LUSAKA (AFP) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday the United States wanted to expand trade with Africa by investing in the continent’s people, warning against a “new colonialism” as China expands its presence.
In Zambia on the first leg of a three-nation African tour, Clinton defended US policies that offer trade benefits to countries that meet standards for democracy and free markets, in an apparent reference to China’s no-strings trade deals.
“Our view is that over the long run, investments in Africa should be sustainable and for the benefit of the African people,” she told South African television.
“When people come to Africa to make investments, we want them to do well, but we also want them to do good. We don’t want them to undermine good governance,” she said.
“We don’t want them to basically deal with just top elites, and frankly too often pay for their concessions of their opportunities to invest.”
“We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa,” she said. “The United States is investing in the people of Zambia, not just the elites.”
Clinton also said that she thought China’s top-down command economy was not a model for other developing nations.
“Young people are not going to accept being told what to do,” she said, noting the uprisings across the Middle East.
Zambia’s experience highlights both the benefits and pitfalls of China’s rapidly growing presence across Africa.
Zambia estimates China invested one billion dollars here last year, creating 15,000 jobs. A deal with China’s Zhougui Mining announced in January promises a further five billion dollars in investment in the coming years.
But China’s labour practices have sparked protests, with two Chinese mine managers accused of shooting and wounding 11 miners who were protesting in October against poor working conditions at the Collum Coal Mine.
Charges were dropped in April, but President Rupiah Banda had to personally soothe the public outrage.
The issue is certain to resurface later this year in national elections, as opposition leader Michael Sata campaigns against China’s rapid expansion here.
Clinton’s visit is the latest sign of growing interest in African economies, which the International Monetary Fund expects to grow faster than the global average in the coming years.
Six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in Africa last year, and the African Development Bank has signalled the rise of a middle class of more than 300 million people on the continent.
China has overtaken the United States as Africa’s top trading partner, after trade soared more than 40 percent last year to $126.9 billion.
The United States is believed to remain Africa’s top donor, giving out $7.6 billion in 2009, but comparisons are difficult because China does not give detailed information on its aid programmes.
Clinton on Friday voiced concern about that lack of transparency, saying Washington was “concerned that China’s foreign assistance and investment practices in Africa have not always been consistent with generally accepted international norms of transparency and good governance”.
A US law, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which was the subject of talks Friday in Lusaka, grants 37 African nations duty-free access to the US market.
A handful of countries like Sudan and Zimbabwe are excluded because of conflicts, coups or political turmoil. China has come under criticism for its willingness to deal with Khartoum and Harare.
Last year, AGOA-eligible countries sent $44 billion worth of exports to the US market, but only $4 billion dollars of that was in non-oil products.
After Zambia, Clinton headed to Tanzania and was later due in Ethiopia.