Understand how the African nation has become increasingly dependent on Chinese loans and investments
China's interest in Africa is old. It dates back to the 1960s, when Mao Tse-Tung strengthened relations with prominent African leaders who were fighting foreign rule. More than 60 years have passed, and today no country has closer ties with the Chinese than Zambia, a relationship that borders on neo-colonialism. Currently, the small African nation has an external debt of around US $ 12 billion. Most with China.
In the documentary “Zambia: Under Chinese influence”, released in March, France24 reporters Nicolas Germain, Roméo Langlois and Yi Song investigate the operation of local companies, improvements and investments Chinese in the African country.
The work explores the lack of clarity in local government relations with China and the expansion of Chinese investments in the territory.
In the last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zambia almost went bankrupt and became the first African state to default on its debt, which exceeds $ 42 million. Even with an extra loan, the small nation in South Africa has failed to live up to its commitment.
The ties between Beijing and Lusaka are strong and have been in existence for decades. According to the documentary, Asians injected more money into the African nation last year. As a result, China has one-third of Zambia's national debt. These are investments in the mining, industry and agriculture sectors.
In practical terms, the Chinese control the Zambian economy due to the country's high financial dependence on Asians. The lack of clarity regarding the projects and investments of Asians in the country, also raises concern.
Andford Banda, opposition to the government and candidate for the presidency, says that the agreements between the government and the Chinese are not transparent. “There are investments in health and infrastructure and that is a good thing. The problem is that many of these investments, in addition to being overpriced, are unclear. We don't know how much of Zambia belongs to China. Even if the value of the external debt is disclosed, we do not know the real value of the transactions here, ”he says.
Work and employment
Although Zambia has 17 million inhabitants, labor and employment rates are low, thus opening up greater opportunities for both. “I have lived here for more than ten years. I don't think about going back to China, ”said a Chinese pig farmer in the documentary. "When we got here, we offered jobs, many of them gave thanks to their god because we are here."
On the other hand, some report the lack of job security and the increased workload. “We have already talked and complained about our safety, but nobody listens to us. The law says that we must work 8 am every day. However, we stayed here sometimes for more than 12 hours and received nothing more for that ”, said a mine worker.
Even if citizens have access to cheaper products, competitiveness between local and Chinese producers borders on dumping, which consists of selling products below the cost of production to eliminate competition.
“Chinese chickens are sold before the ideal time. They feed them with medicine for growth. This production makes birds cheaper. Ours are slow to grow, but they are healthier, without chemicals, ”said a Zambian poultry saleswoman at an open market. We are unable to sell cheaper because it has a higher cost. You can't compete with the Chinese ”.