By Mike Ssegawa
Every five years, the Chinese communist party holds a weeklong summit to assess its performance, made new roadmaps for the country, and announce to the world the new leaders to govern with the president.
China, the second biggest economy in the world, is growing in influence. It voice is louder even in global conferences it has no chair. China’s influence in Africa has also surpassed traditional development partners such as US and European Union.
Unfortunately in Uganda, we hardly follow what Beijing is thinking, in this case, the proceedings of the congress, its resolutions and how Uganda stands to be affected with decisions being made in Beijing, has not been widely covered.
It is high time Ugandans understood China more. If a similar conference was taking place in Washington DC or London, the Ugandan common person would be discussing it – this is where an agenda setting media should come in.
Mr Xi Jinping, the president of China, has written himself in Chinese history as the second most important modern Chinese leader after Chairman Mao Zedong. At the 19th Communist Party Congress which ended in Beijing on the 25th, President Xi Jingping was re-confirmed for a second five year term, and has appointed the powerful six member committee to help him govern. Western media analysts say none of the six is suitable to replace Mr Xi which indicates Xi could lead China beyond the next five years.
In his address, Xi unveiled his vision to usher China into what he called the “new era”. He vowed to “open China still wider to the world” among other things.
From what Xi said and didn’t say – it is clear that the language and intentions of the Red Dragon should start to bother or excite us. It would be sad if our countrymen now or in the future are caught pants down for decision made long before they woke up to realize what was happening like was the case of the 1884 Berlin Conference which partition Africa for European exploitation.
China is only a few strides away from overtaking United States as the most powerful economy, and possibly military superpower.
Like we love to follow US politics religiously, analyse their elections, take sides and give robust defenses for candidates in the Republican and Democratic conventions, it is high time China decisions mattered in Uganda and Africa as a whole.
Today, China is Africa’s largest trading partner, main investor and engineering contractor.
At the top, leaders like President Museveni have already seen this and sent to Beijing dependable and skilful negotiators in Dr Crispus Kiyonga for ambassador. This is an indication that Kampala powers that be have already earmarked Beijing as its most important partners, if not the most critical.
Just to mention a few things which make China important to Uganda; Between January 2012 and June 2016, there were more than 400 Chinese companies operating in Uganda, doing business in sectors ranging from agriculture, construction, oil and gas, minerals to telecommunications. Chinese foreign direct investments amounted to US$ 667,877,876, and Chinese companies had invested in 253 projects in Uganda, according to data available at the Chinese embassy. This is not to mention how much aid comes to the government of Uganda from China to fund different projects.
A total of $863 million worth of goods are imported from China, according to The Observatory of Economic Complexity, which measures the economic complexities of the different countries. China therefore is one of the problems of our balance of trade.
Mr. Chen Xufeng, Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Mission to African Union recently told African journalists in Addis Ababa Ethiopia that since 2013, China has initiated new concepts for China-Africa cooperation, focusing on efforts to address the main bottlenecks, namely lack of quality infrastructure, professional and skilled personnel and financial resources as well as the three fundamental issues of employment, food and health by developing self-sustainable system of industrialization, food security, and disease prevention and control systems.
Yet at the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit in December 2015, Chinese President Xi announced a financial package of $60 billion toimplement 10 Major Cooperation Plans that mainly focus on accelerating Africa’s industrialization and agricultural modernization.Projects such as the Standard Gauge Railways which is soon opening in Uganda, but has parts completed in Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria; Express highways and electric dams, are part of those packages.
The Chinese have also put in place the China-Africa Fund for Production Capacity Cooperation which is now running with an initial contribution of $10 billion.
With President Xi at the helm of China for another five years and beyond, Africa is the frontier in his sight.
China has already invested so much here under him. And what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. This is why the media and socio-economic-political analysts should take interest in China affairs. Ugandans need to pay more attention to developments in China. We are already late.