On African-Asian Relations

Here’s an interesting review by Ken Kamoche on African-Asian relations, and the problem of aid. The goals of the three big Asian nations can essentially be summed up as follows:

CHINA
Goal: Resources; Containing Taiwan

China has hosted the world leaders of just about all African party nations, primarily because of China’s thirst for resources continues unabated, but also because to contain the political recognition of Taiwan. Although both China and many African countries have come away with benefits, they have been skewed in favour of China, and the relationship has been dogged by controversy.

INDIA
Goal: Business Ties; Political support

Dehli has long eyed Africa’s for business opportunities, but the approach is ad hoc and piecemeal, and often all rhetoric with little substance, except in terms of exporting labour to Africa. Part of this is hindered by the fact that in many ways, India remains a developing region like Africa (so is China, but in a different way). Then there is UNSC membersip, an exclusive tier of nations that India dreams to join to solidify its status as a world power. The political equation of gaining a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, or in the case of Taiwan, simply being allowed to join the UN, requires block support, which is where Africa comes in.

JAPAN
Goal: Political Support; New Markets

Japan has the vaguest goals in Africa. Like India, Japan wants a seat on the UNSC. It also wants support on international treaties regarding everything from global warming to whaling. But Japan may hold the greatest hope for Africa if it can help growth in the same way it helped Thailand, where the largest Japanese manufacturers, anxious to escape the high costs of labour and production in Japan, built not just roads and dams, but also industrial parks. One interesting fact not noted in the article is that Africa is increasingly becoming a market for Japanese goods, such as the growth in exports of automobiles from Japan to Africa, while exports to other markets have stagnated or dropped.

The author believes that Africa has potential to be powerful, because more and more emerging major powers need its resources and support. But because it is not unified, it ends up being treated like a political football, where African leaders make agreements and pledge support in exchange for “promises” of aid, to which the author writes:

When are people going to realise that no country ever achieved economic independence and industrial growth on the basis of aid?… Aid in Africa has done little to change the continent’s fortunes. A lot of the so-called official development assistance ends up in the black hole of institutionalised graft. The so-called soft loans end up becoming a millstone around the necks of millions who never benefited from the handouts…. At least the Indians did not go on and on about aid. Instead they spoke of partnerships, whatever that means.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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2 Responses to On African-Asian Relations

  1. Aceface says:

    Tokyo International Conference on African Development,also known as TICAD was originally started in 1993.TICAD was the pioneer of roundtable talks between Asian power and African leaders that proceeds China-Africa Summit for thirteen years.Japan’s interst in Africa is more of a political nature,not on mercantilism as the author has proposed.
    I think the author,along with most of the western writer on Japanese diplomacy,only repeat the hype and not relying on the fact.

  2. Mike says:

    It seems that the the improvement in Sino African relations may be entirely due to China’s self interest and the reasoning is entirely strategic and unlikely to be altruistic. After all, in China itself the people look down on those with the darkest skins. But China has to trade with black Africa when there is perceived to be such a worldwide supply shortage of the resources its burgeoning economy needs. By ingratiating itself to African countries and pouring billions of dollars into Africa in return for the necessary commodities China is seen by many as a good trading partner by African regimes. However, for those African countries run by a dictator the associated economic benefit does not go to the African country as a whole but instead goes to the regime often controlling its country by ruthless force and brutality – without any care and humanity for the ordinary African citizen – which will be perpetuated with continuing regime support from China. (Greed for the few with poverty for the majority). Sure, the African countries may get mega investment in new infrastructure and cities (probably palaces for the ruling regimes). But, provided China can keep its client African regimes happy does it need to worry about the human rights of the country’s subjects? As China cements its strategic presence in Africa and ensures the increasing flow of commodities and resources it is likely to be in China’s economic interest to support corrupt regimes and to supply them with the weaponry to maintain the hard line status quo. Should it therefore be China’s concern if an African ruling regime exterminates half of its people using the arms provided by China, so long as the flow of resources continues to flow back to China? Indeed, how long will it be before an African country has an expat Chinese army on its soil who could take over the country if political change interrupts such flow of goods? This is the real world where power will be exercised by the strongest to ensure economic survival. Ultimately great tracts of Africa may become a slave to the Chinese economy whilst still ruled by compliant despotic African dictators – effectively the puppets of China’s foreign policy. China is perhaps only taking advantage of the gross mismanagement of some African countries but by propping up their corrupt regimes it is ensuring that China can strip the assets bare with impunity. Colonials have done this in Africa to some extent in the past but not on the scale that is likely to take place in the 21st century. Sure China will be paying for the goods but at what cost to the people and the environments which will be stripped bare in Africa? Many of Africa’s leaders may be willing to sell its country’s soul and heritage to the great economic power that is China today in return for keeping these same leaders in power. Some of those African regimes with good human rights records who trade with China will share the benefits with their African countrymen. However, in the future some African regimes that have embraced China totally may lose all control of the Chinese presence in their country and may be unable to stop an effective Chinese takeover of their country exercised by its new African puppet regime. Some questions are whether things will be better or worse for Africans, or for the world as a whole? What Africans will benefit from the expected prosperity? What else can Africa do about it? Is this the new way for Africa to be managed and is it a future that Africa deserves after the years of mismanagement?