US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, has urged emerging economic giant, China, to be more responsible and transparent when doing business in Africa.
Speaking to journalists in Ghana from Washington in a teleconference on November 22, 2011, after his recent trip to China, Ambassador Carson said over the last decade, there has been an increase in Chinese interests across Africa, largely in oil, gas and minerals to provide the energy needs for its industries to enhance economic growth.
China-Africa trade volume reached about $126.9 billion in 2010, according to figures from China’s Ministry of Commerce.
“I said before that we hope that China’s engagement in Africa will be responsible and that they will not engage in bribery in doing business. Again, I think that we have no objection to countries going in and making investments, but governments have to make sure that what they are getting benefits all of the people of their country and there should be accountability and transparency in the way deals are done,” he said.
This was in response to a question posed by ghanabusinessews.com whether China’s huge presence in Africa is as a result of its companies’ likely involvement in bribery when doing business abroad as cited in Transparency International’s 2011 Bribery Payers Index.
According to the index, companies from China and Russia, who invested $120 billion overseas in 2010, are seen as most likely to pay bribes abroad, with companies from the Netherlands and Switzerland seen as least likely to bribe.
Ambassador Carson hoped that China will also move against any of its citizens, and any of its corporate entities that are engaged in criminal activities associated with trade and investments.
He however urged African countries to hold China to the same high standards of operation that they hold American and European countries to.
“But it is also very, very important that African countries hold China to the same high standards of operation that they hold American and European countries to. It is important, and I will repeat it, it is important for African countries to hold China to the exact same standards that they hold American and European and Japanese companies to,” he stressed.
Ambassador Carson, a career diplomat who has served as United States Ambassador to several African nations, bemoaned the situation where China always brings in their human resources from their country into Africa when undertaking projects.
“American companies invest extensively in and across Africa, but they don’t bring thousands and thousands of American workers to do unskilled labour jobs. American companies train their workers, their local workers. They hire locally. They live up to local labour standards.
“They follow the environmental practices that are out there, and they provide skills, and they provide technical training, and technical background and understanding, so that individuals are better able to work and do their jobs. These are the kinds of things that African governments must also hold China up to, as they hold American, and British, and German and French companies up to as well,” Carson said.
Adding that it is up to the African governments to play their part, he said the USA has a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and that there must be a clear and manifest benefit to both people and governments in countries when business deals are done.
By Ekow Quandzie