Saturday, 18 February 2012

The BBC reruns Jonathan Dimbleby´s uncritical "An African Journey"

The BBC is currently rerunning Jonathan Dimbleby´s  "An African Journey". The three part series  shows Dimbleby uncritically praising "not a continent of beggars but of industrious people".  Barely a word about dictatorship, corruption or crime in Dimbleby´s fawning presentation.

Just one example:

At a party celebrating the Year of the Tiger, he learns how China's billion dollar deals have rebooted African economies, once dependent on Western aid and investment.

Dimbleby does not interview people like the South African professor and economist James Blignaut, who know that China’s African safari has a flip side:

China´s biggest interest in Africa is in her natural resources and not in her people. Oil from Sudan, Nigeria, Angola and Gabon and minerals from South Africa and Zimbabwe, timber and agriculture products from everywhere, to name but a few. China’s sudden interest in Africa is therefore not only in oil-rich countries, but rather in all forms of raw materials. In return for natural resources, Africa is offering China a lucrative offset market for her cheap manufactured products. These products, such as textiles, are replacing domestic industries.
In essence, Africa is exporting her mineral wealth to act as fuel and much needed materials for the Chinese expansion, while importing manufactured products that outcompete with domestic alternatives, leaving Africa’s trade balance with China in a deficit! This is not altogether a new phenomenon – it has happened over a many decades in Africa’s trade with North America and Europe, the only difference now is that Africa imported technologically advanced products from the West she did not produce herself whereas Chinese products do replace local products and undermine local industries and companies.
Judging from the past, China is ultimately likely to begin to use its significant economic power for political ends. In other words, using political and economic
ties and contracts, it could pressurise African countries to support China’s political agenda - as it has done and continues to do to isolate Taiwan.

Coming now to the downright ugly side of the Chinese-Africa trade boom is China’s dubious human rights and environmental legacy, a legacy that is likely to blow over to Africa as China’s involvement in Africa increases. China’s close association with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, for example, is a testimony of China’s seeming indifference to human rights abuses.

Neither does Dimbleby interview somebody like Raymond Hu, writing in Princeton´s American Foreign Policy:

Dissatisfaction with China’s close ties to corrupt African authorities also extends to other countries in an international context. Because China grants aid packages with “no strings attached”, oppressive dictatorial regimes have been able to subvert and survive Western efforts to initiate political reform. While Western nations have attempted to pass a UN arms embargo on the Sudanese government to stop the genocide in Darfur, China has sold $24 million worth of arms and $57 million worth of vehicles and equipment to Sudan. In Zimbabwe, Western sanctions to bring about reform were likewise undermined by China’s support to President Robert Mugabe’s regime in the form of $200 million worth of military vehicles and equipment.

Moral argument aside, the long-term political consequences of current Chinese investment practices in Africa will also be adverse. Already, signs of malcontent indicate that China needs to change its ways if it is to sustain its investment interests in Africa. In 2006, an opposition presidential candidate in Zambia ran his campaign on the idea of “Zambia for Zambians,” a platform in favor of expelling Chinese influence from the country. The disconnect between the official Chinese government rhetoric of “win-win” agreements and local realities will only entrench and perpetuate distrust of the Chinese. It will not take long for the common public to see through the veiled Chinese rhetoric of win-win situations that belies its real quest for natural resources and political control. China’s support of these rogue governments will inevitably harm its reputation on the global stage, reduce its credibility in international affairs, and degrade relations with its neighbors.


Dimbleby´s uncritical approach is very typical for the BBC´s present Africa coverage in general. For some reason the BBC reporters also often treat Africans almost like children. One wonders why?

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