The Chinese influence in Africa is a topic that I have been researching for a few years now. I have conducted most of my research by way of news sites and journals in the States and with the help of the internet, but now I have the opportunity to see firsthand the impact of the Chinese influence in an African country. This entry will follow my experiences and insights on how China is involved in Ghana.
The first thing that someone traveling in Ghana will notice is that there are so many Chinese restaurants. They are just about everywhere. Chinese food is almost as prevalent as Ghanaian food. Sadly, the Chinese food is not at all what you would find in America or for that matter China. The menus are often 15 pages long and with only minimally Chinese named dishes. Nevertheless, Chinese restaurants are everywhere. Also in the service industry there are a number Chinese themed hotels that host a number of Chinese tourists and business people. On our walks down East Legon we see them buying bread and other food stuffs at the market.
As some of you may know, China is currently one of the highest (maybe the number one) foreign aid provider. This is often called ‘rogue’ aid because it is not administered through an aid institution without any restrictions on aid usage. This aid is evident in Ghana with a number of projects sponsored by the Chinese government. One day on a tour of Accra, near the Kwame Nkrumah moselium a police escorted motorcade shot through the traffic with a handful of Chinese officials. The wonders of Chinese aid is prominently displayed in the construction of the National Theatre, it was completely funded by the Chinese government. I wonder if there is any linkage between Kwame Nkrumah’s administration and the remaining Chinese connection. During his rule Nkrumah often hosted Chinese officials and received help from China.
The people, the aid, the food, the history is all here. There is a deep worry, that I often agree with, China is seeking to gain natural resources from African countries. They make a number of aid packages for ‘development’ and sign bilateral trade agreements, but what does it all mean? Is China’s motive in Ghana to reach a growing market economy? Is it to cash in on the mineral wealth of Ghana? It cannot be just to build a National Theatre and assist the Ghanaian government with ‘development.’ I really wonder what the specific trade-off for China is.
China is not the only big aider that I have noticed while in Ghana. Iran is sponsoring a number of projects and many of the government ambulances are donated by the Republic of Iran. I will touch more on this in ‘A Snapshot of Health in Ghana.’
Index of blog post series on Ghana.