* With fast-growing population, Africa's priority is jobs
* China provided infrastructure but brought own workforce
* Beijing's focus on raw materials provides few good jobs
* Cheap manufacturing imports stifle African industry
By Daniel Flynn
DAKAR, July 21 China has brought cheap consumer
goods, roads and schools to many parts of Africa over the last
decade but the continent's leaders are increasingly pushing for
it to provide more of what many Africans want most: jobs.
From Pretoria to Abuja, governments have begun voicing
frustration that China's use of Africa as a source of natural
resources and a market for its goods may be hindering the
continent haul its billion people out of poverty.
A recent report by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa
(UNECA) highlighted the risk that the continent's relationship
with the world's second largest economy could strangle its
attempts to industrialize.
China's trade with Africa ballooned from $10 billion in 2000
to an estimated $200 billion this year - four years after it
overtook the United States as the continent's largest partner.
But some 85 percent of China's exports from Africa are raw
materials, such as oil and minerals. According to the African
Development Bank, most minerals mined in Africa are exported
raw, meaning the jobs and wealth from processing them is created
A flood of Chinese produce, meanwhile, has accelerated the
decline in industrialisation since the 1980s. Africa's textile
industry alone lost 750,000 jobs over the last decade, according
to the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation.
Even in the continent's manufacturing powerhouse South
Africa, some 40 percent of footwear and fabrics come from China.
Expressing the concerns of many African governments, South
African President Jacob Zuma bluntly warned last year that such
an unbalanced pattern of trade was "unsustainable".
"The romanticized relationship surrounding China's
investment in Africa has passed," said Alex Vines, head of the
Africa programme at the Chatham House research institute.
"With the world's youngest and fastest-growing population,
the main pressure on governments in Africa is to provide jobs.
Having the Chinese take those jobs doesn't help."
VYING FOR JOBS
It is true China's boom has brought many benefits to Africa.
Beijing has won fulsome praise from many governments for its
willingness to finance massive infrastructure projects without
conditions relating to democracy, governance and human rights -
the "strings" Africa has often criticised in aid from the West.
Chinese economic growth rates averaging 10 percent a year
for almost a decade fuelled a commodities "super-cycle" which
has lifted Africa's own growth to unprecedented rates.
And the cheap Chinese goods being imported help make
everyday living more affordable and develop the consumer sector
across the continent.
But in many countries, China's demand for ore, timber and
oil is forcing African states to specialise at the bottom of the
value chain in areas with low productivity gains, UNECA said.
With Africa supplying one-third of China's oil, much of it
from Angola, UNECA highlighted the risk of 'Dutch Disease'
whereby demand for raw materials inflates a currency, making
other sectors uncompetitive against foreign competition.
Even in Senegal, an arid West African country not usually
associated with the 'resource curse', domestic peanut processing
factories face the threat of being driven out of business as
Chinese exporters buy up the crop to ship home.
Attempts to legislate for industrialisation, such as bans on
the export of unprocessed logs from Gabon and Mozambique, have
often proved fruitless. In Gabon, where Beijing has broken
French dominance over logging, an estimated 60 percent of timber
is exported illegally to China.
Respected Nigerian Central Bank Governor Lamidu Sanusi said
in March that China's extraction of resources from Africa had
all the attributes of "colonialism".
In an apparent response to such criticism, Chinese President
Xi Jinping took pains during a six-day African tour in March to
stress his country was seeking a win-win partnership.
"The development of China will be an unprecedented
opportunity for Africa, and Africa's development will be the
same for my country," he told lawmakers in Congo Republic.
Beijing has provided much-needed capital to a continent
starved of investment. The China Import-Export Bank is the
continent's largest creditor and Beijing has promised $20
billion more in loans over the next three years.
But Beijing's money comes with its own strings: it must be
spent on Chinese goods or Chinese-built infrastructure. And
Chinese firms often source their supplies and workers back home.
The number of Chinese in Africa has increased 10-fold over
the last 20 years to an estimated 1 million. From shopkeepers in
Malawi to prostitutes in Cameroon, Africans complain that
Chinese competition is making life tougher.
Unlike Western immigrants, the Chinese diaspora comes from
the poorest section of society and competes directly for work
with Africans, some 80 percent of whom are in "vulnerable
employment" according the International Labour Organisation.
In Ghana, tensions flared into violence last month when
police and residents attacked artisanal Chinese goldminers,
claiming they were driving locals out of the industry. Many
Chinese were brutally beaten and some 200 were deported.
Frustration has also emerged with the operating practices of
some Chinese firms. In Gabon, Chinese refiner Sinopec's
Addax Petroleum is embroiled in a $1 billion legal
dispute over an oil licence after the government alleged
it failed to pay customs duties and respect other laws.
Zambia, where Chinese mines have a record of violent labour
disputes, revoked three licences for the Chinese-owned Collum
coal mine, alleging non-payment of royalties taxes, and poor
environmental and safety records.
"Now more countries are engaging with Africa, there are more
options. Several countries are looking at Chinese investment
with a more critical eye," said Razia Khan, head of Africa
research at Standard Chartered Bank. "There will be more and
more scrutiny of these contracts."
Responding to the criticism from Nigeria and South Africa,
China's Commerce Ministry has encouraged firms to increase
investment in Africa. China is launching Special Economic Zones
for manufacturing companies on the continent.
Though it is Africa's largest trading partner, China has
only 6 percent of the stock of foreign investment - well behind
France on 18 percent - according to U.N. trade body UNCTAD.
Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has urged
African countries to woo Chinese manufacturing firms into
offshoring their production as their domestic labour costs rise.
"We need to prepare ourselves to provide a welcoming home
for some of the industries where the Chinese will no longer be
competitive," she told a conference in London last month.