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Ndangwa Noyoo
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Ndangwa Noyoo is a development activist. He holds a Ph.D from the University of the Witwatersrand, an M.phil from the University of Cambridge and a BSW from the University of Zambia. He was also a post-doctoral Fellow at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris, France from 2005-06.
My book:
Social welfare in Zambia: The search for a transformative agenda
  • Chinese Investment Forays Into Africa: Blessing Or Curse?


    In the last two decades, Chinese investments in Africa have grown exponentially prompting some commentators, especially from the West, to assert that China was "re-colonising" Africa. During her four country African tour in 2010, former United States Secretary of State, Hilary Rodham Clinton had also re-echoed this sentiment. In fact she had intimated in one speech that China was on the verge of re-colonising Africa. This assertion was again reiterated in the Africa-Europe Summit of the same year. Such sentiments may not be misplaced, from a self-interest point of view, as European nations had monopolised trade with Africa, due to the colonial heritage. In the last decade, China's investment forays into Africa have not only been significant but also very bold.

    What makes the West jittery about China's presence in Africa? For those who are not acquainted with Africa's history, especially its fight against colonialism, they might find China's presence in Africa as a novelty. But for those who have followed Africa's socio-political and economic evolution will probably know that China was described by African liberation movements, among other fraternal allies in the Eastern Bloc, as an "all weather friend".

    Sino-Africa relations: A brief history

    Perhaps it is imperative that we start from the beginning. When Africans wanted to be free from the colonial yoke through armed rebellion, they had very few sympathisers in the West. Thus many turned to the Eastern Bloc for help, especially in the area of weapons that were used in guerrilla insurgencies across Africa, against colonial powers. In the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, China has supported the less prestigious of the liberation forces that were fighting to dismantle colonial rule, namely:

    § FRELIMO - Frente de libertação de Moçambique or the Liberation Front of Mozambique which was headed by Samora Machel and which also led the country to independence in 1975;

    § Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe National People's Union (ZANU) which won the polls of 1980 to facilitate Zimbabwe's independence;

    § National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (or União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola in Portuguese) (UNITA) of the late Jonas Savimbi, which would later be classified as a terrorist organisation by some African states, during the protracted Angolan civil war, especially from the mid-1980s to early 1990s;

    § Pan Africanist Congress (NYSE:PAC) of South Africa; and

    § COREMO or the Mozambique Revolutionary Committee - Comité Revolucionário de Moçambique - a small FRELIMO splinter group.

    What is of critical importance here is that there was no Western power that was willing to help Africans liberate themselves from colonial bondage. The only Western nations that were generous and genuine in this regard, albeit not militarily, were the Scandinavian countries. Therefore it should not boggle the minds of the West now that Africans easily gravitate towards China in respect of investment, notwithstanding human rights issues and lack of transparency - in regard to both parties.

    Bilateral aid

    Over and above the military aid that was provided to African liberation movements, China funded development projects in Africa which were again not deemed economically viable by Western financial institutions such as the World Bank. The Tanzania-Zambia railway project is a case-in-point. In 1967 an agreement was concluded by the Chinese government to build the Tanzania-Zambia Railway with the governments of Zambia and Tanzania. This was China's largest foreign aid project and had amounted to close to US$600 million. It was also a concessionary loan to the two countries. The one thousand eight hundred and sixty kilometres long rail line was constructed between 1970 and 1975 to link Zambia to the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The railway was jointly owned and administered by the two country's agency, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority - TAZARA. Also, the two countries completed the erection of an oil pipeline from Dar es Salaam in 1968 (Noyoo, 2013). TAZARA was necessitated by Rhodesia's (Zimbabwe's) announcement of its Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 11 November 1965 - just one year after Zambia's independence. This effectively put Zambia in a precarious position as her trade routes were linked to those of the white minority regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa - a legacy of colonialism. In addition, China was instrumental in training African students at various universities in a wide array of fields such as: agriculture, engineering, medicine, etc.

    Strategic engagement

    In spite of the disquiet which has found expression in sentiments that China is "re-colonising" Africa, this author, on the contrary, is of the view that the Chinese incursion into Africa is a blessing and can only be a curse if African countries, especially their leaders, do not rise to the occasion by strategically engaging this economic power house. Africans should shape the investment agenda with China and determine what is good for the continent's advancement. For instance, such a stance could allow Africans to call for the banning of unskilled Chinese labour in the building of infrastructure on the continent and call for the employment of local labour, instead. But this can only transpire if Africa has astute and visionary leaders and not the current crop which is at most useless and remains clueless in regard to raising the stakes of Africa's development trajectory vis-à-vis globalisation and Foreign Direct Investment (NYSE:FDI). The case of Zambia is instructive. After Michael Sata became Zambia's fifth president in 2011 (ironically, on a campaign of "chasing away" the Chinese once voted into power), he was unable to strategically engage with them after he discovered that they were a formidable force in Zambia's development equation. Instead, Sata appointed 88 year old Kenneth Kaunda (who was the first president of Zambia) as a special envoy to China. Thereafter, the Vice President, Guy Scott, visited China to "formalise" ties between the Patriotic Front (NYSE:PF) government and that country's Communist Party. However, sending Kaunda to the Chinese on behalf of the Zambian people just shows how out of touch Sata is. The Chinese that Kaunda knew and had interacted with in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, are long gone and are of a by-gone era. The current crop, are modern, young and business-savvy Chinese. They are not the ideologues of old. It may be true that Kaunda and Mao were ideological bedfellows, but this new group of Chinese hardly know Kaunda. The Chinese have moved on to higher and advanced levels, whilst Zambian politicians continue to be clueless on how to raise the stakes in regard to Zambia's development. But more importantly, the issue about China is merely about having sharp negotiating skills and knowing how to strategically prod this economic giant, in Zambia's favour.


    Zambia and indeed the rest of Africa should be tactical in approach, regarding this economic giant, and know how to leverage their trade in the light of the West, and carve out a new niche for themselves in the global economy. This writer firmly believes that China's fast-paced development is an opportunity for Zambia, as well as Africa, to diversify not only their economies, but their investment portfolios (Noyoo, 2013).


    Noyoo, N., (2013). Social Welfare in Zambia: The Search for a Transformative Agenda. London: Adonis and Abbey

    May 15 10:07 AM | Link | 3 Comments
  • Infrastructure Development: The Lynchpin Of Socio-Economic Development And Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) In Africa

    African countries will not make any meaningful headway in socio-economic development unless they aggressively pursue a policy of fast-paced infrastructure development. For generations Africa has continued to be a "dark" continent due to inexistent or obsolete infrastructure. With ageing and archaic infrastructure ranging from pot-holed road networks, obsolete port and rail systems, derelict housing and office complexes as well as mid-twentieth century telecommunications, one does need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that Africa is the most underdeveloped continent on the planet. Despite many countries having attained independence more than 48 years ago, infrastructure on the continent remains really below international standards, that at times, it looks as if Africa had experienced a time freeze (probably in the 1950s or 1960s). Let us take the example of Zambia to drive the point home. Zambia is a country which was classified as a middle-income country in 1969, with one of the highest Growth Domestic Products (GDPs) in Africa, three times that of Kenya, twice that of Egypt, and higher than Brazil, Malaysia, Turkey and South Korea.[1]Regrettably, the country still boasts of a single rail network - thanks to Cecil John Rhodes' "grand Cape to Cairo plans" - linking most of the urban areas in the country and connecting Zambia to some of its neighbours (although there is also the Tanzania-Zambia rail line built by the Chinese in the 1960s and completed in the 1970s). For most parts of the rural areas, this form of transport network is non-existent. Even the rail line that is being used at the moment is below par. One would have thought that rail transport could have been prioritised by successive governments since independence in 1964 as it is cheap, but this has not been the case in Zambia. Trains cannot be used by Zambians, for instance, to commute to work. Zambia has not been proactive and serious enough in regard to the development of the rail sector.

    The tourism industry has for years also not been effective due to rundown infrastructure in the country. Travelling from the once grandiose airport (that is in need of a serious overhaul), to the run down hotels and motels - the country continues to repel tourists due lack of modern infrastructure. In sport and recreation, Zambia does not have modern facilities like stadia for athletics or football. The late president, Levy Mwanawasa, had commissioned the erection of an ultra-modern stadium which was recently completed. But the bulk of sport infrastructure remain safety hazards, for example, the Independence Stadium (which is now finally being renovated) had collapsed in the 1990s killing scores of football fans. Due to this situation, Zambia has lost out on opportunities to host continental football or sport showpieces like the Africa Cup of Nations and All Africa Games, due to the absence of modern sport infrastructure in the country. How then can infrastructure foster socio-economic development? Infrastructure, including various modes of transport such as road and rail networks, are essential for creating broad-based opportunities for income generation and ultimately promote economic growth and the alleviation of poverty[2]. The adequacy of infrastructure helps determine one country's success and another's failure in diversifying production, expanding trade, coping with population growth and urbanisation, or improving environmental conditions. Good infrastructure raises productivity and lowers production costs. Deficient infrastructure - along with weak management and poor economic organisation - accounts for a large share of low factor productivity in developing countries and indeed Africa.[3] Infrastructure is a critical development imperative that must not be taken lightly by governments in Zambia and Africa.

    Adapted from Noyoo, N., (2010). Social Policy and Human Development in Zambia. London: Adonis & Abbey.


    [1]Frazer, A., and Lungu, J., (2006). For Whom the Windfalls? Winners and Losers in the Privatisation of Zambia's Copper Mines., (Accessed on 10 November 2007).

    [2] United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), (2001). Report of the Special Body on Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries on its Fifth Session., (Accessed on 18 August 2005).

    [3]World Bank, (2006). Infrastructure for Development., (Accessed on 18 July 2006).

    Jan 08 9:53 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Why Africa Continues To Be Underdeveloped

    While the rest of humanity marches on towards comprehensive social progress and human development, Africa persists to slide backwards in the foregoing critical areas. It also continues to exhibit extremely low human development indices despite its huge natural resource base. Even the economic growth which has been lauded by all sorts of pundits in the last ten years or so has not arrested these trends. Why is this untenable situation in Africa ramifying itself unabated? The answer that this essay proffers is: politics matters. Africa remains a backwater in the twenty-first century because the politics at play is retrogressive and not one that can liberate the mass of the people from chronic hunger, squalor, destitution and penury. This is because Africa suffers from predatory and ethnic-based politics which has derailed the continent's development for decades. This appraisal is not oblivious to the debilitating antecedents of slavery, colonial subjugation, imperialism, neo-colonialism and unequal terms of trade - whereby the price of Africa's minerals and other natural resources is determined by Western markets. In fact, this article eschews the simplification of Africa's woes that borders on a dangerous naivety, for example, extending one-size-fits-all solutions to complex realities. That being said, if Africa had the right politics then it would have arrived at revolutionary strategies and tactics that would have counteracted the negative trajectory that the former forces bequeathed Africa. In the main, Africa's seemingly intractable challenges are for the better part self-inflicted.

    To extend the above thesis, it is pertinent that we appreciate the potency of politics in the development equation as well as critically examine Africa's political actors. With the first issue, it can be discerned, therefore, that Africa's socio-political and economic hurdles have bordered on a lack of political will. Political will is an essential ingredient in the development enterprise and if it is missing, many of the formulated policies will remain ineffectual as they will not be implemented. Policy implementation ultimately leads to the delivery of services to citizens, who also experience positive spin-offs in the process. When the young Pan-Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah, had chanted to fellow Ghanaians prior to independence: "Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added onto you" - while paraphrasing the scripture - he was not just making a rhetorical statement, but was aware of the power of politics and how it could then be used to redress the colonial legacy of social and economic exclusion, racism, poverty, ignorance and illiteracy. This was before he was exposed to the trappings of power and the knowledge of how the same power could be used to retard human progress. The point being made here is that no development initiatives will blossom in a country, if the political establishment is inept. Also, no economy will function at all, if it is perverted to satisfy the whims of a depraved political regime. Therefore, when political power is well harnessed and utilised to formulate responsive policies, rather than used to plunder the country's resources, then the improvement of citizens' lives will become a reality. Thus it is argued here, in regard to Africa: Get your politics right and everything shall follow. In the light of the second point, the right politics can only be realised once there is a nucleus of quality leaders who will actually rise to the occasion and lead their people to a better state of existence, by coming up with new ideas, solutions and innovative ways of doing things. This is what some of Africa's nationalists did when they fought against colonial rule - again before unbridled power had corrupted them. The significance of quality leadership is that it engages in rational and objective thinking and tries to make policies that are not far removed from the reality of human nature. Conversely, where as it is often consistent in its deliberations, mediocre leadership usually acts either without following any kind of objective manner or reasoning or simply follows the dictates of feelings, passions, and sentiments of special vested interests.[1] Quality leadership is extremely important in offering solutions to Africa's development challenges. It is disconcerting that many African countries have been led for decades, by mediocre leaders, who lack intellectual depth, moral courage or political will. Quality leadership also dovetails visionary leadership which is characterised by a clean, clear, competent, credible, committed, courageous, and compassionate vision and team spirit. Africa's development cannot be achieved by a leadership that is tolerant of corruption and the corrupt, deficient in intellectual depth, narrow in knowledge, unqualified and inexperienced, populist and demagogic, socially insensitive and unaccommodating, and otherwise, inept and indifferent to national service driven programmes.[2] A natural corollary of quality leadership would be good governance. Good governance is not only essential but pivotal to the processes of economic and social development. It has to be organic and intrinsic to a country's socio-political, cultural, psychological and economic environs.[3]

    The aforementioned line of thought resonates with Kalu's (2005) analysis that opines that most of Africa suffers from an absence of indigenous elites in the public policy domain. It further contends that it is the lack of productive engagement in the public policy sector by indigenous elites with viable financial, intellectual and patriotic resources that remains an obstacle to the installation and maintenance of institutional structures that are consistent with modern statehood frameworks. It also distinguishes between indigenous elites and extractive elites. Indigenous elites build legacies using ideas and institutions; significant to their roles and functions is the fact that they nurture dreams of current generations and, for the unborn, they leave their marks in sustainable and authentic educational institutions and structures, financial and judicial infrastructural legacies with enforceable norms and stable security across the country. Most importantly, indigenous elites produce a self-determined citizenry with zeal to serve their country unselfishly. Extractive elites, on the other hand, leave legacies of dug up roads, wasted farmlands, uncompleted projects, corruption, malevolent leadership, false hopes, unfulfilled dreams, institutional decay represented by an externally weak state that is sustained internally by force of arms, while carting away the future of an already alienated, brutalised and emasculated citizenry as personal loots to foreign bank accounts.[4] Sadly, Africa continues to be plagued by extractive elites.

    Way forward

    If there is anything that can be learnt from the aftermath of the Arab spring is that the defeat of dictators and tyrants is only the first step towards democratic consolidation. The fall of one-party states in most of sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s had sent waves of euphoria and unchecked ecstasy across the region. In the process, those formations that had fought hard to dismantle such regimes had inadvertently demobilised themselves and handed their hard earned revolutions to proxies of the one-party states - many of the so-called "new" leaders were in fact products of the old establishments. In the case of Zambia, the student movement which had fought running battles with the regime of Kenneth Kaunda also handed over their struggle, on a silver platter, to the late president of Zambia Frederick Chiluba. Despite having been part of the labour movement, Chiluba used undemocratic methods in governing Zambia post Kaunda and UNIP. In the end, the said individual and some members of his Cabinet had embezzled millions of dollars (US) from the National Treasury. The student movement was the first to call for regime change in Zambia when every facet of the Zambian society had effectively been cowed into submission. Due to this, thirty-two student activists (this author included) were detained in 1990 under the draconian state of emergency laws. The fatal mistake we made in Zambia, as progressive forces, was to hand over our hard earned struggle to extractive elites. We gave them carte blanche in matters of state which they then effectively abused. But as the adage goes: better late than never. Therefore, there is a need to reclaim our revolution in Zambia and set the country back on the progressive course which we had envisaged in 1990. In other parts of Africa, this also needs to transpire.

    Crucially, a social movement needs to emerge across Africa to challenge moribund dictators who abuse their people and continue to rig elections: from West Africa to East Africa, from the Maghreb to Central and Southern Africa - from Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland, Sudan, to Zimbabwe - Africans need to rise up and challenge misrule on the continent. With Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as well as information-based globalisation, this feat should not be so daunting as in the case when we were students fighting against Kaunda's human rights abuses in the late 1980s and in 1990. Thus, Africans need to mobilise themselves to fight against oppressive and tyrannical rule. Keeping quiet will not help matters nor will "running away" to Europe or America - as an African, one will still epitomise the "wretched" of the earth, no matter how one may try to insulate oneself from the unfolding mediocrity and buffoonery on the continent. It is this discussion's contention that African scholars, civil society actors, artists, sports men and women and various activists need to rise up and challenge the African malaise and turn it into an African dream. They have to be daring in their approach, instead of, for instance rehashing the same old strategies or ways of doing things: you cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulae, the courage to invent the future. It took madmen (and madwomen) of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen...we must dare to invent the future.[5]

    Aluta continua! The struggle continues.

    Adapted from: Noyoo, N., (2010). Social Policy and Human Development in Zambia. London: Adonis & Abbey.


    [1] Mwaipaya, P.A., (1980). The importance of quality leadership in national development, with special reference to Africa. New York, NY.: Vantage Press.

    [2] Lewanika, A.M., (2006). A Vision for Zambia. Submitted for consideration to the National Stakeholders' Meeting on the Fifth National Development Plan, 2006-2010 and Vision 2030, Lusaka, 24th to 27th July.

    [3] Noyoo, N., (1999). Good governance and national social development: A Zambian experience. Social Development Issues, 21(1): 70-74.

    [4] Kalu, K.A., (2005). The Impact of Leadership on Public Policy in Africa: Problems and Opportunities., (Accessed 25 February 2007).

    [5] Sankara, T., (1988). Thomas Sankara Speaks: The Burkina Faso Revolution 1983-87. New York, NY.: Pathfinder.

    Jan 03 11:22 AM | Link | Comment!
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