Black Gold


Title Black Gold
Director(s) Marc & Nick Francis
Date released (year) 2006
Production company Speak-It   Films and Fulcrum Productions.
Length 78 minutes
Location Ethiopia
Keywords/tags Food, trade, neoliberalism, poverty
Link to film  

Synopsis From Tesfaye, B. &   Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee.   ( last accessed 6/4/13):

‘As westerners revel in   designer lattes and cappuccinos, impoverished Ethiopian coffee growers suffer   the bitter taste of injustice. In this eye-opening expose of the   multi-billion dollar industry, Black Gold traces one man’s fight for a fair   price (Source: Anon nda link).

The film follows Tadesse   Meskela, an Ethiopian man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee   farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest   quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world   in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price. Against the   backdrop of Tadesse’s journey to London and Seattle, the enormous power of   the multinational players that dominate the world’s coffee trade becomes   apparent. New York commodity traders, the international coffee exchanges, and   the double dealings of trade ministers at the World Trade Organisation reveal   the many challenges Tadesse faces in his quest for a long term solution for   his farmers (Source: Anon 2010).

Scenes in the film switch   between the disadvantaged coffee farming communities to the daily lives of   those at the luxury to consume it, which often exemplifies the absurdity   found in those gushing about the great wealth of a market built off the backs   of farmers who continue to live in poverty (Source: Reed 2008).

The spokesman, Tadesse   Meskela, who is the subject of Black Gold, together with the film’s English   makers, brothers Nick and Marc Francis, are a serious irritant to some of the   world’s coffee giants – in particular Seattle-based Starbucks, whose annual   turnover of $7.8bn (£4bn) is not much lower than Ethiopia’s entire gross   domestic product… ‘Our people are barefoot, have no school, no clean water or   health centre. They are living hand to mouth. We need $4 a pound minimum,   that’s only fair…Starbucks may help bring clear water for one community but   this does not solve the problem. In 2005, Starbucks’ aid to the third world   was $1.5m. We don’t want this kind of support, we just want a better price.   They make huge profits; giving us just one payment of money does not help,’   said Mr. Meskela (Source: Seager 2007 link).

By way of the farmers in the   cooperative and Tadesse’s efforts on their behalf, the film exposes the web   of trade regulations that keep farmers in developing countries poor, even   while transnational corporations in the global north prosper. Women   painstakingly sort millions of beans; and viewers observe the hunger and   substandard housing that accompany poverty. Juxtaposed with these images are   the cosmopolitan cafés of Europe and America, the comfort of conspicuous   consumption, the places of commerce where deprivation in one part of the   globe is turned into the wealth of another (Source: Fellner 2008 link).’


Reviews/discussion From Tesfaye, B. &   Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee.   ( last accessed 6/4/13):

‘When Marc and Nick Francis   were making Black Gold, they never expected the story – about the plight of   African coffee farmers paid a fraction of the amount a latte or cappuccino   costs – to attract the very multinationals the film criticises. ‘They want to   hear what the audience thinks,’ Nick Francis says. ‘We had this screening in   Seattle, and the head of corporate responsibility of Starbucks came to the   screening and participated in a panel and answered questions from the   audience. That’s what you call the power of film – how a film could draw in   people.’ … The film has prompted rounds of crisis management sessions at   coffee-shop chains such as Starbucks, which issued a statement calling the   film inaccurate and incomplete. Since the film’s release, the chain has also   actively promoted a new range of ‘Fair Trade’ coffee in its outlets around   the world, including those in Hong Kong. The filmmakers are surprised by the   chain’s response to their film. ‘It’s not a film about Starbucks, it’s a film   about coffee farmers struggling to survive in the coffee industry, and their   story is set against the backdrop of the coffee-consuming world of the west,   of which Starbucks is a part,’ Marc Francis says. ‘We didn’t tell it so much   about them but they’ve taken it very personally. Also, we did spend six   months trying to interview not just Starbucks but other big multinational   coffee companies to bring their side of the stories to the film. But they’ve   given us no response. Now that the film is out there and is beginning to pick   up public momentum, the companies are responding more and more to the film –   or trying to show [through] public relations where they position themselves’   (Source: Tsui 2007a).

’Black Gold’ portrays the   coffee industry as a whole, rather than Starbucks specifically. From our   point of view, this film is inaccurate and incomplete, as it does not explain   how Starbucks purchases coffee, nor does it provide any reference to   potential solutions to the world coffee crisis… Starbucks takes an integrated   approach to coffee purchasing. Our goal is to pay premium prices that provide   the coffee farmer with a profit. In our financial year 2006, we paid an   average price of $1.42 per pound for our coffee, 40% above the commodity   price and comparable with the guaranteed Fairtrade price of $1.26. Our   approach… [has] been recognised for…leadership within the industry (Source:   Starbucks 2007).

We are surprised that   Starbucks have gone out to discredit the film again. This is not a film   specifically about Starbucks, it’s a film about the winners and losers in the   global coffee industry and it shows the daily reality for millions of coffee   farmers. We spent six months during the production trying to persuade   Starbucks to participate in the film to give them the opportunity to explain   how they buy their coffee and how they work in Ethiopia, but they declined   our invitation. In a subsequent meeting with five senior Starbucks executives   at their Seattle headquarters, we asked them to tell us the exact price they   pay farmers for a pound of coffee – but they refused to disclose this   (Source: Francis & Francis 2007 link).

During the film’s most   painful sequence, his [Tadesse’s] efforts and Ethiopia’s persistent, crushing   famine are juxtaposed with the vapidly cheerful corp-speak of two Starbucks   baristas (Source: Hornaday 2006).

Yes, the baristas are   excessively perky as they purvey coffee and the Starbucks experience; yet   they are also model employees, supportive of each other, efficient, and proud   of their company. At the time of the filming, the young women were   entertaining a tour from the Specialty Coffee Association, to which the   filmmakers had attached themselves to avoid asking Starbucks or its employees   for permission to film. How could these young women know that they would be   featured as unwitting symbols of the harm that transnational coffee giants   inflict on poor Ethiopian farmers? (Source: Fellner 2008 link).

The Francis brothers are   good on showing the situation’s local effects – famine, ill-equipped schools   – but less so at analyzing the international economic context: the film is   frighteningly free of expert voices. More dynamism and knowledge in the   telling and fewer cheap shots at young Starbucks workers in Seattle wouldn’t   have gone amiss (Source: Calhoun 2007, np).

The baristas and shopkeepers   that the film ridicules through artful editing are the very people who are   the farmers’ best hope for teaching the public about the true value of these   coffees (Source: Marshall 2006 link).

While it may prompt some to   think again next time they’re in Starbucks, this astute insight into the   coffee business is better at lauding the good guys than taking the   multinationals to task for the iniquities of the global economy (Source:   Parkinson 2006 link).

Although some scenes   register with strong impact, there also seems to be a lot of padding, and the   overall narrative is ultimately too diffused and unfocused for the film to   have the sociological impact it so obviously desires (Source: Scheck 2006).

Compared to a documentary   like Darwin’s Nightmare, which found disturbing visual analogues for the   moral rot of global trade, Black Gold makes most of its points in words, not   pictures. (Source: Murray 2006 link)

The movie’s approach reminds   me that of the paternalistic and Western-centred [sic] 1970s-style theories   according to which only colonialism and international market (i.e. ‘us’ the   Western world) are to blame, and no others’ power and responsibilities are   recognised. Likewise, there is no mention in the movie of the roles that the   Ethiopian State could play in economic development and, for instance,   education (Source: Chiari 2007 link).

[I] found it confusing to   people outside the coffee field, partial, and intellectually not particularly   honest…In my opinion, the film completely overlooks factors such as   historical events (the Mengistu dictatorship which ruined plantations and the   coffee free flow), inept procedures such as the bureaucracy surrounding the   auctions system which hardly allows enough time for buyers to evaluate the   lots), and also the ever present corruption, probably less in Ethiopia than   in other parts of Africa, but then why generalize in the end with statements   about Africa’s share of world trade? (Source: cofyknsult 2006 link).’

Further Reading

Anon (nda) The DVD. (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Anon (ndb) Black Gold: wake   up and smell the coffee. (   last accessed j March 2011)

Anon (ndc) Black Gold:   sowing the seeds for change. (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Anon (2007) Ethiopia: smell   the exploitation. Africa News 25 December

Anon (2008a) Trademarking:   grown in Ethiopia. Marketing Week April 24, p.16

Anon (2008b) Ethiopia: Black   Gold premiere.   Africa News 24 March

Anon (2010) Mayor will take   to stage at screening to receive town’s award. Todmorden News (UK) 4   March

Calhoun, D. (2007) Black   Gold: movie review. Time Out New York 6 June (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Chiari, G.P. (2007) Black   Gold forums: about the movie’s paternalistic approach.   8 December (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

cofyknsult (2006) Black Gold   forums: the film completely overlooks key factors.   24 October (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Cycon, D. (2007) Javatrekker:   dispatches from the world of fair trade coffee. White River   Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing

Doane, M. (2010)   Relationship coffees. Structure and agency in the fair trade system. in Lyon,   S. and Moberg, M. (eds) Fair trade and social justice: global ethnographies. New   York: New York University Press

Fellner, K. (2008) Starbucks   vs Ethiopia.   Foreign Policy in Focus 15 September (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (nda) Black Gold: filmmaker Q&A. PBS Independent Lens (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (ndb) Directors’ statement. (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (2006) Black Gold – Fair Trade, Sundance, and Starbucks’ ‘Charm Offensive’   in Park City.   Huffington Post 2 February (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (2007) Starbucks issue press statement about Black Gold: filmmakers   respond.   16 January (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Hornaday, A. (2006) A spike   in supply chain muckraking: films explore economy’s social costs. Washington   Post 10 December

Marshall (2006) Black Gold   forums: guilt & ridicule. 25 November (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Murray, N. (2006) Review of   Black Gold. The   Onion A.V. Club 5 October (,3766/   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Parkinson, D. (2007) Review   of Black Gold. Empire (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Reed, N. (2008) Wal-mart   executives discuss future of ‘Black Gold’ at U. Arkansas. University Wire   (USA) 7 April

Scheck, F. (2006) Review of   Black Gold. Hollywood   Reporter 11 October

Seager, A (2007) Starbucks   stirred by fair trade film. The Guardian (UK) 29 January (   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Starbucks (2007) Starbucks   statement on Black Gold film. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre [download]

Tsui, C. (2007a) Film raises   hackles in the coffee shops of power. South China Morning Post 3 April, p.4

Tsui, C. (2007b) Using the   plot.   South China Morning Post 26 March, p.5

Source: From Tesfaye, B.   & Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee.   ( last accessed 6/4/13)

Links to other resources Oromia Coffee Union: Farmers cooperative union website ( under   construction 12 March 2011)

New Internationalist shop: Oromia Coffee Union products (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   pages on Oxfam’s ‘Make trade fair’ campaign website (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   Movie website ( last   accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   YouTube channel (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   pages on US PBS TV ‘Independent lens’ series website (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

Starbucks’   ‘Corporate social responsibility’ webpage (   last accessed 12 March 2011)

When China met Africa

Title When China met Africa
Director(s) Marc Francis, Nice Francis
Date released (year) 2011
Production company Bullfrog Films
Length 90 mins
Location Zambia
Keywords/tags China, neoliberalism, natural resources
Link to film
Synopsis A historic   gathering of over 50 African heads of state in Beijing reverberates in Zambia   where the lives of three characters unfold. Mr Liu is one of thousands of   Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled across the continent in search of new   opportunities. He has just bought his fourth farm and business is booming.

In northern Zambia, Mr Li, a project manager for a multinational Chinese   company is upgrading Zambia’s longest road. Pressure to complete the road on   time intensifies when funds from the Zambian government start running out.

Meanwhile Zambia’s Trade Minister is on route to China to secure millions of   dollars of investment.

Through the intimate portrayal of these characters, the expanding footprint   of a rising global power is laid bare – pointing to a radically different   future, not just for Africa, but also for the world.

Download and watch the whole film here:

Reviews/discussion Andrew Pulver, The Guardian, Thursday   6 October 2011:  

An eye-opening documentary that puts   into concrete images that truism of the geo-political commentariat: that   China is a new economic superpower. Specifically, it illustrates a new type   of colonialist exploitation in present-day Zambia, enthusiastically aided and   abetted by the national government. On a micro level, it involves individual   Chinese emigres buying large plots of scrub, and hiring locals to clear and   farm the land. On the macro, giant Chinese corporations are handed contracts   to improve infrastructure: we follow one such, building a highway more than   300km across the country. On the face of it, there’s an anti-western,   post-imperial rhetoric fuelling the relationship, but fairly evidently it’s a   grossly lopsided one, with considerable benefits to China in the form of   plentiful and cheap natural resources. If this documentary is anything to go   by, the Chinese incomers are just as suspicious and disrespectful to the   Africans as their European forebears; you have to wonder how long it will take   the Zambians to become aware of what they’ve let themselves in for




Xan Rice, The Guardian, Sunday 6 February 2011, China’s economic invasion of Africa:

Links to other resources Watch interview   with director here:


Wenran Jiang (2009). Fuelling the   Dragon: China’s Rise and Its Energy and Resources Extraction in Africa. The China Quarterly, 199, pp 585609


China Talking Points:

The Debate: China in Africa


Title THE DEBATE – China in Africa   (part 1)
Date released (year) 2013
Production company France24: Anelise   Borges, François Picard, Ignès Bebea, Christopher Davis,
Length 18 mins
Location South Africa
Keywords/tags China, neoliberalism, natural resources
Link to film
Synopsis Why   the backlash against Beijing? François Picard’s panel pays close attention to   the terms and conditions attached to the $20bn in loans pledged by China’s   new president to Africa and the true pros and cons of a China-Africa   relationship that continues to grow.
Solange GUO CHATELARD. Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social   Anthropology. CERI Sciences Po Paris.

Alexandre KATEB. Managing Director, Competence Finance Consulting. Lecturer,   Sciences Po Paris;

Adama GAYE. Author of ‘China-Africa, the Dragon and the Ostrich’;

Reviews/discussion From Xan Rice, The Guardian, Sunday   6 February 2011 20.29 GMT


China’s economic invasion of Africa


A million Chinese people, from engineers to chefs, have moved to work in   Africa in the past decade. How has the trade boom changed their lives? In   December 1999, a 24-year-old Chinese man called Zhang Hao left behind the   freezing winter of his native Shenyang city to fly to Uganda. Zhang was nervous. He   spoke no English. The journey was not even his idea, but that of his father,   who had worked in Uganda a few years before on a fishing project involving   the Chinese government.

“If you want to start   something – and be the boss – Africa is the place to do   it,” Zhang’s father had told him when he asked for business advice.

Zhang had quit university   to travel to east Africa, but he did not need a degree to spot easy   money-making opportunities as soon as he set foot in Kampala: goods that were   available cheaply in every city in China were either expensive   here, or unavailable. He started by importing shoes. Then schoolbags. Then   fishing nets, nails and bicycles.

“I imported   everything. At that time they needed everything!” recalls Zhang, an   affable man with rimless glasses.

His business grew quickly;   he made money and local friends. But after a few years he grew weary of the   long buying trips to China. So he and his wife bought a large plot of land in   Kampala. On it they constructed a spectacular Chinese-Korean restaurant, with   private dining areas, karaoke rooms and a giant 500-seat dining hall. To the   side of the restaurant they built a bedroom, which became their home. The   business prospered, and soon he started additional enterprises including a   bakery, a firm selling flat-screen televisions and a security company.

“Chinese don’t think,   they just try without studying the market too much. Otherwise, the chance is   gone,” he says.

At the site of each new   enterprise, Zhang built a room for his family – he had a son in 2007 – to   sleep in. They literally live at work.

It has paid off. Zhang   says he is now the biggest Chinese employer in the country, with 1,200 local   staff. He has even been offered a Ugandan passport, but has refused, just as he   has declined to take an English first name.

“I am Chinese, and we   need to build a Chinese name here – to let people know that our country is   not like before. We are richer, catching up the world.”

Few Ugandans need   reminding of that. When Zhang arrived in 1999 there were only a few hundred   Chinese in the country, including embassy staff. Today, the most conservative   estimate is 7,000, from the petty traders who have taken over whole blocks of   the central business district to the construction engineers changing   Kampala’s skyline and the sharp-suited oil executives who frequent Zhang’s   restaurant. It is a similar story across the continent. Figures are hard to   come by, but a decade ago there were probably no more than 100,000 Chinese   people working in Africa. Today, there are around a million.

The first Chinese reached   Africa nearly 600 years ago during the Ming dynasty, when the armada of   admiral Zheng   He landed on the Kenyan coast. The next significant arrival was in the   early 1900s, when 60,000 Chinese miners worked on the South African   goldfields. Half a century on, Chairman Mao Zedong sent tens of thousands of   agricultural and construction workers to Africa to enhance ties with   countries emerging from colonialism.

But post-cold war   migration concerns economics rather than politics. China-Africa trade grew   from $6bn in 1999 to more than $90bn (£56bn) in 2009, roughly split equally   between imports and exports: Africa’s natural resources – oil, iron,   platinum, copper, and timber – flowing east to feed China’s factories, and   finished goods, from flip-flops to trucks, travelling the other way. Last   year, the trade is   estimated to have topped $100bn. Chinese state involvement in the trade   is crucial. Each year Beijing provides billions of pounds in grants and loans   to African governments as a sweetener to secure raw material deals or to   finance infrastructure projects that could benefit its companies.

That is what brought Liu   Hui to Kenya. A slight, 41-year-old   civil engineer, he was working for China Wuyi, a state-owned construction   firm, in Fujian province in 2006 when he was called into his   “leader’s” office, and told he was needed on a project to upgrade   Nairobi’s main airport. Liu had never set foot outside China. He was   reluctant to leave his wife and seven-year-old son. He knew as little about   Kenya as Zheng He’s sailors. “My image was: very poor, dry and   hot,” says Liu. “But if my company wanted to send me somewhere,   what could I have done? You have to show your capacity for work.”

On arrival, Liu found that   Nairobi was neither dry nor too hot. When the airport contract finished, he   was assigned to oversee the construction of a highway between Nairobi and   Thika, a pineapple-growing district to the north-east.

Liu lives at China Wuyi’s   main site office, a four-storey building alongside the highway. Though the   commute to work consists of a flight of stairs, the day is long – from 7.15am   to 6pm. The pace of work is often frustrating, and can be complicated by   language difficulties; Liu speaks in halting English, and knows a few phrases   of Swahili. “Chinese work very hard, very quickly,” he says.   “But here we are training local people to do the work, and if someone   does not understand, he works slowly. You have to watch.”

Most evenings Liu and his   Chinese colleagues – there are about 100 on the road project – watch DVDs on   their laptops or chat to family and friends over the internet. But they do   get out occasionally, for coffee or dinner in nearby malls. Liu says he   intends to return to China for good – his bosses permitting – when the road   project finishes, in order to spend more time with his family.

But for Wang Lina, seated   in her shop in downtown Nairobi, a few miles away, family is the reason she   is here. The child of “normal worker” parents, Wang grew up with   few thoughts of leaving Benxi, an industrial town nearly 600 miles north-east   of Beijing. But in 2003, when she was 21 and newly married, her husband’s   uncle approached them with a proposition. A few years before he had travelled   to Kenya to set up a home furnishings company. Now his business was expanding   fast, and he was looking for family members to help run it. Wang and her   husband agreed to join him.

But she missed her   friends. In Kenya she could not find any clothes to fit her. She was too shy   to talk to local people. So, after a year, she and her husband quit and   returned to Benxi. But soon his uncle came calling again, begging them to   give it another try.

This time Wang found   herself appreciating the upside of living in Nairobi. In Benxi, she had lived   in a flat, but was now sharing a large house and garden with two other   couples from the extended family. Instead of simply being a cashier in the   store, Wang moved into design and sales. She works hard, often seven days a   week, but has also found time to enjoy some of east Africa’s best tourist   attractions – a safari near Mount Kenya, a beach holiday in Zanzibar. She and   her husband have saved enough to buy an apartment back home, which is the   goal of many young Chinese who take jobs abroad, even though she has no   intention of returning soon.

“My friends who now   work in Beijing and Shanghai are so tired,” she says. “There’s no   time to relax, it’s always faster, faster! Things are slower here, and I like   that. No hurry in Africa, that’s what they say.”

China’s move into Africa   has not all been driven from the east. Countries such as Uganda have actively   courted Chinese companies, to good effect: in 2010 China replaced the UK as   the biggest source of foreign direct investment. One of the largest firms to   have set up in Uganda is ZTE, China’s second-biggest telecommunications   equipment company. Zhu Zhenxing, 32, is its MD in Uganda. Growing up in   Jiangsu, along China’s east coast, Zhu was certain about two things: he   wanted to learn English, and wanted to be an international businessman. He   was recruited by ZTE at a job fair, with the promise of a job abroad.

“I did not want to   stay in my home area, or even in China,” he says, puffing on a Dunhill   cigarette. “I wanted to experience things, to grow. The further away the   better.”

So when he was asked to go   to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, Zhu did not   hesitate. “Other people said: Africa is like this and like that. But I   thought if other humans lived there, I could too.”

He learned a lot. The   corruption dismayed him. But Zhu liked Nigerians’ optimism, “always   talking and smiling, not worrying about tomorrow”. He was so desperate   to prove himself that he nearly burned out. He developed vitiligo, a disorder   that causes loss of pigmentation. His face turned white “like Michael   Jackson” and he was forced to return to China to recover.

He returned to Africa via   Vietnam. In Uganda, he has grown ZTE’s business exponentially – the company   sold more than 500,000 handsets this year. Zhu looks the modern high-flyer –   smart shoes, trousers with a Mont Blanc belt, a dress shirt and trendy black   glasses. At weekends he plays golf with clients and Chinese embassy staff.   But beyond that his lifestyle is far more modest than that of most expats. He   and his staff all live in the same apartment block. A company vehicle takes   them to and from work each day. His salary is good by Chinese standards but   not comparable with those of his western competitors. Still, he has no   complaints.

“We are still working   towards being a world-class company,” he says. “Our core competency   is our low costs, so we must keep expenses down.”

If there is one home   comfort Chinese migrants in Africa can’t do without it is their food. Most   companies, including ZTE, bring over their own chefs. Xu Jianwen, 34, is one   of them. Raised and trained in Sanhe, in northern China, he was working in a   restaurant in Beijing when he heard that the China Road and Bridge   Corporation, a state-owned construction giant, was hiring cooks. When he was   offered a job in Uganda, his wife, with whom he has a young daughter,   protested vehemently. But he won her over when he told her the salary – two   and half times what he was earning in China. “Salaries in China are not   enough,” he says. “I had to come for the money.”

His first job was to cook   for 20 Chinese workers in Soroti, a small town in eastern Uganda. He had two   local assistants but, lacking English, no way to communicate with them. At   least the cooking was uncomplicated. Only five vegetables were available   locally – aubergine, cabbage, potatoes, green peppers and tomatoes. “And   there was no spicy sauce,” he says. “I work every day, because   people need to eat every day. I wake up at six in the morning and finish at   seven. Every day is like that. I rest on Chinese public holidays.”

Currently based at head   office in Kampala, Xu plans to spend another two or three years overseas,   saving all the while for “housing, education and food” for his   family. He won’t miss the mosquitoes, he says, but he will miss the people.   “They are very nice. Friendly to Chinese.”

That is not always the   case. In parts of southern Africa there has been strong resentment towards   Chinese traders, many of whom arrive on tourist visas and stay on illegally.   In Zambia, the Chinese managers of a coal mine recently shot two Zambian   employees who were protesting over pay, causing anger across the country. And   in Sudan and Ethiopia, rebel groups have killed Chinese workers because they   view them as proxies of the local government.

In Kenya, home to up to   15,000 Chinese, the main problem for some of the early migrants was a   mistrust of their goods. Xu Hui gave up an editing position at the state news   agency Xinhua to start a toy-import business in the mid-90s. But when he   moved into computers, people did not trust the quality. He resorted to   showing potential clients the labels on the computers they already owned that   said: “Made in China”.

Today Xu runs a successful   business importing Great Wall-brand televisions and giant rolls of toilet   paper that are repackaged locally. He regards Kenya as his home – he enjoys   the “simple, healthy lifestyle”, playing badminton at a sports club   every week – and only reluctantly sent his family back to China for   educational reasons. But though the attitude to Xu’s products may have   changed, he is aware that western attitudes to China’s push into Africa   remain largely negative – something he struggles to understand.

“Western countries   also buy oil, and have mines around the world. People don’t talk about   ‘grabbing’, or ‘new colonialism’ there. So why is it different for Chinese?   We are not sending our armies to places and saying: ‘Now sell us this!'”   Xu says. “If you can’t compete with us, you find an excuse. It’s like   two children fighting, and the losing one crying to his parent about funny   tricks.”

In fact, there is   competition now on lots of levels. Every month thousands of African merchants   travel to cities such as Guangzhou and Yiwu to buy wholesale goods. And other   Chinese firms, including state-owned companies, battle for local tenders.

This can be stressful for   company managers. Just ask Dong Junxia, an earnest, smartly dressed woman.   Since 2008 she has been in charge of the small Ugandan office of the China   Railway Seventh Group Corporation, a subsidiary of CREC, one of the world’s   largest construction companies. She worked on road-building projects in   difficult environments in Tanzania and Liberia, with some success. But in   Uganda her company had yet to win a large tender. Dong seemed ashamed, and   insisted that her name and that of her company stay out of this story.

“I have progressed   professionally [in Africa], but suffered loss in being away from my family.   In western culture it’s different. Being with the family is the priority.   Chinese sacrifice themselves for the family. It is hard to decide which is   more important.”

But a week later she   called to say that her name could be used. She sounded exuberant: her company   has been awarded a large contract to build a road. “After two years of   hard work! You must understand how good that feels.”

• This article was amended   on 7 February 2011. The original said Shenyang was a province. It is a city.   This has been corrected.



Links to other resources Wenran Jiang (2009). Fuelling the   Dragon: China’s Rise and Its Energy and Resources Extraction in Africa. The China Quarterly, 199, pp 585609

China Talking Points:

Stop land grabbing! Life, land, and justice in Uganda

Title Stop land grabbing! Life,   land, and justice in Uganda
Date released (year) 2012


Production company The Source Film, for Friends of the Earth International


Length 5mins
Location Uganda
Keywords/tags Land grabbing, food security, agriculture, displacement
Link to film
Synopsis In   Kalangala, Uganda, John Muyisa woke up one day to find bulldozers clearing   his land to plant oil palms. John and his community have preserved their   forests and lands for generations. Now their way of life is at risk.
Reviews/discussion Land grabbing explained

This campaign highlights the destructive environmental and social   impacts of unsustainable resource use in the global North and South. We are   seeking to defend community territories, protect land rights and increase   awareness of corporations’ agendas, strategies, abuses and violations.

An elderly woman holds on to the fence separating her   land, where she rears goats, from the advancing soya plantations, in Cordoba,   Argentina.For centuries, communities have been intimidated to abandon   – or forcibly removed from – their land in a seemingly endless battle to   control natural resources. Today, these problems still occur and are   manifesting in more direct and disturbing ways: multinational corporations   occupy large swaths of community land that provides critical supplies for   local populations in order to extract profitable resources – including crops   for agrofuels, food, carbon offsets or minerals – for the benefit of often   quite distant national and international elites.

Driven by greed and materialism, the destruction of local communities   and their environments often results in the violation of both human and   community rights. We have seen increased militarization and criminalization   of communities who resist the appropriation of their communal lands. We have also   witnessed severe environmental degradation and the destruction of natural   commons for the longevity of communities.

More: Read   our report on Land Grabbing in Uganda

More: Watch   this true story about resistance to Lord Grabbing

This system continues to perpetuate the gross inequity in the   distribution of natural commons (healthy ecosystems, water and air), create a   poor underclass in both Global North and South, all of which further divide   our world in to the haves and have-nots. Meanwhile, the consumers of these   ill-begotten resources are not necessarily happier as a result of their   consumption.

This campaign seeks to stop the destructive consumption race by   creating, protecting and enforcing community and individual rights to land   and their commons. It will also challenge the current unsustainable   consumptive patterns of elites and target specific commodities with the aim   of significantly reducing their consumption.


Investors must stop land grabbing, say civil society groups

LONDON (UK), November 30, 2012   – Major farmland investors such as banks and pension funds must stop   facilitating land grabs, say civil society groups [1] on the eve of a global   farmland investment conference in London on 3-5 December. [2]

Banks and pension funds are   increasingly engaging in large-scale acquisitions of land with extremely   damaging consequences for local populations. The London conference will bring   together funds with more than USD3 trillion in assets to explore   opportunities for investments in Africa, Latin America and Russia.

The civil society groups are warning that pension funds and banks attending   the conference, for instance Deutsche Bank, must ensure they do not fund   risky investments that threaten the livelihoods and food sovereignty of   countless local communities.

Since 2008 rising financial investments in land have contributed to more than   200 million hectares of land being taken from small farmers, fisherfolk, and   other rural communities, robbing them of their means of survival. [3] Land   grabbing also frequently involves violent evictions and human rights   violations. Institutional investors are expected to increase by 500% their   agricultural investment portfolios by 2017.

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty   programme co-ordinator, said: “Unfortunately private investment in farmland   may be seen by many as low risk and positive for developing countries. Yet   they are often a disaster for local communities and the environment. Legal   uncertainty and community opposition means that most farmland investments are   also risky for investors.”

“Major investors such as banks and pension funds need to urgently investigate   their investment portfolios and stop funding land grabs,” she added.
Earlier this year Friends of the Earth Europe released the report ‘Farming   money: How European banks and private finance profit from food speculation   and land grabs’. The report analyses the activities of 29 European banks,   pension funds and insurance companies, including Deutsche Bank, Barclays,   RBS, Allianz, BNP Paribas, AXA, HSBC, Generali, Unicredit and Credit   Agricole. It reveals the significant involvement of these financial   institutions in food speculation, and the direct or indirect financing of   land grabbing. [4]



In Liberia, farmland investments have facilitated land grabbing. A quarter of   the country – including vast swathes of fertile land- has been handed to palm   oil, rubber and logging companies, preventing its use for food production.   These large plantations are promoted as a means to create jobs, bring   development, and increase the government’s budget. In reality they are   jeopardizing the land rights of local populations, threatening local   livelihoods and putting the future of one of the world’s most significant   biodiversity hotspots into doubt.

This week in Liberia the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) / Friends of   the Earth Liberia is holding a major conference with oil palm   plantations-affected communities who are demanding to be heard and consulted.

Between 2009 and 2010 the government of Liberia allocated more than a million   acres of land to transnational palm oil producers Sime Darby and Golden   Veroleum Liberia without consulting or securing the consent of those living   on and using the land. [5]


In the past few years, Ethiopia allocated huge areas of fertile arable   farmland to foreign investors with little consultations with the affected   communities. Since 2008 more than 3.6 million hectares of land has been   allocated to foreign investors. For instance, in Gambela region, an Indian   company -Karuturi Global- has been allocated staggering 300,000 hectares of   land depriving indigenous people of access to water, fishing and grazing   grounds, traditional construction materials, and food. Like in many other   cases there has been a lack of prior consent and consultation with the local   people and affected communities were not consulted and did not give their prior   consent these farmland investments.

“In Ethiopia and elsewhere farmland investments for instance in plantations   are jeopardizing the land rights of local people, and threatening local   livelihoods ,” said Nyikaw Ochalla from Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO.


“In Madagascar, landgrabbing is caused by foreign and domestic investors   implementing agribusiness projects and setting up biodiversity conservation   areas, but also developing tourism and extractive industry infrastructure”   says Mamy Rakotondrainibe, from the Collectif pour la défense des terres   malgaches -TANY in Madagascar.

“We are currently supporting pastoralists communities’ claims against the   Italian company Tozzi Green which aims to lease 100 000 hectars in the   Ihorombe region to mainly cultivate jatropha for agrofuel production” she   adds.


A report released earlier this year by Friends of the Earth Uganda revealed   widespread violations of people’s rights and environmental destruction from a   land grab in Uganda. [6]


Links to other resources Friends of   the Earth Internationa, land-grab campaign:

World Bank Refuses to Stop   Funding African Land Grabs, October 8, 2012, African   Globe.  Source:

Hidden Flow: The rising tide of European e-waste in West Africa

Title Hidden Flow: The rising tide of European e-waste in West Africa
Date released (year) 2008
Production company Danwatch
Length 5.11mins
Location West Africa
Keywords/tags Toxic waste
Link to film
Synopsis This investigative film produced by CI’s corporate watchdog partner   DanWatch reveals how a staggering 500,000 used PCs arrive in Lagos every   month – 75% of which go straight to landfill. This is just the tip of the 6.6   million tons of European e-waste dumped on the developing world every year,   despite international bans.
Reviews/discussion Greenpeace’s   supporting discussion:

How does it get to   Ghana?

Containers filled with old and often broken   computers, monitors and TVs – from brands including Philips, Canon, Dell,   Microsoft, Nokia, Siemens and Sony – arrive in Ghana from Germany, Korea,   Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of “second-hand   goods”. Exporting e-waste from Europe is illegal but exporting old   electronics for ‘reuse’ allows unscrupulous traders to profit from dumping   old electronics in Ghana. The majority of the containers’ contents end up in   Ghana’s scrap yards to be crushed and burned by unprotected workers. Some traders report that   to get a shipping container with a few working computers they must accept   broken junk like old screens in the same container from exporters in   developed countries.

What’s the   solution?

While working computers and mobile phones   can have a new lease of life in some African countries, they create pollution   when thrown away due to the high levels of toxic chemicals they contain. This   is why we are pressuring the biggest electronic companies to   phase out toxic chemicals and introduce global recycling schemes. Both of   these steps are vital to tackle the growing tide of toxic e-waste.

Some companies are making progress towards   taking responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. However, Philips and Sharp stand out for refusing to accept that they are   responsible for recycling their old products. The stance of these powerful   multinationals is ensuring there will always be a digital divide that they   prefer remains hidden, a dangerous divide with unprotected workers in   developing countries left with the toxic legacy.

Behind the story

Mid-2008   a Greenpeace team including campaigner Kim Schoppink and photographer Kate   Davison went to Ghana to document and gather evidence of what really happens   to our electronic waste.


Links to other resources Earth Times:

Fabrice Babin’s 2011 film on e-waste in Ghana:

The Story of Electronics :