I have always thought it was a matter of time before the Chinese presence in Botswana penetrated all sectors of our life. If the British were our masters of yesterday, the Chinese are of today. Yes, China is becoming a new imperial power and is slowly romancing African states both ideologically and economically. Their allure being their ability to provide financial aid!
Unlike former imperial powers, China does not need to burden its conscience with moral responsibility.
There is no household in Botswana that has not experienced Chinasation in terms of consumables and gadgets. Street after street is littered with cheap plastic imports.
The Chinese presence and its embodiment is something that is now changing the landscape of Botswana.
You can’t go to any part of the country without sporting several of them. To some Batswana, these cheap goods are a god send.
We are yet to hear a report of the quality of these goods from standard quality control office: I have never seen an institution so mute.
On one occasion, I was offered tshasa (a Tswana name for a popular Chinese ointment often used to kill pains) upon complaining that my body was itching. To be precise, it was this vicks like ointment that heralded the coming of the Chinese in Botswana, as for all Europe designs, labels the Chinese have come to imitate.
Additionally, their shops store some of the best designs organically owned by African fashion designers. Come to think of it, China has no respect for peoples’ intellectual rights.
It’s scary. What sheer coincidence could this be, now there is Soyota instead of Toyota, Nike infamous tick is now placed the other way, what about Tirelo Sabacha instead of Tirelo Sechaba, the sacred ZCC inscription is now ZZC as a clothing label, our national quote of arms was once displayed on T shirts and other items until the government cried foul.
Simply put, China has not improved the livelihoods of the people that spend their last earnings on Chinese goods.
Worse, most of these people are the margins of society.
Chinese goods have hurt local companies; Batswana general dealers have become Chinese substitute shops.
I know to be competitive in this globalised world any country worth its salt has to harness any opportunity it deems will improve its competitiveness.
No other continent in the world perhaps needs this competitive edge like African countries who have continued to see their share of Foreign Direct Investment dwindle over the last two decades and continues to slide.
While Botswana needs to link its arms with the rising super power, I hope they do so cautiously.
Most of the money made by these people does not stay in Botswana to boost the economy.
Instead, it finds its way back to China or other economic power where it’s put to some use. While this is happening, the majority of Batswana held businesses struggle to make in-roads – a mixture of mismanagement and failure to compete with the cheap imports from this ‘benevolent country’! This is why I think in terms of making Batswana or Botswana competitive, the opening of a Chinese centre is not a way to go about it. Is this not another way in which China intends to imperialise Botswana; I don’t see their presence as benevolent.
China, like most imperial powers before her, is self-seeking (okay what country isn’t) and motivated by the drive to secure for itself and maybe its people a very shiny future (well, we will see about its people given its human rights record). I don’t see Batswana queuing at the Chinese embassy wanting to migrate there. In fact, they will be shocked by how intolerant and racist the Chinese are on arrival there.
But maybe, and only maybe, the Centre will improve our communication with the Chinese. Some Chinese businessmen and women have employed numerous tactics to play ignorant once they know they have swindled a client.