The good the bad, the ugly, a review of Mukwita´s ´China in Africa, the Zambia story´


The good the bad, the ugly, a review of Mukwita´s ´China in Africa, the Zambia story´

…By Kellys Kaunda

11th June 2023

China in Africa – the Zambia story, a book by Ambassador Anthony Mukwita, a former envoy to the Federal Republic of Germany, is a Zambian contribution to one of the most important discussions of modern politics – the rise of China.

It is not exhaustive, as you might imagine, but an admirable effort by one of us to reflect our collective experiences with a country that has sent shockwaves across the global political structures.

In an honest fashion, Ambassador Mukwita has attempted to tell it all – the good and the bad that we as Zambians have come to know about China in our own country. We know and appreciate the infrastructure that has been built with Chinese money, and employment opportunities created.

But we also hate, in some instances, poor working conditions that resulted in the now-infamous BGRIMM disaster, poor salaries, importing into the country laborers, and encroachment into economic sectors that must be ring-fenced for Zambian nationals.

The author has shared the dominant perceptions of China as defined by the west, namely, that China sponsors a predatory foreign policy, a reference to Africa’s indebtedness to China, as he sets the stage for Zambia’s own perception of the country.

This is important because the west has proved adept at shaping international opinion as though it were the only opinion. Subsequently, the west’s opinion has become the Zambian opinion and the west’s enemies have become the Zambian enemies.

Although the plethora of literature on the rise of China in the world may sometimes come across as too complex to appreciate, its common thesis is this: China is in business – selling its products to the rest of the world while looking for raw materials and technology that it needs. Everything else is icing on the cake.

China in Africa – the Zambia story poses, among others, the question: what does China want in Africa? Specifically, what does China want in Zambia? No rocket science is required to answer this question: China is in business, and Zambia has what China wants – copper, timber, and other natural resources.

But, as the author has pointed out, China also wants to invest and make a profit in other sectors that include energy, roads, airports, and many others. The question Zambia must ask and answer, as the book points out is: what do we want out of our relationship with China? In an apparent effort to encourage further debate, the author has left this question largely unanswered but has made a couple of suggestions in the conclusion section of the book which should jolt the mind.

Whatever you make of the book, its major contribution is the need for Zambia, particularly the Zambian government to demonstrate that it has a Zambia/China strategy that can unlock immense possibilities for the Zambian economy.

The author, for instance, has alluded to the tariff-free export policy China has availed to its African partners. Do you know what this can do to the Zambian economy if government took full advantage of this opportunity? Just think about this: exporting tariff-free into a $14 trillion-dollar economy!

This is a not a new initiative as the US has done this before with Europe and Japan following the end of the Second World War.

And look where these regions of the world are today! On this score, the government of President Hichilema stands to be tested if it has what it takes to convert such opportunities into tangible economic benefits for the Zambian people.

This, for me, is the greatest contribution of China in Africa – the Zambia story, challenging the Zambian government to see opportunities and taking them.

Editors Note: Kellys Kaunda is a decorated African-Zambian journalist who worked for years for the Voice of America (VOA), headed the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zambia) and until recently was the Press Attache´ at the embassy of Zambia in the Federal Republic of Germany.


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