Wait a minute. Why are we all mad at the Chinese? From here in Nairobi in the East of Africa, all the way to the West, and from the north to the South the talk is the same. Is like people are being suffocated by the presence of the Chinese.
You go to some place and you find communities literally baying for their blood. Crying and blaming everything; from unemployment to lawlessness, from poverty to miscarriages and death, to why they haven’t seen rain in months. And the list goes on. And it’s all crazy.
Sometimes back in college, I remember a friend of mine whose home is in the Maasailand — he’s not a Maasai himself — telling me of an incident between the Chinese and the local Maasai community. The Maasai felt frustrated with the Chinese who were working on the SGR (standard gauge railway) in their land. How could the Chinese go to their land, get access to their resources and not employ their people, not even as security guards. They come with their own workers and piss on their land, trample on the grass that their livestock feed on, the livestock they depend on for livelihood with their heavy machines.
So the morans (Maasai youth) in solidarity with their elders, like it’s their norm, devised a plan to punish the intruders.
Wielding spears, bows and arrows, machetes, clubs and a host of other crude weapons (You’ll think it’s Shaka’s asegai warriors), they surrounded the Chinese camp and laid down everyone flat on the ground, including the security guards — not sure if a police officer was among them — and flogged the hell out of them.
And it is not just this one alone, I’ve heard, read and witnessed such violent acts perpetrated against the Chinese. By why is this so?
Today there’s a violent uproar around Africa, voiced mostly by the youth who feel left out. It’s reported there are over 10,000 Chinese owned firms operating in Africa. And in all these firms, only a handful of the employees are Africans.
Most of the African youths are well educated but very few find employment. And you will find most of these firms outsourcing workers, to a simple truck driver from the homeland. Where do they expect our fresh graduates, our young engineers to find jobs if they can’t take them in? I’ve had a chance to closely observe them in Kenya and one thing I observed is that even a store keeper is a Chinese with the locals only doing the hard manual jobs like digging where their heavy machines can’t.
You know what else is enraging, the fact that these Chinese people will hardly consume the local products. They carry their own foodstuffs and only spend in “Chinese Restaurants”, money they’re sure will find it’s own way home. Rarely would you run into a Chinese couple in the Village Market looking for a souvenir to take back home. They’re here for business, period. You will rarely see a Chinese man wondering in Koinange Street, Nairobi in the wee hours of the morning having spend some of his cash on some local girl.
And the other reason for this hostility is the imbalance in trade. For instance tea is Kenya’s major export, and China is the world’s largest consumer of tea but only ranks 29th in terms of our tea export destinations. In Uganda, it’s said the ratio of imports to exports to China is 22:1. Seriously! And you expect the locals to love you. You take something, give something back, and that’s the way it is.
But should we really be blaming the Chinese alone? What about our own governments?
True, the Chinese are unscrupulous, coming in like Trojan Horses with unclear intentions, but above everything else, they’re business people who saw an opportunity and seized it. That’s what business people do allover the world.
Africa accounts for 30% of the world’s reserve of hydrocarbons and minerals. Africa is a rich continent, and it’s only normal that everyone wants a piece of it.
For many years the West had Africa and took it for granted, and now that it’s embracing the East, they feel threatened. the other day you saw the US First Lady, Melania Trump visiting Africa. She was not just here to feed baby elephants — tripped and nearly twisted her ankle by the way — and to see the vulnerable in our community! Did you see the timing? It came immediately after the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing.
Instead of blaming the Chinese who are just doing everything possible to survive and feed their “mega” population — sustaining a billion plus people is not a joke — maybe we should be pointing our angry fingers in the other direction, to our respective governments.
Someone is welcoming these guys into our countries with open arms and forgets to monitor whatever they’re doing as soon as they’re settled. Some of them are involved in bad business practices, abusing Africans by overworking them and underpaying them and no one is saying anything. We are not giving them conditions on how to operate in our land and how to handle our resources, and how to treat our people with dignity. Sometimes back we saw a video that went viral of a Chinese man insulting our President and our people. The imbecile was calling us monkeys in our own home! Later on he was of cause forced by his people after feeling the backlash from outraged Kenyans to offer a flimsy apology. The harm had already been done.
Some of these huge Chinese firms don’t even pay taxes and some bribe their way into anchoring on our shores. They win mega tenders from the government at the expense of our struggling local companies because a huge chunk of the payment will go into a few powerful individuals’ pockets.
We are looking at these people like they’re here to colonize us the way the Europeans did. Who can blame us! Not with the rumors coming out of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and close home, Zambia who it’s said they’re deeply in their debt.
Might be misconception, but what are the leaders doing to correct them? What do they expect us to think when there’s very little or no transparency on their part. Do they ever tell us of their meeting with the Chinese delegates? What they discuss in those boardrooms! They don’t tell us whenever they take those loans from the Chinese!
Come in the open and tell us like civilized people if you took a loan. We will want to know how much you took and which projects you intend to fund, so as citizens, we can be well equipped to hold you accountable. When everyone is vigilant, the government will have to account for every single dime it spends. Not just start overtaxing people like our Kenyan government is doing now to fund nonexistent projects. My future child already has a debt on its head, 8% VAT! Rumor has it that the Chinese SGR has zero ROI. Do you still want to blame the Chinese?