AFRICA’s population is projected to double by 2,5 billion, with approximately 400 million people expected to live in Nigeria alone by 2050 (UN Population Division 2012).
According to State of the World Population Report (2007), Africa’s urban population will increase by 50 percent between 2000 and 2030, and will be home to more than half of the world’s population aged 17 to 35 years.
If not properly managed, these figures spell doom for Africa as demand for food, social services and infrastructure increases. As such, Africa must begin aligning its developmental goals to meet the needs of future generations. China may provide an invaluable lesson for the region.
The projected growth will exert pressure on commodity and service demand of all types such as food, water, energy, minerals, education, health, communications and transport infrastructure.
However, as noted by Dambisa Moyo in: Winner take all: “The world’s most important commodities have one crucial thing in common: They are increasingly becoming scarce as the earth’s (finite) natural resources supply has not adequately kept up with the rising demand.”
This means that due diligence is required in utilisation and management of our natural resources.
Our Asian friend, China, has never claimed to be philanthropists in Africa. Since the days of Zhou Enlai, Chinese leaders repeatedly said their aid and investments are based on “mutual benefit” (Gaye 2007). The point here is, Chinese development paradigm serve the interests and needs of their people.
Facts about China reveal that in less than 50 years, China managed to transform the livelihoods of more than 300 million of its people from abject poverty to economic standards that rival the West.
Between the periods 1981-2005 China’s poverty statistics dropped from 85 percent to 16 percent (world factbook 2007). China’s rate of urbanisation grew rapidly from 13 percent in 1950 to about 41 percent in 2005. Mckinsey Global Institute forecasts that China will add 400 million more people to achieve an aggregate of 60 percent of its population living in urban centres. In 2010, China had 40 cities with a population of +/- a million people, by 2020 they plan to add around 225 new cities and roll out roughly 170 new mass transportation systems.
As the standards of living improve, so does the demand for commodities ranging from food to technologies. China has approximately one billion users of cellphones and other mobile-related devices. Since 2004, unit car sales reached an estimated annual rate of 20 percent. All in all, China is expected to account for more than 60 percent of auto sales to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Moyo 2012).
This situation exerts demand pressure for metals like copper, gold, palladium and other forms of raw materials which are projected to be in short supply in the near future.
Conversely, from 1997-2008 China lost 12,31 million hectares of arable land due to urbanisation and 16,66 percent from pollution (heavy metals) and erosion. This is far from being a happy picture, as less available land equally constrained domestic food production. This partly explains China’s aggressive land purchases and lease schemes beyond its territorial boundaries particularly in Africa and other parts of the world.
Today, China’s State-owned companies, using funding from central government, are on a well-orchestrated investment spr-ee in Latin America and Africa to secure mines, cropland, and raw materials (Washington Post 2014).
In 2007, Peruvian Mount Toromocho, one of the richest copper deposits in the world was bought for a hefty fee of US$3 billion by China. In 2008 they acquired a US$13 billion stake in Australian aluminium sector; Sinopec, a Chinese company purchased Addax petroleum assets in Nigeria and Iraq for a whopping US$7,2 billion. The same entity purchased a 40 percent stake in Brazilian arm of Repsol, a Spanish energy company for US$7 billion in October 2010. In Africa, Chinese State-owned companies continue to purchase mines, oil fields and cropland in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Nigeria, Mali and many others.
Despite recipient countries benefiting from these acquisitions, Chinese resource buy ups are mainly to achieve political and economic domination by controlling strategic global resources. Secondly, China intends to supplement inward future shortages of minerals and metals to support the needs of its growing middle class population.
Thirdly, China is predicting reduced capacity to produce its own food as more land is consumed by urbanisation, pollution and erosion.
Frankly, there is nothing wrong with the Chinese aggressive strategy to control world resources; to develop and feed its people.
What, however, boggles the mind is why Africa – a continent which is projected to be home of the world’s economic active people by 2050, exhibits cluelessness on planning ahead. By the look of things, Chinese investments, coupled with other investment from the west may strip the continent of its resources and perpetuate a cycle of foreign domination, exploitation and neo-colonialism.
The rate at which African leaders are mortgaging the continent’s resources, in the name of attracting Foreign Domestic Investment, will have an effect on future generations. What Africa needs is a paradigm shift to development — think of posterity and generations to come.
Retlaw Matatu Matorwa is contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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