Chinese Road Construction
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
Since setting foot on this Continent I have seen evidence of Chinese construction all over. Never has it been more obvious, and on such a scale as here in Cameroon. The Chinese are making deals with as many African Nations as possible, extracting precious resources (iron, gold, oil, aluminum, you name it) in exchange for their expertise and labor on massive infrastructure projects. These range from roads and railways to hydro-electric dams and generators and deep sea ports.
On these road crews it’s always easy to spot the Chinese workers with their large round hats directing and running the show. All the heavy equipment is directly from China, and many projects are accompanied by virtual cities built in the middle of nowhere to house all the workers. The entire area is complete with signs in Chinese.
Here in Cameroon the sheer scale of the projects is immense, like nothing I have ever seen before. Huge slabs of forest have been smashed down to build highways and enormous concrete bridges span rivers that must be raging in the wet season. When driving a completed section it’s eerie to race through the thick jungle with cruise control on 60 miles an hour on a perfect interstate-grade highway.
In one small town I drive through the locals have blockaded the new road and are protesting. I gather the construction has contaminated their drinking water, and they are sick to death of the whole thing, which has been on-going for two years already and has another two to go. One truck driver explains the construction creates virtually no jobs for locals, and any that do exist pay a pittance.
The speed at which China is “building” Africa is staggering, and I hear reports of a new railway in the East that European interests tried to build for decades, without ever being granted permission. The Chinese now have that permission and are building full steam ahead.
I wonder how different this part of the world will look in ten years.