Monday, April 15, 2024

Africa: Zambia epitomizes the New Scramble for Africa


Africa , a continent endowed with massive natural resources has always attracted interest from beyond its shores

“As the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries Join Band Wagon”

By Mwansa Chalwe Snr

There is a 21st-century version of the “Scramble for Africa” that is currently taking, which is similar to the one that occurred 140 years ago. In 1884, Seven Western European powers held a conference in Berlin, Germany, which marked the starting point of the Scramble for Africa. This entailed the conquest, invasion, occupation, division, and colonization of the African continent.

The motivation for the new scramble for Africa is the same: hunger for the continent’s massive natural resources. The only difference today is that it is with the consent of the continent’s leaders, and previous colonial masters of Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Germany have been overshadowed by new players.

China -West Rivalry in Africa

The West lost interest in African countries after they attained independence in the 1960s and virtually abandoned the continent. At the beginning of this century, China took advantage of the vacuum. China formed the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) as a vehicle for cooperating with Africa and poured billions into the Continent for infrastructure development.
The United States of America recently reacted to Chinese influence in Africa by enacting the Strategic Competition Act of 2021.There has been a growing realisation in Washington that Africa represents important opportunities in trade and investment.

“The United States firmly believes that it’s time to stop treating Africa as a subject of geopolitics and start treating it as the major geopolitical player it has become,” Antony Blinken said when he visited Nigeria in 2021.

The European Union joined the race for African influence in 2021.To counter Chinese influence, the EU  announced a plan to invest €300 billion (US$340 billion) in global infrastructure, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen boasted would be better than China’s Belt and Road Initiative due to EU’s priorities of a green economy and digital technology.

“Countries [had] their experience with the Chinese investments and they need better and different offers,” she said. “We want to show that a democratic, value-driven approach can deliver on the most pressing challenges.”

India’s vaccine Diplomacy

India has been quietly making economic inroads into Africa under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The country is now Africa’s third-largest trading partner at $70 Billion, and the fifth largest investor with $64Billion of FDI.

“In recent years, India has sought to position itself as a global powerhouse. Newly minted as the world’s most populous country – as well as its fifth largest and fastest growing economy,” wrote Jonathan Yerushalmy, the Guardian Australia Editor in an Op-Ed in the Zambia Daily Mail.

And indeed, during the Covid-19 Pandemic when the West ignored Africa and was reluctant to provide excess Vaccines or give manufacturing licence, India was one of the first movers in an UN-backed global Covid-19 response, earning respect across Africa by supplying 24.7 million “Made in India” Covid-19 vaccines and COVAX supplies to 42 countries in Africa.

In 2018, India had 29 diplomatic missions in Africa, but in 2019, it had planned to add another 18 missions which was to bring the total to 47. India believes that it has a competitive advantage over China in Africa due to its shared colonial past, the English language, and the over 3million Indian diaspora in Africa.
Russia is back in Africa, as Turkey flexes its muscle
In 2019, Russia hosted 43 African heads of state at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, where several agreements were signed. “We are not going to participate in a new ‘repartition’ of the continent’s wealth,” President Vladimir Putin said at the summit. “Rather, we are ready to engage in competition for cooperation with Africa. We have a lot to offer our African friends.”

Already, Russian state-owned energy companies Gazprom, Rostec and Rosatom are active in Africa, with key investments in the oil, gas and nuclear sectors in Algeria, Egypt, Uganda, and Angola.

Turkey is also expanding its footprint on the continent. It increased the number of embassies in Africa, from 12 in 2009 to 43 in 2021. In the last decade, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited more than 28 African countries and 38 times in total, which is a reflection of his ambitions on the continent. And in the past 20 years or so, trade between Turkey and Africa has grown from US$5.4 billion to US$25.3 billion.

This competition for influence should generally be welcomed by African countries as it provides them with more choices. It is an opportunity for Africa to fast-track its development by leveraging its resources and its market of 1.2 billion people, most of them young.

The African Union officials have been cautious on the new “invasion”. African Union’s Commissioner for infrastructure and energy, Amani Abou-Zeid commented: “Africa’s focus is about securing financial access to fund development for its fast-growing population. We need serious partners; we need people who can deliver. We have had bad experiences and good experiences with literally everybody.” And her boss Moussa Mahamat, Chairman of the African Union commission once said: “Africa refuses to be the theatre for playing out of rivalries between Chinese, Americans or Europeans.”
Zambia, the epicentre of the scramble for Africa
Zambia has been the poster child of 21st Century scramble for Africa. Since his election as President in August 2021, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, has marketed the country aggressively for investment as part of his strategy of economic diplomacy.

Zambia has hosted unprecedented number of high-level officials from influential countries during the last two years. These have included USA Vice President, Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, Chinese Agriculture Minister, the Saudi Arabia Agriculture Minister, and many others. And recently, a United States Congressional delegation (CODEL), led by Senator Patty Murray, accompanied by Senators Chris Coons, Gary Peters, Catherine Cortez, and Peter Welch visited Zambia and met with President Hakainde Hichilema.

And for the first time in Zambia’s history, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have shown interest to compete for investment in Zambia. The cash-rich oil countries of United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are aggressively pushing to secure critical minerals supply in Zambia in their bid to diversify their economies and engage with energy transition.

In February,2024, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al Fradley visited Zambia looking for investment opportunities in crop farming, livestock, and aquaculture. The Saudis are already constructing a $102 million, 820 bed capacity women and children specialist hospital in Lusaka.
In March,2024, the United Arab Emirates’ International Resources Holdings (IRH), a subsidiary International Holdings Company (IHC), officially took over Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines by investing $1.1 billions in return for 51% ownership of the business, through its subsidiary, Delta Mining Limited (Delta).
One of the clearest signs of Zambia epitomising the Scramble for Africa has been the composition of its debt. Zambia owes Eurobond holders, China, India, Israel, Britain etc. The protraction of the G20 Framework debt restructuring talks-which were only resolved in March,2024-can mainly be attributed to the geopolitical rivalry between China and the West, with Zambia as a battleground.
On the 7th of February 2024, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, Du Xiaohui, announced that Chinese investors had proposed to invest over $1billion in the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) under a public private partnership (PPP) model. In the same week, United States of America and its partners were involved in the Lobito Corridor Private Sector Investment Forum, which was convened by the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGI) and the USA government Agency, International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

At continent level, the African Union (AU) should take a Leadership role by creating a unified African vision on how to work with the foreign powers. There is need to strike a balance between resource nationalism and collaboration. Africa can assert ownership (resource nationalism), while collaborating with foreign investors for expertise and capital.

At country level, Zambia should focus on value addition by ensuring that raw materials are processed into finished or semi-finished goods before export and get directly involved in marketing a share of its minerals. Zambia should negotiate better deals with foreign investors than it has done in the past and avoid being arm twisted to secure a larger share of revenue, technology, and skills transfer.

In general, Zambia should engage local thinkers to craft a strategy and roadmap for this 21st Century opportunity to fast-track development. The country cannot afford to rely on foreign institutions like the United Nations agencies, World Bank, IMF, Chinese institutions and individuals, to work out a strategy for taking advantage of this phenomenon,because they are highly conflicted.

It is to Africa and Zambia’s advantage that China, the US, EU, Russia, India, and other world powers should be jockeying for influence, as it can bring critical investment for development. But it should be wary of being caught up in the crossfire of geopolitical and economic competition which can degenerate into conflict.

Mwansa Chalwe Snr is a Chartered accountant, an independent financial commentator and analyst. He is the author of the book, China-West Battleground in Africa: Debt ridden Zambia.
Contact: pmchalweATgmailDOTcom


  1. The picture tells it all. They briefcase diary boy and the chief Kaponya represent Zambia to sell and sale everything for peanuts and breadcrumbs. Africans will always be African. Copper, Mukula that leaves our soils and the trading of our wealth done outside Zambia. The cheap labor is for Africans. None of the white people buried underground in Chingola speaks volume of what we are while HH converting what comes back in briefcases in to cattle exactly what he did during privatization. What remains with the ordinary Zambia is sorry sight to even take a photo.

  2. Data shows that Europe is on the decline, both economically and human resources. China is the only competitor to America technologically and financially. The Chinese strategy appears to offload some of its manufacturing base to Africa as it acquires middle income status of its billion + population. The imperialist are aware of this and will do everything possible to disrupt both China and Africa.

  3. There is no scramble for Africa and Zambia does not epitomize it.
    In the past so many of you Africans were just ignorant, illiterate and corrupt that foreigners could along and offer you all pretty coloured marbles and mirrors and you all would sell out to them the. An example was the slave trade.
    Let us now take it to the current day, if your writer feels that there is a scramble and foreigners are coming, let me ask a question, how many Zambians or ethnic Africans put in a bid for Mopani? I will answer that for you, “NONE”. The current government got the best deal it could get, it is maintaining 49% of the equity, PF only had only 10%.Mining is very expensive and trying to do it with picks and shovels which is the technology you all have would not do it.

  4. On the Mopani deal, the current government got the best deal it could get, it is maintaining 49% of the equity, PF only had only 10%.
    Benefits are there to be had, providing the African epidemic of corruption which is rampant in all African countries does not raise its head in Zambia again.
    The problem with many of you Africans is that you all are preoccupied and obsessed with blaming others rather than be introspective and look at yourselves.

  5. This in a way is very sad. Will Africa ever be able to do it’s own scrambling has no lessons been learnt. The writer makes it sound has if it is such a good thing. It’s only good if you call the shorts. China Russian Arabs Europeans Americans it’s the same thing. They using Africa to make themselves rich they not doing you a favour they leave you with debts that you cannot afford so stop saying china is developing the country you pay for it and give their employment to their people they end up with jobs and you still owe them. India did not donate the vaccines astra zenica and U N agency Gavi donated it paid by richer countries they only manufacture it providing jobs for them again.

  6. ………..

    Only the Chinese and indians will realise their monies back…….

    All the others will only gain short term , but will lose in the long term……..

    The reason is simple……..

    You need a population that will to get into Africa and get its hands dirty………immigration into Africa to work yourself to claw back your money………

    Only Chinese and Indians are doing this……

    The rest……EU , USA , Arabs , in their minds are hoping to relay on a continously normal governance , that im afraid does not happen in Africa………..

    Anyone can be voted as president, even people with the worst cv , who would bankrupt the country easily……..

    There is standard of who will run the country.

  7. Mr Chalwe. You are an intelligent and rational man. Go ahead and do something tangible with your talents. Make money and create jobs. The posts your make though thought provoking, don’t generate wealth.


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