Why Congo prefers Chinese investment over Western aid

The Chinese are gaining ground in Africa while Western powers, and corporations, struggle to catch up. Last week, China’s official news service reported on the success of a joint effort of the Chinese and Congolese governments: A new $8.7 million, 40-mile long electricity line linking two towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The line will also supply power to a new hydroelectric dam. But an even larger dam – the largest in the world, in fact – to be built by Chinese contractors could also be in the works. And the United States is considering whether to contribute its own humanitarian funds to the project.

Workers in a mine near Goma, eastern DR Congo. 2012
Workers in a mine near Goma, eastern DR Congo. 2012
AP

In today’s podcast, Nairobi-based reporter Jacob Kushner puts that news in context and explains why America should be open to collaborating with Chinese investments in the Congo. After reporting on Western mining operations in Haiti, Kushner visited similar Chinese mining operations in the Congo, but noticed that many Congolese respect and appreciate the presence of Chinese companies even as they extract the country’s resources without any “do-gooder” pretensions.

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He published an e-book last fall called “China’s Congo Plan: What the Economic Superpower Sees in the World’s Poorest Nation.” Kushner joins us to explain what China’s influence in the Congo looks like on the ground, why many Congolese respect Chinese profit motives over Western humanitarian ones, and how China’s massive investments in Central Africa might hold up over the long term.

And I ask him an obvious but little-asked question: what should Western humanitarians learn from Chinese contractors? The answer might surprise you.

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About Author

Ansel Herz

Ansel Herz is a freelance multimedia journalist whose objective is to “go to where the silence is." His work has been published by ABC News, The Nation magazine, the New York Daily News, Al Jazeera English, Free Speech Radio News, Inter-Press News and many other publications. A Seattle native and survivor of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Ansel is producer of Humanosphere's podcast, among other things. You can contact him at ansel.herz[at]gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @Ansel.