The hand of China is visible in many aspects in Zambian life, and it is growing at a significant rate. Almost all of the infrastructure like stadiums, airports, roads, power stations and dams that popped up everywhere in the recent past, have a stamp of Chinese craftsmanship.
Zambia is an important part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” programme to assist developing countries, and their ties stretch back over the past 55 years. Zambia is ranked their second largest trading partner in Africa with Kenya in the lead. Trade between China and Zambia is constantly growing and reached a record value of 5 billion US$ last year with a year on year growth of 33,9%.
There are, however, negative sentiments against the Chinese due to the huge influx of Chinese workers, aggressive business practices and a possible “economic colonisation” of Zambia. But some Zambians are very positive about Chinese investors and the jobs they create. They feel that their products and technology stimulate and advance the economy. We have to admit that the overall Zambian landscape definitely changed for the better with the progress brought by the Chinese.
There is also a growing trend of Chinese involvement in agriculture. The Chinese firm, Zhongkai International, erected an ethanol processing plant in Chibombo district at a cost of over nine million US dollars. It will create 200 jobs and another 600 000 people are expected to benefit from the project. They require smallholder farmers to supply 150 tonnes of cassava feedstock on a daily basis.
A recent MoU worth 1,5 billion US$ was recently finalised with a Chinese organisation, China Rural Development Cooperation and the government, to invest in the Kalungwishi farming block in Northern Province. In recent months we’ve also heard of lucrative honey exporting contracts to China, that will open huge opportunities for local producers.
Academics described the current Chinese mode of agricultural engagement as “agro-capitalist”, but it is speculated that it may develop into an ‘agro-imperialist’ mode where huge firms push local farmers out of the market. It is a big question whether it will start to happen on a grand scale. We’ve seen some cases arise, especially in the poultry business. Over the past ten years, local Chinese chicken farmers managed to put their products on the market at a much lower price than Zambians. This led to a government ban on foreigners selling live chickens.
Another question arises whether we shall soon see genuine Chinese farmers en masse in Zambia on a commercial or even enterprise farming level. Are they motivated and capable enough to till the land just like the African and even Western originating farmers? The Chinese are brilliant in construction, but farming in Africa is a niche industry and requires a special mindset and skillset…
This month we learn from AGCO how to properly prepare soil, and AFGRI, Falcon and Dauerhaft show how their mechanisation technology is perfectly suited for Zambian farmers. Novatek and Tiger Feeds pride themselves in their exquisite game and fish feed and Syngenta give valuable tips on crop production.
Du Preez de Villiers- email@example.com