The West African nation of The Gambia has submitted a proposal to China to restore shipping lines as India seeks to become the giant in trade between Asia and Africa.
China is already investing in seaports in East Africa and has surveyed The Gambia for a deep-water seaport, similar to one built in Cameroon that cost nearly a billion dollars.
Experts accuse Chinese commercial infrastructural and resource development in East Africa of being symmetrical with an almost colonial-like political influence.
Over the past decade, the increase in trade between China and Africa has been stratospheric, rising from US$6.5 billion in 2004 to an estimated US$200 billion in 2013.
“The lion’s share of this trade entails the extraction of natural resources to China, and machinery, textiles, chemicals and electronic goods into Africa,” said Ross Anthony, Stellenbonch University. “Chinese mineral extraction, which adds little value to African economies, is off-set with massive infrastructure projects carried out primarily by Chinese state-owned enterprises.”
Ports being constructed in Tanzania and Kenya also serve Chinese security interest. The Gambia signed a military cooperation agreement with Russia this month and is likely to have one with China. The location of the West African nation on the Atlantic is strategic.
Ana Cristina Alves of the South African Institute of International Affairs said China’s use of infrastructure-for-resources loans in Africa as a win–win economic cooperation tool and that offering generous loans for infrastructure in exchange for resource access, came into being largely as a default cooperation tool, inspired by China’s own domestic experience, its competitive advantages and Africa’s receptivity to this kind of barter deal.
The Gambia does not have abundant natural resources but it could serve China’s security interest in the Atlantic and allow more of its fishing trawlers to operate in its waters to have its seaport expanded.
The Gambia’s main development partner is withholding more than 30 million Euros in aid funds over its right record and said last week that it may assert sanctions if right condition deteriorates or abuses continue.
The Gambia’s efforts to turn to mainly Muslim nations and becoming the world’s newest Islamic nation yield little returns and is now turning to communist nations with the same rights issues like Russia and China to help boost its economy and stabilize its unserviceable international and domestic debts, which has reached 100 percent of its GDP.
The Gambia re-established diplomatic relations with China in March and China has already given scholarships to at least a dozen students from the West African nation and as the flagship of the start of their relationship, China will be opening a new world conference center in Banjul.
The Gambia has asked for financial help from China to address its growing youth migration problem. Many of the country’s youths are embarking on a death-defying journey across West Africa into the Sahara, where they cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.