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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid