Recently, I followed a parliamentary session that was broadcast live on Wavah Broadcasting Station. The subject in question was the endless consignments of expired goods that were finding their way into the Uganda from China, dressed as donations. Soroti Hospital, one of the major regional referral hospitals in Eastern Uganda is a victim of this negative generosity in the form of expired drugs. The MPs agreed that irrelevant junk should be shipped back to the country of origin.
This is not the first time developed countries are using Africa as dumping grounds. Multinational corporations have exploited Africa’s legal loopholes to directly dump their waste products in the continent. In the year 2006, the people living near Akouedo rubbish dump in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) were invaded with refuse that exuded dangerous fumes, after a ship chattered by a Dutch company offloaded over 400 tones of gasoline, water and caustic washings. Similar cargo was dumped in at least 10 other sites around the city, including a channel leading to a lake, roadsides and open grounds. Human lives were lost as thousands more were rushed to makeshift clinics to be treated for nausea, vomiting and headache.
High profile government officials from China are touring Africa. One such official, Chinese President Hu Jintao, made a stop-over in Uganda. China's trade in Africa has reached over $50billion and still continues to bulge. Most African leaders have welcomed this move viewing it as an opportunity considering China’s “strictly business” policy of non- interference in domestic affairs of African countries.
China, like all the other economic powers courting Africa, has a vested agenda. It is positioning itself strategically as Africa’s sweetheart while carefully sidelining other competitors in 'saving Africa.' Like every beginner, it is starting by giving loans with no strings attached. With complacency, the story will definitely change.
Much as China is currently trying to look like Africa's alternative 'saviour' by actively improving infrastructure and pumping foreign in the continent, this move is clearly guided towards buying goodwill. It is now getting more in return by grabbing huge natural resources.
African countries should adopt strong anti-dumping policies. Like South Africa, Uganda should also put in place a commission to draft regulations as well as investigate suspected products dumped from other developed countries, taking absolute measures to discourage such imports when proven to be dumped. Like Lawrence Reed’s 4th principal of sound public policy states, “if you encourage something, you get more of it, if you discourage something, you get less”. The more Uganda rejects dangerous donations, the faster it will get rid of it.
Instead of demonising China however, Africa's key test lies in learning the secret behind China's rapid growth, finding out what has enabled China to produce goods cheaply, unravel China's marketing strategy and making China's agenda to work for Africa.
By Judy Auma
Miss Auma is an African Executive Staff Writer based in Uganda
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