Sunday, June 16, 2024

Botswana Gov’t should increase transparency of loans from China

There is an ongoing geopolitical contest for Africa between the United States and China.

That contest took an altogether new twist last year when the United States made it clear that it will be re-engaging with Africa.

That reengagement rakes many facets, chief of which is investing resources in Africa.

Investments announced so far are in the fields that include public health, security, food security and infrastructure.

America’s image in Africa is badly tarnished.

During the pandemic, when Africa needed American help badly, America was not there.

Instead it was China that was sending vaccine and PPEs.

As it re-enters Africa, it is important for America to show not just humility but to accept that Africa has other friends, including China, which we have to be honest now control much of Africa.

The contest will intensify now that the pandemic is for a greater part behind us. And China has now fully reopened, with the economy fast gaining strength.

Africa is a continent rich in natural resources.

The contest between China and the United States also plays out in the contest for technological advancement, much of it related to AI (artificial Intelligence) and reliant on chip production.

A resurgent China will want to take off where it last left when the pandemic set in.

Before the pandemic disrupted the world economy, China had made undertakings to much of Africa.

Largely those undertakings were through loans, a part of what was then the Belt and silk Road.

China’s friendship with Africa is not risk free.

Countries like Sri Lanka are living examples of what happens when a country borrows from China and ends up unable to pay.

Africa badly needs investments from both China and America.

It would be unfortunate if Africa was made to choose between the two.

But China as we all know does not claim to be a democracy.

The country does not have the cleanest human rights record. And because it does not talk about human rights in its meeting with its allies, African despots are always too eager to go to the east.

The trouble with money from China to Africa is that like many things Chinese it is cloaked in secrecy.

The conditions of the loans are never made public.

It is only when governments change in Africa that we often get a glimpse of what had been agreed because the incoming government does not like the terms or for some reason feels constrained to honour those terms.

A case in point is Zambia where the new government there insist on renegotiating the terms from a previous one.

Botswana is among Beijing’s foremost darlings in Africa.

The relationship improved significantly after the departure of former President Ian Khama who detested China, especially its policy towards his friend, the Dalai Lama.

Botswana like many countries had lined up to receive loans and grants from China.

Botswana desperately needs the money.

Many roads are in a state of disrepair.

Much of public infrastructure is lagging behind having been cancelled or postponed owing to shortage of funds.

China money into Botswana is cloaked into secrecy.

That secrecy should be lifted.

Botswana and China subscribe to different value systems.

And it should be clear in our dealings as countries.

Africa has a fast growing population that is mainly youth. There is also high unemployment and poverty across the continent.

The continent offers immense opportunities for big economies of the world.

But the continent also stands to benefit from economic strategic partnerships.


Read this week's paper