Dialogue Exchange Program
There is a long-held view that Chinese Investments have not brought the much needed economic and social transformation to many receipient countries in Africa. However, this assertion can only be verified through factual information. This report seeks to outline the impact of Chinese investments in some African countries based on the experiences and views of the different stakeholders from China, East and Southern Africa that were in attendance. It was clear from the participants that Africa was in need of investment but the major challenge was that the continent does not have a policy on how to handle Chinese invetments. In the process this has created some cultural and social conflicts between China and some reciepient countries. At the end of the dialogue session, the participants agreed that Africa needed to optimise on Chinese investments whilst addressing the negative impacts
The dialogue exchange program was officially opened during a dinner hosted for the participants on the 25th of February. Dinner speeches were made by the director of ZELA, Mr M. Dhliwayo and country director of AFSC, Mrs N. Nkomo. The key note address was given by Mr A. Matiza from the Ministry of Environment. Their speeches laid the foundation for the presentations that made by various speakers and the key message was that there is to extensively interrogate the impacts of Chinese investments and to come out with a correct prognosis of the situation so that were possible corrective action, whether at local or national level. Most of the participants managed to arrive on the first day, so this enabled the networking session during the dinner to be interactive.
Presentations that were made in the two and half days followed a structured pattern. Two or more presenters spoke and then it was opened for discussion. The discussions were highly interactive, as the participants shared their ideas and experiences. The major setback was the absence of a voice from Chinese investors. The participants were advised that due to logistical constraints, the organisers were unable to secure at least one Chinese investor to attend the program.
The program was divided into six categories that included the following:
i.China-Africa Today: Perceptions and Barriers to Dialogue. Presentations made by Ms Gwere, Professor Jing and Mr Vava clearly outlined that there was symbiotic relationship between China and Africa. China was investment because it needs the vast natural resources found on the continent to meet its expanding economic growth. Africa on the other hand need investment for infrastructural and economic development. Prof Jing, an academic from China clearly outlined that China had a policy on its investments in Africa and she came out clear that Africa had the power to reject or accept any investor that came its way.
- Chinese Investments in Africa. Presentations were made by Dr Rihan, Dr Tsabora and Dr Bokosi on the topic. Dr Rihan highlighted that in 2017, China had invested 3,2 billion in Africa and he encouraged African governments to conduct due diligence on investors to minimise the negative impacts. Dr Bokosi and Dr Tsabora expressed concern that Africa at times received rogue investors, who are not willing to abide by national laws. They attributed this to weak institutional structures and poorly negotiated contracts.
iii.Understanding Chinese investments in Africa. Presentations were made by Ms Chakanya and Dr I Farah on this topic. Ms Chakanya clearly outlined that there were labour violations perpetrated by Chinese investors, through a research study that they conducted in 10 countries in Africa. Dr Farah outlined that Chinese investments have at times created county conflicts and the government has had to intervene to address some of the challenges. Furthermore, he criticised the one-size fit all approach that had been adopted by China as it engages Africa.
- China’s Engagement in Africa’s Development: Views from Africa. Perspectives were shared from representatives coming from East and Southern Africa. Generally the presentations highlighted that the investments had created more harm that good to the people at grassroot level. In Kenya, effort has been made to ensure communities engage in alternative sustainable livelihoods where investments have disrupted social system.
- Sustainability Issues in Asia-Africa Relations. Presentations were made by Mr Marowa from BCSD and Hon Maridadi, a member of Parliament. A positive account was given by Mr Marowa of a Chinese investor operating within the confines of the law and who has brought positive development. Hon Maridadi on the other hand expressed concern on the poorly negotiated contracts that attracted investment which were more detrimental than beneficial to the country.
- Dispute Resolution and Non-judicial Redress Mechanisms. The dispute resolution mechanisms and case studies were outlined by Ms Makumbe, Chief Mapunzure and Mr Tower. Localised and national structures can be used effectively to address conflicts within communities.