It was a time for smiles and handshakes as the delegations from
Sierra Leone and China Exim Bank sealed a loan to provide the
impoverished West African state with a new airport.
Just months later, the much-trumpeted Mamamah International
Airport scheme, estimated to cost $400 million (347 million euros),
has gone up in smoke.
Sierra Leones new government has scrapped the contract, bluntly
declaring it uneconomical. Instead it will use an existing,
underused airport and improve access to it.
AFP | Construction work on the Chinese-built Maputo-Katembe
Bridge, linking the two sides of the bay of Mozambiques capital.
The three-kilometer, $725-million structure, scheduled to open this
year, will be Africas longest suspension bridge
The decision coincides with concern internationally about
Africas mounting debts with China fears that are sometimes voiced
by individual Africans, but rarely their governments.
We need Chinese development, but not at the expense of our
unborn children who will be paying the debts, said Hassan Dumbuya,
a taxi driver using a partly-completed Chinese-built toll road
between Freetown and Masiaka.
So is Sierra Leones U-turn on the airport the dawn of an African
revolt against Chinese-funded projects?
Not so fast, say analysts.
Its not a revolt because African countries cannot revolt they
are seeking finance, said Ivorian political analyst Jean Alabro in
Michael Kottoh, managing partner at Konfidants, an international
consultancy firm, explained that the airport cancellation had a
limited, local, context.
True, it could be seen as yet more evidence that many African
governments are rushing to grab Chinese deals without seeking
serious transaction advice to guide their negotiations, he told
That said, this particular airport project cancellation is more
about local politics and less about any major policy shift on China
by the new government.
During the campaign for presidential elections in March,
opposition champion and eventual victor Julius Maada Bio blasted
Chinese-funded schemes as a sham that yielded no economic and
In this light, scrapping the airport may simply be a prelude to
deals with China which align with Bios electoral promises, Kottoh
The countrys China portfolio mix will merely change; the
portfolio itself will not shrink significantly, said Kottoh. It
might even increase in size and value in the long run.
China is likely...