News / Africa

Uganda Awards Another Dam Project to Chinese Company

China's influence in Uganda is growing, with two dam contracts recently awarded to Chinese companies, offers of cheap credit and even a possible deal to buy the debts of Ugandan MPs. But some rights groups worry that it could come at the expense of the country’s independence.
 
The Ugandan government, lured by the promise of cheap credit and heavy investment, is turning more and more toward China.
 
Chinese firms have been pouring into the country. According to the Chinese Embassy here, 45 new companies set up shop in Uganda just last year. And state-owned Chinese companies were recently awarded contracts to build Uganda’s two newest hydroelectric dams. The largest is estimated to cost almost one and a half billion dollars.
 
Chinese investment has been creating jobs in Uganda, and the new dams should help the country meet the energy demands of its fast-growing population, says Minister of State for Energy Simon D’Ujanga. Plus, he adds, cheap loans sweeten the deal.
 
“We have a bilateral arrangement with the Chinese government for cheap capital. It is a concession which is at a very low rate, and therefore we take advantage of that,” said D’Ujanga.
 
D’Ujanga acknowledges that low interest rates are not the only thing that makes China an attractive business partner.  “If anything, the Chinese government is more liberal than the other lenders. When they come, we discuss strictly business, and that’s all. They don’t start asking many questions which are not related to the business,” D’Ujanga noted.
 
The questions China does not ask are about governance and human rights. Godber Tumushabe is director of the Kampala-based Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment. He said this no-strings-attached approach is one of the main reasons why many African leaders are seeking Chinese investment.
 
“They don’t want to be held accountable to any standard in terms of good governance, in terms of human rights, in terms of even economic governance. Because some of these regimes, they are patronage regimes, they are client regimes, and therefore they don’t want to be held to any standard that Western countries normally would demand,” Tumushabe said.
 
China’s involvement with the Ugandan government has recently taken a more personal turn. Last week, lawmakers said that a Chinese firm is negotiating a deal to buy off the debts of Ugandan parliamentarians.
 
Tumushabe explains that many Ugandan lawmakers overspend during their campaigns, and end up in debt to other politicians. If the Chinese deal goes through, he said, it would compromise them even further.
 
“It’s really more or less like selling away the other aspect of your independence. All of a sudden, you have to probably look favorably on some of the transactions that China is doing here.”
 
According to reports in the local media, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni opposes the deal. Tumushabe said it is the country’s very sovereignty that is at stake. “I don’t think that a state that claims to be sovereign, like all these African states normally want to claim, should be in the business of allowing another state to come and pay off the debts of your elected leaders. I think that’s a responsibility that the state should have to its citizens," said Tumushabe. "To make sure that the elected leaders do not mortgage themselves to another country.”
 
But, he adds, Uganda’s behavior is not unusual. Governments across the continent have been turning to China to avoid having to make the changes that a growing middle class demands, he said.
 
“The presence of China gives a lease on life for regimes across the world, and more specifically in Africa - regimes that are not yet ready to reform, both in terms of economic reforms but also in terms of governance reforms,” said Tumushabe.
 
D’Ujanga insists that the Ugandan government knows what it is doing when it comes to China, and is not sacrificing its independence. “Not at all. This is not the first time we are dealing with the Chinese people. We have dealt with them before, and we can predict them,” he stated.
 
But Tumushabe warns that too few politicians weigh the real costs of cheap Chinese credit. When it comes to international relations, he says, there is no such thing as a blank check.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid