Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Botswana should look elsewhere in lieu of loans long promised by China

Long before the arrival of Coronavirus, there were concerns inside Botswana Government that the loans that had been promised Botswana and indeed other African countries were taken inordinate lengths of time to be dispatched.

Now China is in the middle of a global crisis, and depending on how the leadership there reacts, the ramifications not just to human life but to the economy are immense.

Almost two years ago all of Africa’s Heads of State descended on Beijing for China-Africa Summit. All leaders arrived carrying a wish list of what money they prayed China to finance.

As the case with all poor people, African leaders arrived with a cap in hand.

It was a marvel to watch as African leaders tripped over one another to present their wishes to President Xi of China who like an Emperor stood in the middle of the room shaking hands of each African Head of State – one by one.

Nearly $60 billion worth of investment pledges was made by President Xi.

For Botswana it was a double. President Mokgweetsi Masisi was in China also on state visit as President Xi Jingpin’s guest of honour.

It was China’s moment as it showed off its diplomatic muscle, highlighting to the world – especially the West that Africa was from now going forward, China’s backyard.

Two years later, China’s pledges to Africa remain unfulfilled.

Condition after condition have been set and met. But not much to show for it.

The situation presents challenges for Botswana, like the rest of Africa.

Many countries had looked up to China to provide the money that was a lifeline to many countries.

Botswana, among other things had wanted to rebuild the Nata-Maun road.

This road is specifically important for carrying tourists to the north.

As we speak that road is in a state of disrepair, thus being a great danger to tourists.

Botswana should look for alternative funding, especially to African Development Bank.

The importance of this road cannot be over-emphasized.

The road cannot wait for China to sort out its much bigger problems.

Early estimates project

=that the growth of the Chinese economy in the first quarter could be slashed by as much as 2 percent.

This shows that the dynamics have changed drastically.

China now has other new and pressing priorities in its hands.

The Chinese economy is at a standstill. For many businesses, a shutdown is really a more appropriate word.

Issuing out loans and grants to Africa is the least of those priorities.

In the meantime key developmental projects that were supposed to be financed by money from China remain in the lurch.

Botswana, like the rest of Africa relies heavily on China.

China provides a sizeable number of tourists to Botswana.

And it will be some time before those tourists can start arriving again.

There are other mining shipments that routinely come from Botswana to China.

As it is all those will be suspended or cancelled until everything goes to normal in China.

Internally, China is reporting weakest consumer demands since the SARS virus hit almost twenty years ago.

But unlike the effects of SARS virus, Coronavirus seems to be far-reaching.

But still China is a powerhouse presence in both manufacturing and export – and these are inevitably going to take a significant knock. The end result is that many companies across the world will run out of components and also out of alternatives.

They will have to wait out the crisis and hope that the rebound and restart once the virus is over happen quickly.

Botswana does not need to wait any longer for China to release the money.

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Sunday Standard July 12 – 18

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 12 - 18, 2020.