China’s increasing interest with Africa has many Western countries warning of a new era of colonialism. The world’s finite natural resources are fast becoming depleted to fill the demand in supply. There has been an influx of commercial attention to Africa and its virtually untapped lands for this reason; at the forefront of such attention, is China.
Newly forged Sino-African relations have become a subject of great controversy. Many have even called it neocolonialism, with Hilary Clinton warning for Africans to treat Chinese as they would Americans or Europeans.
China’s status as the worlds leading manufacturer has left it searching for more and more resources as it quickly devours its own. Africa, rich with natural resources is now a prime target for China’s use. Many Chinese investors have flocked to Africa signing deals and creating mines to pump resources back into China’s depleting supply.
Many Africans see this as an opportunity for new jobs and money for infrastructure as well as many other things for Africa’s future. Though, with this pique in attention and investment there are many more problems.
There have been national and international coverage of instances where the Chinese have been mistreating their workers, one such instance occurred in 2005. In 2005 there was an accident at a Chinese owned explosives factory at Chambishi mine, Zambia. Dozens of Zambian workers were killed, shifting focus to the mines poor working conditions. Many who spoke out about the conditions soon lost their jobs.
There has been another incident in 2010 that also occurred at a Chinese owned mine in Zambia. The mine in question is called Collum Mine. When large numbers of Zambian workers gathered at the gate of the mine demanding for higher pay and better working conditions, the Chinese supervisors started firing indiscriminately at those who gathered.
The supervisors were taken to court but the charge was soon dropped after compensation was paid to the injured.
This issue of China’s colonialism in Zambia has gained more attention as Zambia looms closer to its Presidential election. There are two candidates running with one being pro-Chinese and the other, Michael Sata leaning towards being anti-Chinese.
Although Sata admits there is much that Zambians could learn from Chinese work ethics he believes there are plenty of negatives.
“The Chinese bring labourers to push wheelbarrows which is wrong. They do not follow the minimum wage when they are paying their people. The Chinese have no conditions of service. They don’t provide protective clothing. The list is endless.”
Through investments and business, this may be the new era of neocolonialism in Africa. As China buys more from Africa, greed will thrive and China will practically “own” Africa not unlike how prior colonialists have done.