Asian money talking and competing in Comesa.

Author:Kabukuru, Wanjohi
Position:Feature: TRADE

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern African States (Comesa) is one of Africa's most attractive economic groupings for investment. Wanjohi Kabukuru examines how China, Japan and India are currently investing heavily in this expansive and resources-rich region.

Comesa brings together 19 African nations--spanning the Horn, north, east, central, southern and Indian Ocean African regions --to create one market with a combined population estimated at 400 million. It is an inviting investment destination--and China, Japan and India, with token competition from South Korea, have wised up and are reaching into their pockets.

Their money is partially responsible for the economic transformation being experienced in Comesa, with major developments in infrastructure such as railways, roads, dams, ports and airports.

Blazing the investment trail in the Comesa bloc is China, which set the blistering economic investment pace slightly over a decade ago. (See New African, March, Cover Story.) Feeling outsmarted, China's competing neighbours, India, Japan and South Korea, are trying hard to play catch-up and the result is their Asian rivalry is now playing out in the Comesa region.

Recent moves by India, Japan and South Korea in the region indicate that these three countries have refitted their geopolitical and economic strategies, abandoning their previous stance, which conformed to that of their traditional Western allies on Africa. Scholars and regional analysts see this tactic by Delhi, Tokyo and Seoul as reactionary. In the last decade, multibillion dollar, and counting, Chinese investments in Africa--exhibited through infrastructure, telecommunications, agriculture and mineral resources investments, have helped retool Africa's narrative. By 2013 China's collective continental investments surpassed the $200bn mark. This feat is yet to be matched by the Asian rivals, who have been extremely cautious on Africa, seeing the continent as risk-prone, a view they are shedding rather fast.

Unperturbed by the emerging Asian competition, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has pledged to double this figure by 2020. His pledge is not empty. Witness the Following Chinese ventures and monies involved, strictly confined to a few Comesa bloc members:

Construction of a $13.5bn standard gauge railway connecting Mombasa Port in Kenya with the neighbouring nations of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan is currently underway.

Construction of the $6bn railway line covering 800km, connecting Djibouti to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is almost complete. Africa's first light rail system, Addis Ababa's 34km electrified line built at a cost of $475m, which will soon begin operations.

The $1.2bn natural gas pipeline linking Dar es Salaam to the gas fields in southern Tanzania undertaken by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), with financing from Beijing's Exim Bank, is on course.

To these ventures can be added another...

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