China’s Investment in Demining AfricaPosted: May 2, 2013
There is a lot of hand-wringing in the international community about the Chinese involvement in Africa. To be sure, China’s investments often appear to be very self-serving, especially the oil and mineral extraction activities. But China has also learned the important lesson of soft power and has made investments that, unlike the oil wells, roads and gifts to leaders, don’t have an immediate return. China has paid for the building of many hospitals in Africa, sent its doctors to treat malaria patients across the continent and offered Chinese language instruction to Africans. From a glamor perspective, the Chinese have also built or re-furbished a spectacular number of football stadiums and not just those used for international tournaments, along with opera houses and other cultural venues. But even more important from my particular point of view: the Chinese have provided a lot of assistance for mine clearance.
Chinese foreign aid is conditioned on eight principles, two of which (“China provides quality equipment and materials manufactured in China at international market prices” and “China will help recipient countries master the techniques of any technical assistance”) apply to demining (The Guardian). The result has been gifts of demining equipment and training sessions for deminers to landmine-affected countries in Africa. From 2000 to 2011, according to the AidData project, China provided some US $2 million in demining equipment to Angola (AidData), Eritrea (AidData), Ethiopia (AidData) and Mozambique (AidData). On its own and through the United Nations Mine Action Service, China has provided demining training to over 100 deminers from Eritrea (AidData), Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda (AidData), Chad, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau (AidData), Sudan and South Sudan (AidData). Not included in the AidData figures were donations of mine detectors and equipment to Egypt and a demining team from China that participated in the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (The Monitor).
The amount of mine action assistance that China provides is far below that of the United States, Norway and many others, but it is not insignificant either. In many ways, China’s demining assistance mirrors the mine action assistance of another entity whose presence in Africa raises eyebrows: the United States’s Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Michael P. Moore
May 2, 2013