[FOUNTAIN]Competing in Africa

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[FOUNTAIN]Competing in Africa

The birthplace of mankind, Lake Victoria in the African nation of Tanzania, is famous for its abundant ecosystem. But these days, most of the endemic fish have become extinct. With the start of perch farming in the Nile River, the ecosystem has been ruined. Now the only fish left in the Nile River are the predatory Nile perch. The residents living near the river do not even have a chance to taste this fish. They are all exported, and goons keep the local inhabitants away from them.
Recently in Africa, China has become the new Nile perch. While America and Europe emphasized human rights in diplomacy, China bulled its way into the empty space. Hu Jintao, the president of China, has visited Gabon twice. That small country has a population of only 1.4 million, but it also has oil reserves estimated at more than 2 billion barrels.
And the world’s poorest nation, Togo, is more interested in China than Korea, even though Korean and Togo will meet in the 2006 World Cup soccer tournament in Germany. The government of Togo calls China its “new savior.” As aid from Europe dwindles to a trickle, China is moving into the gap.
The response to China’s “Africa sweep” has been mixed. Last December, labor union members in the Republic of South Africa ripped up their red labor union T-shirts made in China. That was a protest against Chinese low-priced clothing imports, which devastated the South African garment industry. The Financial Times newspaper reported, “China is finally being reckoned as a ‘plunderer’ in Africa.”
The Western press calls China’s advances neo-colonialism, but the United Nations Development Program said that China is helping alleviate the poverty of the continent very efficiently. The UN agency warns critics to curb their tongues.
Last week, President Roh Moo-hyun said he would visit Egypt, Nigeria and Algeria. Belatedly, the government has turned its eyes to Africa, a storehouse of natural resources. But China is not Korea’s only competitor in Africa. Japan is also unsparingly spending money. Since 1993, Tokyo has provided $10 billion to African nations. If that weren’t enough, it has promised to double its financial aid for cooperative development programs until 2007. It will be difficult for President Roh to visit Africa. It will be hard for Korea to compete monetarily with China and Japan. There is a saying in Africa, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” It is time to think wisely and find a way to go far together.

by Lee Chul-ho

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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