Brussels (Brussels Morning) In the last decade, China has been involved in a number of African port developments, and the Black Johnson beach project in Sierra Leone is one of the latest. The Chinese government has committed to providing $55 million for the construction of the seaport. However, locals worry that this project could ruin the country’s rainforest and tourism industry. Some fear that the project will include a fishmeal factory.}
The opacity of these deals underscores China’s weak economic diplomacy in the region, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and its lack of institutions to protect taxpayers’ interests. While China has made significant investments in Africa, it has not built institutional structures to ensure transparency. In addition, it has not invested heavily in infrastructure projects in the continent, which limits its ability to monitor the investments of foreign companies.
China has also financed the construction of a rail line between the seaside city of Djibouti and Nairobi. The Chinese government used the prized port as collateral to help finance a 470-kilometer train line between the two cities. The Exim Bank of the Chinese government then seized the port authority’s escrow account, allowing it to regain revenues and control a major African nation.
The Chinese government has repeatedly denied the charges that their massive Belt and Road initiative is a debt trap. While they have often waived the debts of poorer countries, critics claim that China is taking advantage of these nations to build influence and infrastructure. In recent years, Djibouti, a tiny country on the Red Sea, has benefited greatly from the huge Chinese loan. However, there are warnings that Djibouti is in danger of being sucked into a debt trap.
The Chinese are attempting to build the roads that connect Africa to their own coast. This is not a very good idea for two reasons: China has a massive debt and is a bad investor. A debt trap will not only put a country in debt, it will also hurt the economies of the countries it controls. The more China has a hand in Africa, the more it can influence the continent.
The Chinese government’s interests in African ports extend far beyond just economic interests. The Chinese are allegedly investing in oil fields and extending a two-billion-dollar line of credit to Angola in 2004. They are also reviving the discussion of a trans-Maghreb railroad in Algeria, which has become a major arms dealer. Moreover, Chinese oil companies have secured blocks in the Gulf of Guinea and signed two multi-billion-dollar railroad development deals in Nigeria in the last ten years.
The Chinese have been establishing military bases in Africa for many years, including Djibouti and Equatorial Guinea. These countries are also important to China because they are strategically located near other continents. The Chinese military bases in the African continent are strategic assets, and they are crucial for China’s economy. This strategic alliance could be beneficial to both countries. If they do, however, they will gain a strong competitive advantage.
The development of the Bagamoyo port in Tanzania is expected to become the largest port in Africa. The Chinese government and the state-run China Merchants Holding International are finalizing talks to build the port in Tanzania. Its masterplan outlines a large industrial complex, apartment blocks for seventy-five thousand people, and even an international airport. It is unclear why Beijing would need to control sea ports in Africa if it has no other intentions other than to gain more leverage in trade and investment.
A close observer of Sino-African relations says that China’s diplomatic clout is understated. The political ties between China and any African country mean that a base in any African country won’t meet with resistance. And the fact that the Chinese government has the capacity to use a sea port to collect intelligence is just one example of how this strategy can be dangerous. The CSIS report does not cite any specific country, but rather names 46 African ports in which China is involved.