What is the scale of Chinese investment in Africa generally and in the countries we have studied? What form does it take? This chapter will set the scene for the analysis that follows by discussing the scale and nature of Chinese investment.
Before discussing the details, however, it is necessary to note that the picture offered here is incomplete because data on China’s role is, for a variety of reasons, unreliable.
Thus, in Angola, there is very little information on the real amounts of money nego.tiated with China. Angola is paying China 200 000 barrels of oil per day through the state oil company Sonangol. Credit lines and loans that government gets from different foreign governments and international financial institutions are not included in the national budget, and their management lacks accountability and transparency. This is part of wider difficulty with data collection, which hampered our research team.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the first group of Chinese came to the DRC as traders and not as investors or industrialists. They simply bought the copper from artisanal miners and exported it to China. This trend continues. The former Chi.nese ambassador to the DRC, Mr Wu Zexian suggested in a 2008 interview in Kin.shasa that most Chinese individuals and small businesses are not registered with the embassy. It is therefore very difficult to give a correct assessment of Chinese invest.ment in the DRC, because the relationship with the DRC is not accurately docu.mented.
Information on the timber trade between China and Mozambique is contradictory. As Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco recently mentioned,1 China-Mozambique business relations are very secretive, and it is difficult to obtain authoritative information. On the timber trade, the figures from the Chinese authorities show a different picture to those of the Mozambican National Directorate: exports of logs to China are reported to have indeed decreased since 2007, but they still make up the majority of timber exported to China. In 2009, around 65 percent of all timber exported by Mozambique consisted of logs. The discrepancies in the data provided by the Mozambican government and Chinese author.ities are not small: in 2008/2009, Chinese authorities reported the import of more than 150 thousand m3 of Mozambican logs, whereas Mozambican authorities reported the ex.port of no more than 20 thousand m3. This may suggest the growth in illegal trade be.tween the countries. One of the most alarming concerns regarding the forest industry in Mozambique is the lack of accurate reporting on the amount and location of trees felled, and the significant illegal export of unprocessed logs.
In South Africa, Chinese officials dispute the trade statistics, claiming that South Africa ignores exports to Hong Kong which are intended for mainland China. There are no accurate figures on fixed investment that China has made in South Africa.
In Zimbabwe, the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (CMoZ) represents the interests of all major mining houses in Zimbabwe and would be expected to have a record of all mining companies and activities in Zimbabwe since its member-companies produce about 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s total mineral output. But no information was avail.able about two Chinese companies who applied for membership as smaller producers
– there are also said to be several Chinese companies in the service provider category but CMoZ could not name any. The assumption is that these would be ser vice providers to Chinese mining companies, strengthening the argument that there are many Chinese companies already operating in the extractive sector in Zimbabwe.
The gaps in the information held by CMoZ leave unresolved questions about Chinese mining operations. The Economic and Commercial Counsellor’s Office at the Em.bassy of the People’s Republic of China to Zimbabwe could not provide information on Chinese mining companies except for Sino-Steel, arguing that it was difficult for the embassy to keep track of the many Chinese citizens who come into the country as private individuals. One immediate explanation for this is the small-scale nature of most of the operations. It must be pointed out that this lack of information does not apply only to Chinese mining operations, but (according to the Chamber of Mines) to other mining activities too.
These data limitations obviously mean that no definitive account of the scale of Chi.nese investment is presented here – indeed, it is not clear that one exists. Rather, the goal is to give a broad sense of the nature of China’s economic role on the continent and in the Southern African countries which we studied.