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Angolans Growing Resentful Of Reliance On China

Angolans Growing Resentful Of Reliance On China

From CNBCAfrica. Story by Reuters.

It is almost impossible to miss Beijing’s influence in Angola, from construction-site signs in Chinese script to expensive Chinese restaurants and seedy “Asian-only” massage parlors in the capital’s alleyways.

Despite reservations from jobless Angolans, economists see China’s dominant role in Angola as necessary.

Angola, which relies on oil sales for 95 percent of foreign exchange revenues, slashed a third off its budget and said it would need to borrow $25 billion this year – $15 billion domestically and the rest abroad.

“Lower oil prices have put Angola in a bit of a pickle and the most obvious place to turn is China,” said Cobus de Hart, an analyst at NKC African Economics. “If China can help Angola get out of the fiscal hole then it could be a positive step.”

Despite this, many Angolans are distrustful of the relationship, pointing to the millions who still live on less than $2 a day and World Bank studies that rank the country 169 out of 175 countries in terms of income equality.

Beijing’s role in Africa has often been criticized by Western governments and some African leaders who call it neo-colonial — taking resources in return for infrastructure that supports China’s construction industry.

There are around 50 Chinese state companies and 400 private companies operating in Angola. They are supposed to use 30 percent Angolan labor but industry sources say this is rarely observed and Angolans tend to get the lowliest positions.


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“Always the Chinese will be the master and the Angolan the helper,” said Paulo Nascimento, a 29-year-old Luanda taxi driver. “This is our country. We should be in charge.”

Chinese firms strongly deny accusations of exploitation, arguing that they have done more to rebuild Angola since the war than Western critics sitting on the sidelines.

“I think Angola does not have too much money so China is a very good choice for them,” Pascal Wang, 36, marketing manager at Chinese telcom company ZTE, told Reuters. “We don´t come here just to do business. We want to help Angolans.”

With the exception of investment from former colonial power Portugal and offshore oil drilling by U.S. and European oil majors, Western governments, donors and investors have focused their attention elsewhere in Africa.

There are signs this may be changing.

France’s AccorHotels, the world’s fourth-largest hotelier, sealed a deal last week with Angolan insurance and investment company AAA Activos to open 50 in Angola hotels by 2017. The deal coincided with a visit to Luanda by French President Francois Hollande.

The World Bank, meanwhile, agreed to $650 million in financial support this month, the first funding from the Washington-based lender since 2010.

Until the benefits of investment reach the masses rather than the elite, resentment against foreign investors and the government is likely to fester.

“We have always been slaves,” Nascimento said. “We are lost in the world. We are the leftovers.”

Read more at CNBCAfrica.