A well-kept secret by the Chinese is their influence in Africa. Most attention is spent on their expansions in the China sea, or its views on independence for countries like Taiwan, which resulted in tension with Donald Trump last month. China’s fingers stretch much further than many think and one of the hotbeds for this is in the southern African nation of Angola.
Angola spent 30 years in the throes of civil war until 2002 and were in desperate need of support upon leaving. The Chinese were only more than happy to step in. They offered favourable loans to the Angolan government. What they wanted in exchange was simple. Angola is rich with natural resources such as oil and diamonds. You can’t think of two more lucrative markets. China were expecting to be repaid in this oil, as well as contracts for Chinese companies when the loan money was spent. This resulted in the Chinese building infrastructural projects such as transport, military and power installations all over Angola.
Despite claims that the work was too cheap and rushed the amount of Chinese companies in the nation rose to 500 rapidly. Angola tried to implement a rule of 30% of workers to be native, but the companies ignored this role or simply refused to train those without skills. Preferring to import Chinese workers. Angola is now home to 100,000 Chinese.
The Chinese were fast to integrate and unlike other countries which attract expats, they did not stay in compounds or hotels. The Chinese lived in amongst the population with Mandarin heard in markets, street signs in Chinese and Erhu music emanating from buildings. This closeness to an exploited people, like the Angolans, who live off $2 a day on average was always going to cause friction. Tensions were cranked up and hyperbole was spun in the media with some crazy claims that the Chinese might even be cannibals.
Countries like Brazil and USA tried to take advantage. American company Chevron tried to gain a foothold by hiring and training locals whilst also contributing $160m to projects. This pales into insignificance in comparison with the Chinese investment though, reported to be at least $30bn by now. The biggest single contribution was $1bn given to Angola to rebuild their agricultural economy.
Despite Angolan attempts to try to diversify foreign influences by giving contracts to India, Brazil and the USA they were caught out in the last year or two. Their biggest asset Oil was crashing in price which majorly affected the African nations economy. They needed to lean on someone and China had a shoulder to cry on. These further loans will put Angola further in their debt. China has also got more projects started in 2016 keeping their hooks in the country.
China views Angola as a massive contributor to the consumption of their nation. While it has benefited Angola in numerous ways, it has come at a cost. The people are unhappy with the influence of the Chinese government, but after a recent signing of a trade forum with other Portuguese speaking nations it seems China are only just getting started.