Zuma vindicates Look East policy

South African President Jacob Zuma’s recent remarks in which he out-rightly pointed out the importance of Chinese investment to Africa’s development has shown that Zimbabwe was right in adopting its Look East policy which sent an unequivocal message to the world on the importance of the Asian economic giant in countering western colonial type exploitation.

In an interview with Russia Today (RT) recently, Zuma said western “colonial” states are not interested in South Africa’s development, but rather want to take its natural resources and never give anything back.

RT interviewed Zuma during his recent visit to Moscow to attend the 70th anniversary of Russia’s World War Two victory over Nazi Germany.

He was quoted saying it was China’s investment that he sees as a way to prosperity, something which affirmed Zimbabwe’s Look East policy which has been demonized by critics and the western media.

“The Western world or the European countries, in particular, came to Africa [in the 19th century] to colonize and they had been taking the resources of Africa,” Zuma said.

“But even after the continent decolonized itself in the mid-20th century, its relationship with the US, UK, France and other Western countries remained the same.

“They still regard us as the Third World, as a kind of people, who must be related to as the former subject [state], etc. That talks also to the economics… Their intention has never been to make the former colonial countries develop.”

Western countries and their multilateral institutions suspended aid and maintained an awkward etiquette of arms-length policy towards Zimbabwe after the southern African country asserted its plans to take back its land from white farmers.

To counter this, Zimbabwe boldly undertook its home-grown Look East policy to create a platform to secure and improve economic ties between Harare and Beijing and other Asian countries.

The Look East policy has been a song Zimbabwe has sung for the past decade and a half, but few African countries ever danced to it.

To many, moves by President Zuma acknowledging the importance of China in Africa’s socio-economic development bolster Zimbabwe’s long held Look East policy which President Robert Mugabe has championed for years.

Last August, President Mugabe told a Chinese TV station that he resented Western international aid because it always depends on conditions such as accepting homosexuality.

He praised Beijing for being “very constructive” in its assistance towards Zimbabwe.

“Whereas Europe and America, when they give little funding assistance to countries they always attach conditions,” he said. “And that is our objection.”

President Mugabe said that China went into African projects using joint ventures whereas European businesses would not share their profits.

“They think Africa is their God-given territory because once upon a time they oppressed us. They had colonies in Africa. They had shared Africa like a cake, this part belongs to the British, that part to the Belgians and that other part to the French, the Germans. There was that scramble for Africa. Not so with the Chinese.”

President Zuma echoed similar sentiments saying he believed things “would never be the same” with China, which has been heavily investing in Africa since the early 2000s, as it came to the continent “as equals.”

“The Chinese come differently. They come to do business with us. They are ready to help… The results would be that African countries will be empowered,” he said.

“China is educating African students and building highways in many countries, while the Western states only built roads from mining areas to harbours.”

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other western multi-lateral institutions disseminated carefully sanitised data which demonised Zimbabwe’s Look East policy and harped on Zimbabwe’s land reform programme as lacking economic rationale.

Development analysts say African countries which have ignored China as a major international investor are now seeing the value of the Asian giant in today’s global economy.

Trade between Zimbabwe and China grew marginally to $1,16 billion last year from $1,1 billion recorded in 2013 as economic ties between the two countries grew on the back of mega-deals running into billions of dollars.

China has emerged as one of Zimbabwe’s closest international allies after Western countries imposed sanctions on Harare and its leadership, more than a decade ago after the veteran nationalist President Mugabe spearheaded the fast-track land reform which saw land being redistributed to thousands of landless blacks.

China is supporting Zimbabwe in the expansion of the Kariba South Hydro power station which will add another 300 megawatts on the country’s grid, the expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport, the construction of the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre including a string of other development projects.

In the past three years, China has extended grants and interest-free loans worth more than US$100 million.

The China Exim Bank has provided over US$1 billion worth of concessionary and commercial loans to Zimbabwe in recent years.

China is now Africa’s largest trading partner and the Asian giant has built infrastructure and industries on the continent while also pouring humanitarian aid to needy countries in Africa.

China’s footprint on the African continent is increasingly becoming big and bold and in 2013 China-Africa trade reached $210 billion with more than 2 500 Chinese companies operating on the continent, according to Xinhua reports.

Economic analysts said by the end of 2012, China had signed bilateral investment treaties with 32 out of the 54 African countries and established joint economic commission mechanisms with 45 African countries.

The China-Africa Development Fund, established as one of the eight pledges China made at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit, had by the end of 2012, agreed to invest $2,385bn in 61 projects in 30 African countries.

At least $1,806 billion has already been invested in 53 projects.

May 2015
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