Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Botswana absence at the US-Africa Summit: what are the implications?

In the recent past Botswana relations with China have become increasingly difficult.

It is a result of defective multi-billion Pula projects that many Chinese state owned companies like Synohydro have left in their trail in Botswana.

Taking advantage of corruption among Botswana’s elite, especially the business people related to the country’s political leadership, Chinese companies literally infiltrated Botswana government’s procurement systems along the way hogging preferential deals for themselves.

They have as a result been exclusively getting lucrative contracts that have allowed them to build roads, airports, dams, bridges, schools and even power stations.

The trouble is that almost all of the said projects have not been without major structural defects.

Almost invariably a few years after each of the said projects was commissioned or handed to Botswana government it started showing major structural defects which have increased the government’s refurbished and maintenance bill.

Botswana is not alone in suffering these ills at the hands of Chinese multinationals.

Many African states have had to contend with forceful growing Chinese influence in the continent.

Over the last few years China has over a short space of time become the biggest investor in Africa.

China is also a lender, guarantor and in ever growing size aid provider for Africa.

It is a relationship that has proved not only costly but also counterproductive and indeed regressive for the African continent; counterproductive in as far as it has been premised on turning a blind eye to human rights violations, limiting of political freedoms and blighting of good governance.

The relationship has been regressive because it delayed and in some instance reversed the gains in democratization that Africa had been starting to making since the early 1990s.

The fact of the matter is that china on account of its insatiable appetite for energy, natural resources and the market for their goods has invested heavily in Africa. Because of Chinese authorities’ unwillingness to ask difficult questions on human rights as conditions for them setting in Africa, China has literally replaced the United States and Europe as the continent’s biggest investor and creditor.

And to overtake America, China has had to cultivate relations with corrupt indigenous elite who have never been in short supply in Africa.

More appalling is that for many African dictators in Zimbabwe, Angola and Guinea for example, China is by far the preferred investment partner for those countries’ dictatorial elites.

The contest for Africa by China and the United States was put in perspective last week in Washington when American president Obama hosted over forty African Heads of State.

Washington is worried by Beijing’s sprawling influence in Africa. And rightly so.

As Washington blinked, China apportioned all of Africa to itself.

Now Washington is playing catch-up. And not for the first time, Africans find themselves becoming helpless pawns in the world’s geopolitics that are in no way of their making.

As a result of China influence, the despots who many of us in Africa had thought we had seen the last of are back again.
Fully aware of the unconditional protection and guarantees they are receiving from China their  impunity and grotesqueness are much greater than those of their forebears who were accountable to the much tampered restraints of American and European benefactors.

For Botswana it is instructive that President Ian Khama chose not to attend the US-Africa Summit.

It is a sign that Botswana really does not count much on what is on offer from America when it comes to investment.
While Botswana relations with China have recently been rocky that seems to be changing yet again.

Botswana, early information suggests, has been able to extract more concessions from the Chinese government which is the cause behind the country’s recalcitrance against the west.

Those concessions with China are also behind Botswana government’s buoyancy to an extent of being defiant against the West.
After a freeze in relations between Botswana and China caused by fallout stemming from defective projects carried out by Chinese state-owned companies, it looks like it will not be long before those Chinese behemoths descend on our shores again.

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