddenly the US is giving attention to specifically Uganda, but realization of recent oil discoveries in Uganda and Chinese interests in the land helps make the image clearer. The US almost never acts out of genuine sympathy for peoples of 3rd world nations and often gives convenient humanitarian reasons for military involvement (Saddam Hussein is oppressing the people of Iraq but ehh, we aren’t quite sure how to deal with Mubarak in Egypt while there is a popular uprising against his regime).
In my opinion, American interest in Africa and especially Uganda isn’t out of genuine support for the livelihood of the people of Uganda, it’s to reign in the growing influence of China in Africa. It’s basically an economic cold war being waged against the prime opponent of American interests in the world: a growing China.