By TABU BUTAGIRA/ monitor
Somalilandsun – This year’s edition of the Times CEO summit heard from some of Africa’s wealthiest that doing business on the continent is hamstrung by limited access to financing, changing business rules and shortfalls in supply of energy.
African politicians have told a top business executives summit in London that the continent is gravitating towards China because it readily provides development financing unlike the Bretton Woods institutions.
Kenya’s former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, on Monday spoke of “frustrations”, while in government, in dealing with lengthy bureaucratic procedures of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
“If you are in charge of making decisions, you get very frustrated,” he said during a key-note address at a dinner event preceding the annual The Times CEO Africa summit. “If you deal with the Chinese, they will come, you negotiate and these negotiations are not endless; you discuss and agree.” He added: “The role of China in Africa is being misconstrued or deliberately misunderstood. For Africa to realise its potential, there is need for injection of capital. Opportunities [to invest in Africa] exist, but we need to work with everybody.”
China has signed multi-million dollar deals with several African countries, where it builds infrastructure – roads and airports – in exchange for long-term mining rights.
In Uganda, China’s most recent notable investments include the construction of the Mandela National Stadium Namboole, roads and bridges. Last year, China National Offshore Oil Company moved into Uganda’s budding oil sector, snapping up one-third of the stakes in oil finds which it shares s with UK’s Tullow Oil and France’s Total.
The speed of China’s penetration in Africa, and edging out of Western firms in lucrative deals, has raised debate on whether a new phase of scramble for Africa’s resources is underway — and its influence on global geo-politics.
Unlike the West, China, continues to face criticism for dealing with African governments without paying any attention to local governance issues, especially in respect to human rights abuses and democracy.
Mr John Witherow, acting editor of The Times, said the summit helps offer insights into an Africa-on-the-move; a continent of unlimited possibilities and where returns on investment are higher than anywhere in the world.
This summit, which brings together the richest African entrepreneurs and their Western counterparts, aims to expose trade and investment opportunities on the continent to the outside world and shift the debate away from aid, he noted.
In an address to delegates on Tuesday, Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama underlined the need for African governments to “break the barriers” and unlock the continent’s full potential. China’s engagement with Africa, he said, was good because it pushes for long term, low-interest loans for infrastructure development.