China’s big ‘Belt and Road’ push in Africa

In another era, White colonisers had landed on Africa’s coast in search of resources and slaves. The traumatic epoch of slave trade and European colonisation, with its horrific human consequences, formally ended in the 1960s and 1970s. But arguably, the basic equation of Africa’s resource-rich periphery serving the metropolitan industrial centres in Europe and North America remained fundamentally unchanged. It is not that Africa has not progressed. The African Union (AU) — the culmination of the pan-African dreams of an earlier generation of leaders such as Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Algeria’s radical ideologue Frantz Fanon — is a dynamic reality. South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt, among others, are regional powerhouses. Rwanda has made a courageous comeback after an inter-ethnic genocide in the early 1990s. Yet, industrialisation has been patchy. Civil war, terror attacks and disease outbreaks have all undermined the efforts. While the threat of terror was epitomised by the mass abduction of schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Nigeria, repeated outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo have only added to the instability of the Central African region. In this matrix, China has emerged as a game-changer in the 21st century. This is despite acerbic criticism from its detractors that Beijing is spearheading a second wave of colonisation through financial enslavement and other tools present in its well-stocked armoury. The Chinese establishment is dismissive of these accusations.

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