China using private military companies to expand its footprint in Africa


Beijing: The presence of Chinese Private Military Companies (PSCs) in Africa is expected to increase Beijing’s interference in the country, besides violation of human rights and increased illegal activities.
China has been using PSCs as a ploy to maintain a discreet military presence in Africa and avoid being seen as another colonial power.
Chinese investments in Africa have multiplied with the establishment of terrestrial and maritime routes connecting China with Africa since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013.
Besides entailing huge investments, the BRI has also led to the deployment of about a million Chinese nationals and the positioning of over 10,000 Chinese companies in Africa.
The safety of its assets and nationals as well as securing sea routes, threatened by piracy along the African coasts, provided China with a pretext for “interference” in Africa through its PSCs.
Recently, Chinese interests in Africa have been experiencing threats emanating out of conflicts with local, organized crimes such as illegal wildlife trade of which in many cases Chinese nationals are also part of, kidnapping, civil conflicts, terror attacks and piracy, reported.
Further, the BRI is being seen as an opportunity by the PSCs to enhance their footprint in Africa.
Notably, China continues to provide arms and equipment to African countries and has emerged as a key arms supplier to the Continent.
A 2021 report of the US Department of Defence stated that China “may have considered” military installations in 13 African countries, including Angola, Kenya, Seychelles, Namibia and Tanzania to expand its military footprint.
Meanwhile, China has established a naval base in Djibouti to station a “Rapid Reaction Force” for covering Africa. The base has the capacity to house 10000 soldiers against the provision of deployment of 1000 soldiers in the Chinese-Djiboutian Agreement.
In August 2021, China announced its intent to build its first naval base on the Atlantic coast at Bata in Equatorial Guinea, to look after its oil and commercial interests along the West coast of Africa.
Despite Chinese claims that PSCs are involved in providing passive security services, such as access control and protection against theft & violence, it has been observed that often they act as ‘Private Military Companies’ carrying out covert activities such as spying, gathering of intelligence using ‘Humint’ sources and advice local forces on the information gathered by way of intelligence collection, reported.
The Chinese PSCs have a poor staffing record due to the poor quality of training of their personnel, who also have language barriers and lack openness towards the locals. Instances have come to notice that Chinese companies have hired local militias for their protection through the PSCs.
In 2020, a Chinese coal mine owner in Zimbabwe shot and wounded two local workers for complaining and demanding wages.


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