GEOG 128
Geography of International Affairs

China in Africa: New Imperialism?

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In the beginning of this course, you watched Africa: The Magnificent African Cake that discussed the colonization of Africa by various European powers. Now, in the post-colonial era, we see a new “scramble for Africa”, as the US, China, and other nations are attempting to consolidate their grip on Africa's natural resources and its growing consumer class. In the video below, the Al Jazeera English program, Empire, travels to Kenya, France, and the USA to examine who is gaining, who is losing, and what it means to Africans.

As you watch this film, think about China’s geopolitical and economic interests in Africa. China’s engagement with Africa has shifted the national and international economic development dynamic. Many African governments now look to China to invest in their economic development programs instead of working with international organizations such as the World Bank and IMF so that they can avoid or resist various loan conditions and provisions—such as the often criticized Structural Adjustment Programs. See the globalissues.org website for a critical history of Structural Adjustment Program and its evolution to Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers.

China’s engagement with Africa can be seen as one whereby overlapping geopolitical codes facilitate a development strategy (for China and within Africa) that is seen as mutually beneficial to the governments and, particularly the elites (“post-structural adjustment oligarchs”) involved. This does not usually translate to a “trickling down” of the benefits, and there has been ample criticism and scrutiny. The film highlights the “new scramble for Africa” and positions this scramble as a neocolonial and neo-imperial battle between China and the West (in particular, America). So, what does the ‘Rise of China’ mean for the US? What does it mean for your DVPM country?

Watch: Empire: The New Scramble for Africa | Al Jazeera English

Click for a transcript of "Transcript of Empire: The New Scramble for Africa Video" video.

MARWAN BISHARA: Africa-- hopeless, corrupt, dysfunctional, just not a place to do business. But suddenly, everything changed. Suddenly, Africa is the place to be and foreign investment is flooding in. And foreign powers are coming back. And that's why we've come to Africa. When the global business media is suddenly interested, when even the Economist, the neo-liberal bible of free trade and free markets, changes their forecast from hopeless to hopeful, somebody should ask the question, hopeful for whom?

So people died for the cause of Africa [INAUDIBLE] Independence. There have been attempts at establishing democracies, but in the end of the day what we see is, the French are there and expanding. The Americans are there and expanding. The Chinese are there expanding like hell, but where are Africans from those challenges that we're talking about? Are we going to back to the same old historical events?

ABUBAKAR ADDY: Most of our group we see, we are talking about 6% GDP per annum, and loose Ghana [INAUDIBLE], but they are coming for mining. They are not really trickling down to the ordinary person.

MARWAN BISHARA: They're coming from where?

ABUBAKAR ADDY: For mining sectors, basically.

MARWAN BISHARA: For natural resources.

ABUBAKAR ADDY: Natural resources.

DUNCAN MPUSETSANG: I go to my home village, and it's the same as it was 10 years ago.

MARWAN BISHARA: Your home village, where?

DUNCAN MPUSETSANG: In Botswana.

EMMANUEL SAMPSON: It's about states' priorities. They don't even care about the masses when you are talking about these deals. You come to certain countries, all state's enterprises now have been privatized because it gets the state or the bureaucrats something. India--

MARWAN BISHARA: In return.

EMMANUEL SAMPSON: Do you get what I'm trying to say? And in the end, they are not providing any opportunity for the youth, so there are lots of unemployment in Africa, now. And people from my home will travel out of Africa because things are just not working.

MARWAN BISHARA: For centuries, Africa was treated like a chessboard by competing global powers. But for a moment about half a century ago, it seemed that there was a sliver of hope. That somewhere between the darkness of colonialism and the horrors of an emerging cold war, that popular movements were winning independence, taking matters into their hands. Africa was rising.

But then the Cold War killed the dream.

Moscow and Washington divided the continent into new spheres of influence. Proxy wars plunged the continents into civil war. But two decades after the Cold War, it seems that Africa is rising again, that investments are flowing in. We need to ask the big question and we need to ask it in Africa. Are Africans, at last, taking matters into their own hands, or is this just another scramble for Africa?

Our journey starts in Kenya. Our first stop is its capital, Nairobi. Nairobi, by all African standards, is a young colonial city. It was built on the railway towards the Port of Mombasa. Today Nairobi is buzzing. It's the financial and trade hub of East Africa. You will see trucks and cranes everywhere, developers at work, except they're not from the west. They're from the East.

China is now Africa's biggest trading partner. In just 10 years, China's trade with the continent has grown from 10 billion to over 200 billion dollars. At least 2,500 Chinese companies are operating in Africa, and more than a million Chinese nationals have moved here to do business. In Kenya, Chinese companies are visible everywhere but they are remarkably camera shy. We were just off this construction site and were turned down by dozens of Chinese firms before we found a businessman who was eager to speak with us.

GAO WEI: Kenya and Africa is a hopeful land and is in the early stage of taking off, so we believe there are a lot of opportunities.

MARWAN BISHARA: When Gao Wei moved to Kenya 10 years ago, he says there were only a handful of Chinese living here. Now, there are tens of thousands.

GAO WEI: The competition between China and the US about this land of Africa, a I have my own opinion. They decide to look East and now Kenya, or Africa country, will make a decision. Which one is better? And the which one I will take.

MARWAN BISHARA: And Kenya, like most of the continent, is choosing China for its big infrastructure projects.

ANNOUNCER: The excellency, the president, will now proceed to view the port and then our [INAUDIBLE].

MARWAN BISHARA: Last August, three African heads of state celebrated the Chinese-built expansion to the port of Mombasa. It will soon be linked to a Chinese-built railway connecting five East African countries.

SPEAKER: Your excellencies, that is what our region needs.

[AFRICAN MUSIC AND SINGING]

MARWAN BISHARA: A railway for 3.5 million dollars connects you to the port, builds ports, that's quite an achievement for Africa and for China.

HOWARD FRENCH: There's ports already in every African country that has an ocean-front, and those ports were built another imperial power, one or another, in the last century. This is what imperial powers do. They build ports so that they can send their goods to that country and so that they can export from that country, to their markets, the things they need from that country.

MARWAN BISHARA: You don't think Africa needs this kind of infrastructure anyway-- at any rate.

HOWARD FRENCH: Africa desperately needs infrastructure. Whether it needs infrastructure of these terms is the question. They are negotiating many of these deals on the basis of a kind of barter-- secure supply of resources for a piece of infrastructure. That's a type of modern barter. Most people elsewhere are not doing that kind of trade or investment with Africa. The second thing that they are doing, which makes this arguably very far from a win-win situation, is China is creating these very powerful feedback loops for its own victory, its own win, that really cut Africa or African countries out of the equation in terms of the benefits. So the blueprints and engineering, no turnover, no handover.

MARWAN BISHARA: It's all Chinese.

HOWARD FRENCH: All Chinese. The workers. They send over 500 or 1,000 workers. They do this for two years. I've been on projects where even the people pushing wheelbarrows are Chinese.

MARWAN BISHARA: So what you're saying is that the loan is Chinese, the investment is Chinese, the plans are Chinese, the designs are Chinese, and the implementations and the workers are Chinese?

HOWARD FRENCH: Many times even the materials are Chinese.

MARWAN BISHARA: Are they actually importing the materials from--

HOWARD FRENCH: The salaries of the workers are typically, or at least very often, banked in China. So win-win is a propaganda slogan. It's not an accurate description of this sort of arrangement. Imperialism evolves. It's different from age to age. The circumstances change. What doesn't change is the balance of power between the two parties that are engaged in imperialism.

MARWAN BISHARA: The weaker and the stronger.

HOWARD FRENCH: The weaker and stronger. And the weaker has an inability to resist, or a lack of alternatives, and that's exactly what we're talking about.

PARSELELO KANTAI: I'm very skeptical about the whole Africa rising narrative. What civilization can one reference that has ever been developed by foreigners.

MARWAN BISHARA: But you also seems to be creating an elite that are benefiting from all the investments, benefiting from the selling of the land, benefiting from the new security situation.

PARSELELO KANTAI: I think the old word for that, if you read your Franz Ferdinand, is the comprador elite. This is not new. We just have a new class of elites. You have your kind of post-structural adjustment oligarchs and others, you know, who are now skimming off the top of these new deals.

MARWAN BISHARA: There are three ways of looking at Africa's so-called growth and prosperity. One is that it is real. The numbers prove it. Seven out of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. As a continent, Africa is growing at 7 to 10% faster than any other continent in the world. The other way of looking at it is that this is fake. All fake. It's a false dawn. Africa's growth is fueled by debt and the mass sale of natural resources.

And then there's a third scenario, which is yes, Africa is growing. Yes, Africa is prospering, but who's benefiting? Africans and their majorities or only a few oligarchs-- only the elite that is linked to global finance and global power? So which is it? And this is the question I need to take to the man in charge of industrializing Kenya-- a former banker turned minister.

You're a former banker and you know what I'm talking about when I say that there's no real development going on in building an industrial infrastructure in the contract or in the country. In fact, your local manufacturing has dropped in terms of production and in terms of exports. And now you're importing a huge number of Chinese cheap products.

ADAN MOHAMED: Correct. China turned into the factory of the world where not only Africa, but many countries, globally, have moved their productions into China. This is now the perfect time for Africa to become what China was many years ago.

MARWAN BISHARA: But you're signing contracts that say 70% of the labor for all these projects is going to be Chinese.

ADAN MOHAMED: Well, I mean there are cases like that in different parts. It's not that--

MARWAN BISHARA: Most cases--

ADAN MOHAMED: It's not like that across Africa. There's no infrastructure project the Chinese do without it being put on a tender-- international tender. People bid and the most appropriate--

MARWAN BISHARA: And the Chinese win.

ADAN MOHAMED: Chinese win. That is the nature of the open nation.

MARWAN BISHARA: But we know that even before the process starts because they're providing the credit. They're the ones who already do the barter, and they are ready to under-price the rest, because they have a long term plan.

ADAN MOHAMED: There are things that you can do as a country, as government, and there are things that you need to do with support of private capital or foreign capital. We must make the grounds convenient and producing for people to want to come and invest in Africa.

MARWAN BISHARA: But for the time being, this is all theory.

ADAN MOHAMED: Well it is not theory. It's a plan that just needs to be executed.

[SINGING IN AFRICAN LANGUAGE]

MARWAN BISHARA: For most of us non-Africans, this is the exotic continent-- open skies, open horizon, natural beauty. Global powers have long projected their fantasies and fears on Africa. The continent presents expanding markets, cheap labor, and natural resources. On the other hand, it's the incubator of their worst nightmares-- instability, ethnic conflicts, and global terrorism.

With the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US war on terror has pivoted to Africa. Last year the US Africa Command ran over 400 missions in more than 35 African nations. The US is training, equipping, or running joint exercises with most of the militaries on the continent.

JEREMY KEENAN: The number two in U-Comm, General Charles Wald, came out with a statement, "the Sahara is a swamp which we must drain of terrorists." He talked of 30,000 terrorists having swarmed out of Afghanistan, through the Sudan, through Chad, through Niger, through Mali, up to Algeria. I've never found a trace of one who's been on that route.

MARWAN BISHARA: Professor Jeremy Keenan has written five books about Africa and the War on Terror. He argues that the threat of terrorism was initially greatly exaggerated both by the US military and by African leaders.

JEREMY KEENAN: So you have these very dictatorial governments basically referring to any civil society movement that had any angst or complaint against the government, they were being branded as sort of terrorists. It's what I call terrorism rents. You're actually getting money off fabricating creating terrorists. And, of course, your opposition gets dubbed as terrorists.

[NEWS ANCHOR VOICEOVER] It is been described as a new front in the War on Terror.

JEREMY KEENAN: What has happened in the last year or two is that it's got out of control. It is now becoming serious. It's become a self-fulfilled prophecy.

[NEWS ANCHOR VOICEOVER] World-wide attention is growing over the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

NEWS REPORTER 2: What should we know about Al Shabaab?

NEWS REPORTER 3: Al Qaeda in the Maghreb which is this group, has about a 1,000--

NEWS REPORTER 4: And safe haven and training grounds for Al Qaeda. Exactly what Afghanistan was in the 1990s.

MARWAN BISHARA: So now the global war on terror has come to Africa. And it's expanding from Nigeria to Kenya. From Algeria to Uganda. It's as if Washington has recreated it's school of the Americas into a new school of Africa. One where, under the rubric of African, American advisers train African security forces to fight Washington's war on terror. So is the new military aid helping stabilize Africa? Or is it dragging the continent into a war that's not its own?

PARSELELO KANTAI: We're in a very tough neighborhood in East Africa. And Kenya has always been something of a save haven.

If you were to present, five years ago, the idea that in five years time, your country is going to be in a state of siege, facing a constant threat of grenade attacks, bombings, or mass scale killing, they would have told you, that's impossible.

The African intervention, in Somalia especially, was predicated on the idea that America was going to avoid embarrassment by putting its own boots on the ground, so African boots could be put on the ground.

MARWAN BISHARA: Right.

PARSELELO KANTAI: In other words, Africa lies.

MARWAN BISHARA: So it outsourced the war on terror to you.

PARSELELO KANTAI: Yes.

MARWAN BISHARA: The war on terror to you.

PARSELELO KANTAI: Absolutely.

MARWAN BISHARA: And do you feel more secure now?

PARSELELO KANTAI: Of course not. I mean, what are the implications of that?

MARWAN BISHARA: What are the implications?

PARSELELO KANTAI: Well, what we are seeing in this country, in Kenya, today is a total backlash-- blow back, really-- against our presence in Somalia. It feels sometimes, and in a lot of places, like we're in a state of siege.

MARWAN BISHARA: Like a state of siege?

PARSELELO KANTAI: Yes.

[CHEERING]

MARWAN BISHARA: Parselelo isn't alone in these feelings. Even the prime minister, who first sent troops to Somalia, has had a change of heart. He now finds himself in the opposition and is calling for a troop withdrawal.

Prime Minister, have you enlisted in the US war or terror in East Africa?

RAILA ODINGA: Yes. It is unfortunate that we are in the midst of the war on terror. It's something that's the circumstances has imposed on us.

MARWAN BISHARA: And it started under you. You're the one who sent the troops to Somalia.

RAILA ODINGA: Yes. We called it operation Linda Nchi. Meaning that that's an operation to protect the country.

MARWAN BISHARA: But don't you think the occupation of Somalia genetics more radicalism and extremism?

RAILA ODINGA: I think so. That's why we must have an exit strategy.

MARWAN BISHARA: But you don't think the President is necessarily on board because he just declared the war on terror.

RAILA ODINGA: He's still in a fighting mood.

MARWAN BISHARA: He's in a fighting mood?

RAILA ODINGA: Yes.

MARWAN BISHARA: That does not bode well for the country. Because as you said, the continent is going to need more stability, not more war.

RAILA ODINGA: Yes. That's what you need-- more stability than war. Exactly.

MARWAN BISHARA: It's war on terror, war on terror.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: Oh my god.

MARWAN BISHARA: Now that might have not reached [INAUDIBLE] yet, but I think--

MALE SPEAKER 1: It's in Kenya.

FEMALE SPEAKER 1: Oh, tell me about it.

JANE BYANI: This war on terror, who is it helping? I mean, when they kept giving us military aid, it's keeping the current government in power.

MARWAN BISHARA: So you cry war on terror, and you get paid, and you stay in power.

JANE BYANI: And you stay in power.

MARWAN BISHARA: But are you saying that the new military solutions of training troops, putting money in new security structures, you think that does help bring peace?

MALE SPEAKER 1: That's not help. All you're going to do with them is to shoot them and kill them. You're not solving the problem.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: The fighting, I think, creates escalation. I think, sometimes, an eye for an eye.

KITAKA MUSEMBI: Like no, we did not invade Somalia just because we wanted to invade Somalia or because it's fun, right?

JANE BYANI: Yes.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: It's true.

KITAKA MUSEMBI: We invaded Somalia it was destabilizing--

MARWAN BISHARA: It wasn't for fun?

KITAKA MUSEMBI: No, it wasn't.

MARWAN BISHARA: Yes.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: It wasn't fun at all. It was destabilizing us and our--

KITAKA MUSEMBI: It was destabilizing Kenya.

MARWAN BISHARA: Now I'm curious.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: Yes?

MARWAN BISHARA: You actually think Kenya can stable Somalia?

KITAKA MUSEMBI: No. I don't think Kenya can stabilize Somalia.

MARWAN BISHARA: So why send the military in then?

JANE BYANI: Yes.

KITAKA MUSEMBI: It's just to--

MARWAN BISHARA: Look [INAUDIBLE].

KITAKA MUSEMBI: Make the situation a bit better.

MALE SPEAKER 1: me one country that was stabilized using military intervention. Give me one country.

KITAKA MUSEMBI: Afghanistan.

MALE SPEAKER 2: Maybe Lebanon. Maybe Lebanon.

KITAKA MUSEMBI: Wait, wait, wait, wait. I don't believe the Kenyan military was ever in Somalia to occupy Somlia.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: Exactly.

KITAKA MUSEMBI: It was to at least try and stabilize Somalia in as much as we can and then move out.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: Yes. That was intention.

KITAKA MUSEMBI: It was never an issue about--

MARWAN BISHARA: But that's why America's in Afghanistan. That's why America is in Iraq.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: No, no, no, no.

MARWAN BISHARA: Only to stabilize.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: No, no, no, no.

JANE BYANI: To introduce democracy.

MARWAN BISHARA: To introduce democracy.

JANE BYANI: Introduce democracy.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: No, no, no, no.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

MARWAN BISHARA: It's perverse, even if it's predictable, that Washington would find its way back to Africa under the pretext of the global war on terror. Clearly today's Africa security agenda is not set in Nairobi or Lagos, it's set in Washington. That's why we need to get to the American capital and speak to an African strategists. Jennifer Cooke is the director of The Africa Program at The Center for Strategic and International studies.

On the one hand, you to fight extremism. On the other hand, you support military dictatorships or military regimes from Egypt or Nigeria.

JENNIFER COOKE: Well, this is a pattern for the US all over the world. I mean, it's not anything new in Africa. What is new in Africa is that we pay a lot more attention because we tend to think we have fewer interests in Africa. It's almost like the US can have morals where it doesn't have interests, in a way.

MARWAN BISHARA: What are Americas interests in Africa?

JENNIFER COOKE: Well, obviously there's the security agenda. There's a growing economic agenda as well. There's also the competition, I think, for political ideas and ideologies.

MARWAN BISHARA: You mean the scramble with the Chinese, and the French, with the Turks, and the Iranians.

JENNIFER COOKE: Yes. I think there is a competition for global norms. We want to remain relevant and influential in Africa. And so I think that's where the game is going to be played.

MARWAN BISHARA: And that justifies the 1.2 billion dollars extra now investment in the military base in Djibouti.

JENNIFER COOKE: Does it justify? Well-- the problem is in the US system, the military is probably the best resource tool that we have. If we had a limited budget, I would say we have to be very careful to balance that with the military. You can train a military in Mali to shoot straight and do the right thing. If the government that they work for is corrupt or weak, no amount of military training is going to fix that country's security problem.

MARWAN BISHARA: Or perhaps the contrary. When you support, train a corrupt military government, that could probably lead to even more disaster.

JENNIFER COOKE: Yes. But you have to get the mix of both, I think.

MARWAN BISHARA: It's good to end on an agreement.

JENNIFER COOKE: Good grief.

MARWAN BISHARA: When we come back, French troops on African soil. Is this the return of the dark, old days of Francafrique.

PARSELELO KANTAI: We're dealing with a continent that has been doubly, maybe even triply, wounded.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NEWS REPORTER 5: France saying it's just hours from direct combat with Al Qaeda fighters.

NEWS REPORTER 6: France is involved now.

NEWS REPORTER 7: Now the French are leading the fight.

NEWS REPORTER 8: Well, I know it sort of offends most American sensibilities.

NEWS REPORTER 9: In fact, the most aggressive country fighting the jihad is France, if you can believe it.

[PARISIAN MUSIC PLAYING]

MARWAN BISHARA: When France invaded Mali last year, it offended Fox News sensibilities to learn that people they once thought of as cheese eating, [INAUDIBLE] were now the front line force in the war on terror in Africa. Here, in Paris, the news was hardly shocking. Many still think of Francophone Africa as their backyard. But it did mark a dramatic change in policy.

[FIREWORKS LAUNCHING]

[MILITARY MARCH PLAYING]

A few years ago, it seemed that France's military was being relegated to the grand parades of the Champs-Elysees That Paris was going to put its past behind it. No more wars, no more interventions, and certainly no more Francafrique, that corrupting system of patronage that governed France's relations with Africa.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Time and again, in the early days of independence, popular African leaders were assassinated or deposed in coups led by ex-French Foreign Legionnaire. Togo in 1963. The Central African Republic in 1966. Burkina Faso also in '66. Mali in 1968. In 50 years of independence, there have been 16 coups in former French colonies, more than in all the other countries of Africa combined. All that violence kept in power governments that were in line with France's political interests and friendly to its oil and mining industry.

The system of interlocking military, political, and economic influence is known as Francafrique. Even today, many former colonies continue to struggle to free themselves from it. France holds the national reserves of 14 African countries in its central bank. It has a web of military bases across West Africa, unparalleled by any other foreign power. And exercises deep political and commercial influence on the continent.

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: This has to change and this has to be ended. So at some point, we have to renegotiate the terms of Francafrique.

MARWAN BISHARA: Do you think this is going to be transformed any time soon?

DOUGLAS YATES: Five, six years ago, you had some very strong anti-French rhetoric coming out of Francophone Africa. What's happened? The actors who were speaking against France have been replaced.

MARWAN BISHARA: Like who? Like where?

DOUGLAS YATES: Well, for example, Ivory Coast.

MARWAN BISHARA: And where else?

DOUGLAS YATES: Where militarily intervenes to impose a pro-French ruler. Or in Mali, where Francois Hollande militarily intervened, suppressing a popular, indigenous movement in the North, to impose a southern leader through what you could barely call real elections. And that Southern leader now, [INAUDIBLE], is a servant of France. In Niger, where Mahamadou Issoufou, who is a former employee of the French uranium country, AREVA, is now the President of Niger. And he recently signed a 40 year concession giving away Niger's only non-renewable natural resource-- uranium.

MARWAN BISHARA: This is an exhausting list. Is he being harsh?

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: Yes. I think so. Quite a bit. I was not supposed to be the French lady on stage, but I have to.

MARWAN BISHARA: No, please. Please. Otherwise, I'm going to have to be the French lady on stage.

DOUGLAS YATES: The French lady.

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: It would be dreadful. I discussed with an American diplomat. They said, OK, French speaking countries. Your history, your stuff. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

MARWAN BISHARA: How do you translate that into English?

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: Shoot first, dear, French people.

MARWAN BISHARA: A text that is written by President Hollande and President Obama, published in the Washington Post, about the deep, important, strategic relationship between the United States and France, especially in Africa. What is this relationship that suddenly has become so important? And why is it there?

DOUGLAS YATES: Well, each of these partners has something to offer in this region that's being called the Africanist. The United States, what does it have to offer? It has money, it has military hardware, things like drones, satellite information. It has a high tech capacity. What does France have to offer? Boots on the ground and intelligence, the one thing The United States can't get in French speaking Africa because it simply doesn't have the language. The businesses are competing for their strategic resources, but the governments are collaborating in the war on terror.

MARWAN BISHARA: But are they now finding that the bigger threat is not amongst themselves, but China? Economically speaking.

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: Economically speaking, everybody acknowledges the power of China. They're saying, OK, we can't compete. They're just there. And they know we have to reorganize to find new ways to make business, new ways to make diplomacy, so that we can keep some influence.

MARWAN BISHARA: And Francafrique helps, in this sense.

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: We speak a lot about the military intervention, but we don't speak about the [INAUDIBLE], for instance. 10 years from now, the biggest French speaking city in the world will be Kinshasa. So it's something very, very important.

MARWAN BISHARA: The cultural of entrenchment in Africa is an asset for Paris.

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: Yes. And we aim to use it strategically.

MARWAN BISHARA: So in that sense, France and the US are getting involved to perhaps confront or contrast with the Chinese involvement?

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: Just to keep their share.

MARWAN BISHARA: So this is it. It's dividing the pie.

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: We are all doing the same things, the same mistakes that we were doing the colonization.

MARWAN BISHARA: Dividing areas of influences within Africa.

HELENE QUENOT-SUAREZ: Yes. But the risk that is at stake--

MARWAN BISHARA: Yes.

You know, it's puzzling to me that the same France that condemned the American British invasion of Iraq would be so in denial over its own military interventions in Africa. Now here you have a country that is capable of debating anything from the smell of cheese to France's rightful place in Europe, but it's incapable of having a frank discussion over it's present and past relationship with Africa. As if, for France, Africa is a place where truth goes to sleep. What is more peculiar is France's anti-imperialist, socialist left that is no less in denial over France's imperialism in Africa.

So how do you feel now about France enlisting in America's war on terrorism in Africa?

MICHEL ROCARD: I don't like this relation and not even this formulation. I am afraid of the taste of the Americans for violence. And, in a way, afraid, too, of their youth. China, Britain, France are thousands year old countries with long historical experience. We are still ashamed of our last colonial wars. We have finished with all that. We have no more any strategic interest in Africa.

MARWAN BISHARA: But now Francois Holland wants to double the trade from 30 billion dollars to 60 billion dollars. How do you double the trade?

MICHEL ROCARD: You are strange. You have a strange way to the question. Francois would like to double the trade of France with the whole world.

MARWAN BISHARA: But the problem is, in Africa, you have been involved in four wars while you are talking about trade.

MICHEL ROCARD: You like to mix all the questions at once.

MARWAN BISHARA: They are mixed.

MICHEL ROCARD: The French reaction is the duty left by history that puts on us an obligation to go there, even if alone. You cannot rub out history. It's not my fault.

MARWAN BISHARA: France is a force-- let's call it a force of stability in Africa. Meaning Africans look to France, it has 10,000 soldiers, it has multiple bases, and it's involved in war, in intelligence on the continent. So it's normal for them to preference France for their trade because France is a power in Africa.

MICHEL ROCARD: Maybe for them. In my vision, we are fed up with all of that. I would have preferred not to have to go to Mali, not to have to send to Africa. But take Mali. They call for help. No one was ready. America was too busy with Iraq, where they should never have been, but they are. Anyway, we helped to destroy the killers. It was a two month operation. For the rest, it's their affair.

MARWAN BISHARA: But you're staying there, in Mali. You're not leaving Mali. Even after the UN comes--

MICHEL ROCARD: I am as sad as you are that all these Muslims, between themselves, are not capable to find ways to speak and to reconstruct friendship.

MARWAN BISHARA: All the new murderous groups, the religiously motivated, religious groups--

MICHEL ROCARD: Yes.

MARWAN BISHARA: Have all of them come out of result of foreign intervention? Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, ISIS in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Shabaab in Somalia, et cetera, et cetera. Every time there is a foreign military intervention, it creates radical, extremist, violent groups. Aren't you doing the same thing in Sahel today?

MICHEL ROCARD: I'm not sure you're right. You may be.

MARWAN BISHARA: It's factual.

MICHEL ROCARD: I don't permit you to take so quick conclusions. It's another conversation.

MARWAN BISHARA: Are you trying to--

MICHEL ROCARD: If there is a terrorist zone in Central Africa, it will be, first of all, a worry for all of you. Muslim people are those who live there. The better you manage without calling for us is the best. It's up you to you to treat the problem. You will not draw me and you will not draw France backwards to colonialism.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

MARWAN BISHARA: Listening to the Chinese, and the Americans, and the French, you would think they're all out there to help Africans help themselves, as they say. The French want to help Africans build democratic institutions. The Americans want to help Africans build security structures. And the Chinese want to help them build the economic infrastructure. But the big question is, are Africans benefiting from the new competition? Or are they being squeezed by this new scramble?

JAMES SHIKWATI: The Chinese, if I used American lives, are living their dream. The Western countries are living their dreams. Africans are being forced to live other people's dreams. So in this--

MARWAN BISHARA: You mean Africa is living the China dream?

JAMES SHIKWATI: No. We've been living the Western countries' dreams. And now China is there with it's dream. It's yet to be clear whether Africa will live it's own dream.

PARSELELO KANTAI: We need to distinguish what the African agenda is. It's become very fashionable for African governments to talk about a new policy of looking East. The question, for me, is whether they're looking East or whether the Chinese are looking to Africa. So the question of what the African agenda is, is a very important one. Now if you look at the--

MARWAN BISHARA: But are Africans benefiting from the Chinese engagements in Africa?

PARSELELO KANTAI: Yes. On the one hand, there is an unequivocal yes. African governments are now free. They have now been freed to actually make deals on terms that they can live with.

MARWAN BISHARA: So the Chinese engagement is a step forward from the European and Western one?

PARSELELO KANTAI: In the terms in which it creating opportunities for African government to begin dreaming about a new infrastructure or modernization age.

JAMES SHIKWATI: We should not forget that when Western countries were also coming to Africa, they also looked friendly. They also came in the name of trade. They came even with infrastructure. In fact, the British built the Kenya, Uganda railway. And in that earlier stage, they were not talking about their colonizing anybody. How the Africans reacted at that time looks so similar to how Africans are reacting to China now, in terms of their [INAUDIBLE] with these good things that are coming, but they don't have game. What is critical is to pinpoint an African game or an African agenda. In the absence of which, it just becomes very difficult to celebrate any kind of achievement, in the absence of a goal in mind.

PARSELELO KANTAI: I'm constantly puzzled about the fact that there hasn't been an internal debate, on this continent, about what we want to do with the Chinese. The Chinese are constantly having these conferences and inviting African governments for these debates. But Africa, ourselves, whether on a regional level, at an African Union level, we have not actually had this debate. These are questions that need to be asked.

MARWAN BISHARA: I'm skeptical. I'm skeptical that Africa has the leadership, that it has the leverage, that it has the unity and the coordination to do any of this.

PARSELELO KANTAI: You have to understand that we're dealing with a continent that has been doubly, maybe even triply, wounded over the past 50 years. The sense of purpose that was driving the kind immediate post independence generation of nationalities, the whole independence dream for the continent, that's almost completely gone. You have the rhetoric. You have the rhetoric of it being banded around, but the meaning has been totally excavated from the nation.

MARWAN BISHARA: How is that? And why?

PARSELELO KANTAI: For different reasons. The kind of wars that were waged here, either proxy wars during the Cold War or else just civil wars over the last 40, 50 years--

MARWAN BISHARA: Or today, war on terror.

PARSELELO KANTAI: Today, the war on terror. But also, just as much, military and civil conflicts has been the kind of economic war, or the war on economic policy, that has been waged here. Economic policy has been externalized in a profound way.

MARWAN BISHARA: But it does have African agents. There's an African agency for that.

PARSELELO KANTAI: There are African boots on the ground at various treasuries, but the policies themselves are fundamentally neoliberal. And they are fundamentally pursuing a line that was developed by the West.

MARWAN BISHARA: But then that grew towards the Chinese and the competition between the Chinese and the rest. That has not changed that game in Africa.

PARSELELO KANTAI: Yes, but the terms-- it's more important to explore the terms on which an engagement with the Chinese is possible. In a post [INAUDIBLE] adjustment era, in a neoliberal age, how do you begin to negotiate your goods and services, your resources? You're constantly going to be pursuing and outsourcing kinds of projects. Projects that will privilege private capital and the privatization of collective resources and public goods.

MARWAN BISHARA: But that doesn't sound like development to me. It sounds like a lot of things. It doesn't sound like development.

JAMES SHIKWATI: Yes. For me, awareness is a good step. To first of all be aware that you are not playing your own game, you're playing somebody else's game. It's a good step now to [INAUDIBLE] on them. And in terms of the issues of trade, if you are not sitting down to think long term, then you're opening doors and benefiting short term. And then, eventually, your country or continent loses in the long term. So I think the issue of how to reverse this trend is really on our side, as Africans, to ask ourselves when we talk about industries. Who's running the industries in African?

PARSELELO KANTAI: We are a continent that is emerging from an era of intellectual surrender, intellectual policy surrender. Where your entire economic outlook and orientation was externalized. What is so encouraging, especially for political elites, about China is that we are freed from the conditionality regime that governed this continent for so long. There's a little bit of policy petulance, if I may call it that, amongst the elite at the moment. Saying to the West that we no longer need you. You can see, we now have China.

MARWAN BISHARA: I actually read, in the local press, a long expose about the rise of the African oligarchs. Do you agree with that?

JAMES SHIKWATI: We are in that state now, 50 years down the line. Because if we look at even how the political leadership changes, the word change does not really mean the dictionary aspect because it's the same group that keeps recycling itself.

MARWAN BISHARA: Right.

JAMES SHIKWATI: And holding the door on behalf of the country.

MARWAN BISHARA: Right.

JAMES SHIKWATI: Or on behalf of the region of the continent.

PARSELELO KANTAI: It's interesting to me when we talk about oligarchs because the oligarchs are actually a natural, historical outcome of the privatization of public resources. Changing the face of the so-called investor from an American, or a Chinese, or an Indian to an African face doesn't change the nature of the kind of exploitative, extractive policies that already are in motion. What you actually require is to totally revise or transform the nature of the game.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SAMATHA WEYA: I think it's a generational thing because our grandparents, per say, were dealing with the colonialists, literally. So it was, let's take in all this information and let's do it as they have told us. Our parents' generation is more or less, let's imitate the West. And that's a problem because the Western ways don't necessarily work for Africa. That's not what Africa needs. But I feel like our generation is taking a step forward.

I think part of the problem is people thinking there's no hope, there's no room for change. And that's an old thinking. So we need to flush out the old and encourage the new, encourage the ways of thinking and bring that forward.

MARWAN BISHARA: But the question is, now that you have multiple, global corporations and powers interested in Africa, is that giving you more room to maneuver and to get better deals? Or is that sandwiching you in among various interests?

ABUBAKAR ADDY: I think one thing also we should realize is, most of the time, Africans, we negotiate as single entities.

JANE BYANI: Yes.

SAMATHA WEYA: Yes.

ABUBAKAR ADDY: If Europe is negotiating, you see the European Union.

JANE BYANI: The European Union.

ABUBAKAR ADDY: You see the United States in Africa. You see China as very global, [INAUDIBLE] power. But Africa, we go as Ghana. We go as Sierra Leone. We go as Niger. You don't have bargaining power.

JANE BYANI: Yes, yes, yes.

ABUBAKAR ADDY: You're just simple economics. You're bargaining power has no strength. We need to negotiate as a block. And I see The African Capacity Building Foundation and The African Development Foundation. They should really try and maybe think about ways of we going and speaking with one voice. That's the only way we can go.

SAMATHA WEYA: It takes a movement. It takes a number of people getting into the system and changing the system from the inside out. Because otherwise, as individuals, you go, and you're fought by the system, and you get caught in the system, and you become redundant.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: I don't want to be in the non-governmental organization, I want to be in the government. The government has the last say. The government has the last say on how much tax you pay--

MARWAN BISHARA: I agree.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: In the private sector. And when you go to these meetings, and you listen to what the government officials have to say, and you're wondering, oh my god, is this the best we've got? Because as much of intellectual capacity-- they don't have so much. They never demand for anything.

MARWAN BISHARA: So it doesn't have to be just NGOs or business, people need to get into the decision making process and change government.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: Exactly.

JANE BYANI: Exactly.

ABUBAKAR ADDY: We are the young generation, we'll change it.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: Yes.

ABUBAKAR ADDY: We are the young generation. We will change it.

MARWAN BISHARA: Hooray. No, no--

RUTH MIYANDAZI: To us, to us, to us. Yes.

ABUBAKAR ADDY: No. We are the young generation, we will change it.

RUTH MIYANDAZI: Yes.

MARWAN BISHARA: I don't know about you, but I'm not buying into this whole French, Chinese, American argument that they're in the continent to help Africans help themselves. You know we, at Empire, take it for granted that global powers act out of self interest. But what's been striking for me making this episode is the dynamism and determination of African youth, those who make up 70% percent of the continent's population. Their political maturity has been striking to me. They have this pan-African vision that makes it indispensable for African countries and peoples to work together in order to turn the tables on those who are trying to carve the continent into pieces. Cliche, perhaps. Simple, yes. But I say, brilliant.

Geopolitical Analysis Discussion 3B

Please visit the Lesson 9 Module in Canvas for a detailed assignment description.