United Democratic Front (UDF) presidential running mate Frank Tumpale Mwenifumbo has been widely commended for demonstrating courage throughout the live televised debate at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections as he was blunt cautioning Malawi that it may be caught in a debt-book China diplomacy trap.
Malawi established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China in 2007, a development that has facilitated trade between the two countries. However, there are suggestions that the People’s Republic of China is turning Malawi into a dumping ground.
Mwenifumbo said there is need to ensure the country is not hard-nosed about the debt they were willing to accept from China.
“I don’t see value for China,” said free-talking Mwenifumbo, a Karonga Central legislator as Chinese diplomats attending the debate looked conspicuously stunned.
“Malawians are not benefiting. We should be careful with Chinese investment because they are not helping to add value to the country’s economy,” said Mwenifumbo a member of Alliance for Democracy( Aford) who was picked by 40-year-old Atupele Muluzi the president of UDF to partner him in the presidential race due May 21 2019.
Mwenifumbo said there should be “tough laws on immigration” to weed off some unnecessary investors.
He said UDF will ensure to put in place policies that protect indigenous small businesses from foreign traders.
Generally, the four running mates, who turned up for the debate, Mohammed Sidik Mia (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), Jerry Jana (People’s Party-PP) and Michael Usi (UTM Party) agreed that Malawi should have reforms on its immigration and vetting of investors.
Mia of MCP said:“Investors should be worthy it not just opening pubs in Ntcheu.”
In his contribution, Usi said the people given the right of abode in the country should be scrtutinised properly.
On his part, Jana said: “We should be selective on who we should accept to invest in the country.”
China has made its presence felt in Malawi through structures such as presidential villas, the Bingu International ConventionCentre, the New Parliament Building, a five star hotel and Bingu National Stadium which are all build with loans from Chinese financial institutions such Exim Bank.
This has raised questions about a debt-book diplomacy trap which has affected some countries like Sri Lanka where the island nation, after failing to pay back $8-billion to China’s state lenders, had to surrender majority control of its strategic Hambantota port on a 99-year lease to the Asian superpower.
The port was developed with loans from China.
Critics have warned that this has set a precedent. Countries that are unable to settle their mounting debt obligations to China too might have to sign away territory and sovereignty.
Another country that is at risk of losing its independence to China is Djibouti. According to The Economist, China is the country’s biggest investor and over the past two years it has lent $1.4-billion to the small East African country, which is more than 75% of its gross domestic product.
China plans to make Djibouti a staging post for its mammoth trade route project, the Belt and Road Initiative. The Institute for Security Studies said China is expected to invest an estimated $1.3-trillion to develop infrastructure in Asia, Europe and Africa.
In Malawi local artists such as Nameless have also stirred the waters against China through a song released in the early 2000s with lyrics that go:
Chiri chonse chalowa China/ [China has corrupted standards]
Dziko lalowa China [Everything in Malawi is fake]
Palibe cha orijino-o [Everything is counterfeit].
What Nameless means is that there is nothing good associated with China, as exemplified by the temporary nature of goods and services. Chinese goods are not durable, the persona in the song charges.
Chinese traders have established themselves in the wholesale and retail sectors in Malawi while it has become commonplace for Malawian businesspeople to travel to China to buy wedding dresses, tiaras, shows, suits, and accessories such as cameras, hard drives, laptops, electric accessories, among others.
Recently, some vendors at Limbe Market asked permission to Blantyre City Council (BCC), to demonstrate against what they term ‘influx of Chinese traders in Malawi’, whom they accuse of employing unfair and non-competitive trade practices.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :