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Does the Devil wear Prada: Africa-Chinese Relations

According to Wikipedia “The socialist market economy of the People’s Republic of China is the world’s second largest economy by nominal GDP and the world’s largest economy by purchasing power parity. Until 2015, China was the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with growth rates averaging 10% over 30 years. Due to historical and political facts of China’s developing economy, China’s public sector accounts for a bigger share of the national economy than the burgeoning private sector. According to the IMF, on a per capita income basis China ranked 71st by GDP (nominal) and 78th by GDP (PPP) per capita in 2016. The country has an estimated $23 trillion worth of natural resources, 90% of which are coal and rare earth metals. China also has the world’s largest total banking sector assets of $39.9 trillion (252 trillion CNY) with $26.54 trillion in total deposits”.

The information provided by Wikipedia above simply shows a country with a strategy to conquer and secure the future of its people. The Chinese have the passion to lift themselves up without apologies. One thing I want to point at here is the fact that China has a vast resource base of natural resources which are very rare. They have all these resources yet they look elsewhere especially Africa for more of these rare resources. And Africa is always willing to give away these resources and yet we haven’t heard of one African country seeking resources on Chinese territory. What is really the relationship between China and a host of African countries? What is it that China is giving these African leaders that they cannot resist, what are the benefits for Africa? These are the questions that have prompted me to write this letter hoping it will reach the hearts of African leaders. The big question that we are asking as concerned and active citizens of this beautiful continent in relation to Chinese-African relations is, does the devil wear Prada or does he wear nada?

Taking the figurative meaning of the above statement from the film The Devil wear Prada, one writer went on say that, “by the ingenuity of “The Devil Wears Prada” is in selling fashion products and capitalist ideology through the old story of giving one’s soul to the Devil for rewards. In the old version, a man usually faces hardship by poverty, terrible employment, a lack of refinement or sophistication, and of course love. Satan then appears as a friend, offering anything insofar as the lowly gentleman promises in return his own soul. Likewise, Miranda (the editor in chief of a billion-dollar fashion magazine) propositions Andrea a glamorous luxurious life, a high position in the corporate ladder, new friends and a sexy, wealthy love interest if the young woman changes fundamentally her character. Andrea must abandon faithful friends (including the hubby), betray co-workers, and indulge in the pursuit of the fashion-industry rather than her passion in writing. Eventually, just like the protagonist in the original story of Lucifer, she realizes that there is a part of oneself that can never be surrendered for all the possessions in the world and that true love stems from real friendship rather than shallow lust”.

This figurative expression is meant to expose the relationship that China has with African countries. China in this case is the devil appearing as an angel and out to deceive those he knows can easily buy into his deceitfulness, the African leaders. What China is simply doing is dangling a carrot to selfish and corrupt men and women at the helm of leadership in Africa. These people have shown zero passion and love for the continent and all they want is to benefit as individuals therefore selling the future of the continent to the Chinese. The Chinese have come dangling the loan carrot and the African leaders have fallen for the trap without thinking of the consequences that these loans brings. A good example would be the deals made between China and our neighbour Zambia. “China has been accused of giving huge loans to Zambia, African countries and other smaller countries around the world for some projects, knowing very well that countries will fail to pay, and forcing countries to give up major concessions. China is said to be using strategic debts to gain political leverage with economically vulnerable countries like Zambia. These loans have been called by critics as predatory loans as they do not follow accepted international standards for lending and are laced with suspicions of graft and neo-colonialism by stealth. The Centre for Global Development has referred to these loans as “Debt colonialism” or ‘Debt-trap diplomacy”. According to New Africa, Angola has the biggest Chinese debt of 25 billion dollars followed by Ethiopia with 13.5 billion dollars. Zambia has a total debt of 6 billion dollars.

This is now the new tragedy for Africans. We managed to entangle ourselves out of one form of colonization into another that is simply caused by greediness and selfishness. The reasons why African leaders are comfortable taking these loans are simply selfish. They enter into corrupt deals with the Chinese that benefit them not the citizens. Now China threatens to take over the Zambian airport because of unpaid loans that did not benefit the citizens. We are allowing our leaders to sell our countries to the new colonizer, The Chinese. We are allowing them to play games with the future of the continent whilst we denigrate each other on Twitter and post profanities. Nations are not built by individuals, it takes collective effort from every citizen. Zambia is in a bad place because they allowed the leader to enter into deals that he benefited and ignoring the entire populace. The government have become desperate and embarrassed that they have barred a professor from Kenya scheduled to deliver a speech on Chinese-African relations entry into Zambia.

Sri Lanka lost a port to the Chinese because they allowed their corrupt leader to borrow from the colonizer. If we are not careful Africans, China will eventually own us. We cannot continue to borrow money that we use to buy luxury cars at the expense of real development that can bring jobs to our nations. We cannot continue to act like children at a market place, we got to grow out of selfishness. We cannot continue to spend millions on elections and rallies at the expense of the suffering citizens. What are thank you rallies for in an economy that is struggling? What is that you need to thank hungry people for? Getting you into positions of power for corrupt and selfish reasons. You borrow money for such frivolous things ignoring the real problems faced by the people. This is why China gives you loans, because she knows you will come back for more after you have had your rallies and buying expensive cars. The relationship that these leaders are getting us into is very bad. The loans they are getting from China will put our children in bondage for a long time. The appetite by African governments to borrow must stop. In my country, we are facing a national debt crisis. According to Magaisa, the Zimbabwe’s total debt stands at 16.9 billion dollars. Foreign debt amounts to 7.4 billion and domestic debt is 9.5 billion. He says Zimbabwe national debt in 2012 was only 275.8 million and in just six years, the national debt went to 9.2 billion dollars. For a country that is struggling to produce for export, you only wonder what they used the money for. If you are to investigate, you will find that the money was used for running elections and for luxuries by those in power whilst almost half of the population lives under a dollar a day. The Chinese have their monies in that 9.2 billion dollars and they want it, yet we go to them begging for more.

Is it difficult to borrow five billion and resuscitate industries so that we can export and even build more industries? Is it difficult to buy cars after ten years in the meantime use the ones we have? So we find it easy to borrow for luxuries whilst we forget the future. We use a lot of money for stupid party conferences that do not benefit our countries. We charter expensive planes at the expense of the toiling citizens. We charter planes with huge entourages to go and beg and we feel proud about it. Let me put it like this African leaders, the solutions you are seeking in China are here at home. Begin by being honest and sincere and watch the people believe and build these nations. Begin by respecting the property rights of the citizens. Stop over taxing the already struggling populace because you want to steal and fix bad decisions you are accustomed to making. No nation can succeed when its people are not invested in the vision of the leaders. At the moment citizens in most African countries despise your dreams. You never believe in your own dreams because they are wet and colour dreams. Nothing is real by you because you are selfish and narrow minded.

The tragedy with China–Africa relations is that it is a relationship that is based on manipulation both ways. The Chinese reckon that African leaders are selfish and greedy and they give them loans knowing they won’t benefit everybody. They both know that at the end of the day, the poor African is the one who will pay for the bad decisions done by these leaders. Zimbabweans after the monetary statement have realised that, they will be paying for decisions made by a few old man at the expense of the suffering citizens. We cannot continue to run monkey business economies, where leaders abuse state resources and act as if they own these countries. We need to be vigilant as citizens when it comes to the abuse of state resources. We need to keep our governments in check in their dealings with the Chinese. There is a need for accountability in African leadership otherwise we will remain where we are for ever. There is a need for a shift in thinking, and a shift in culture. We cannot remain consumers forever, we need to move to production, invention and innovation. I feel it is time that Africa invest in Africa because we have so much at our disposal in terms of natural and human resources. They only ingredient left to uplift Africa is honesty, accountability, love and integrity. If we can turn a corner and transform our thinking, we will achieve more as Africans without looking at the Chinese.

“Would rather argue, that we need to mobilize the right mind-sets, rather than more funding. After all, in Africa, we have everything we need, in real terms. Whatever is lacking, we have the means to acquire. And yet we remain mentally married to the idea that nothing can get moving, without external finance. We are even begging for things we already have. That is absolutely a failure of mind-set” Paul Kagame