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Moghalu: It’s time Africa looked away from China

Former presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, Kingsley Moghalu, has said the current Covid-19 pandemic has offered Nigeria and Africa a golden opportunity to review its trade and associated relationship with China, where Coronavirus originated last December. The disease has penetrated every corner of the world, causing untold hardship and several thousand deaths. It has also resulted in staggering economic disaster for the world’s economy.

“The China-Africa relationship must be shifted away from a focus on extractive industries,” Moghalu advised in a long twitter thread published Monday. “Trade relations should be repositioned. Africa’s development salvation doesn’t lie abroad; it can only come from within. China won’t and can’t “develop Africa” and no [r] can the West.”

The former central bank deputy governor also tweeted that when China began to court Africa some 20 years ago, he was one of few voices who spoke against the clearly lopsided relationship in which African countries took the short end of the stick.

He said this alarm was ignored as it went against conventional wisdom.  

“Some of us argued that African countries are approaching their relationship with China on the wrong foot, that it provided an opportunity to learn some important lessons, but we were focused on the wrong things,” another tweet in the thread emphasized.

“We thought that seemingly cheap loans, trade (with trade deficits in favor of China), diplomatic summits in Beijing with African leaders lined up like turkeys on display, and fine words of solidarity, meant that love was in the air. Today, many countries are re-assessing their relationships with China…”

With China already facing global rebuke for withholding crucial information that could have saved the world the current health catastrophe, its well laid plan and interventions in Africa is on the verge of unraveling and “poised to be unprofitable”, Moghalu suggested.

“China’s economy has been dented by Covid. Its $200 billion in trade with Africa is threatened, and more important, African countries can’t pay their $200 billion in debt to China and are asking for debt forgiveness…China is unlikely to be able to finance its Silk Road infrastructure initiatives in African countries in the immediate future, and the economies of African countries will be depressed after Covid.”

Moghalu also went down memory lane to reveal that China has had its eyes on Africa from as far back as the 1950s as it sought to be a global powerhouse, competing with the likes of Russia and the United States. To achieve this, it backed attempts at decolonizing countries on the African continent. When Ghana gained independence in 1957, China established diplomatic relations with the newly-independent nation.

In the current circumstances, Moghalu recommends that Africa should now look inward, improve its internal politics, subdue corruption and catalyse manufacturing on a huge scale.

“Africa’s relationship with China is not advancing our strategic interest,” one of the tweets read. “That interest is to become productive and economies with a manufacturing industrial base. The China-Africa “special relationship” is preventing this interest from being realised.”

Continuing, he added that China’s trade relationship with Africa makes up just 3% of its total trading partnerships with the rest of the world and so Africa need not take it to be the be all and end all.

 “Trade is the reason and the solution. We must challenge the “dumping” of cheaply produced, sub-standard Chinese goods on African countries at the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement mechanism.”

Moghalu closed his thread with a very telling quote from researcher and expert on China-Africa relations, Solange Chatelard: “If there’s one thing African states can learn from China, it is how to imagine their future, explore new possibilities, and engage with the rest of the world while retaining control over the conditions of those engagements.”

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