South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has warned the West that it needs to change its "colonial" approach towards Africa or risk losing to competition from China and other developing nations.
In an interview published in the Financial Times on Monday, Zuma said businesses and governments in the West have a "psychological problem" and are still prone to lecturing Africa from positions of strength where they could "make the rules".
According to Zuma, he has advised Western companies in the private sector to rethink its investment strategies and approach, or Africa "will go to new partners who are going to treat them differently."
Financial institutions, he added, had "squeezed Africa". "Instead of saying: 'Let us help you', they come and they say: 'Change your economic structure. Don't do this. Do that.'"
Referring to China, Zuma said:
Now we are dealing with a new partner who is not putting all these strings attached.
"China is doing business in a particular way and we think we can see the benefits, but we are very, very careful," he said, adding that Africa is well aware of its colonial history and "does not want to be dominated again."
China has expanded its diplomatic and commercial ties across sub-Saharan Africa, offering cheap infrastructure loans in exchange for oil and other commodities. According to Zuma, such a relationship must "benefit both. And this is what we and China have been agreeing."
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Zuma also sought to restore South Africa's reputation after six weeks of violent protests at a mine in Marikana last year led to the deaths of 47 people and a downgrade by ratings agencies.
People thought after Marikana that "South Africa was such a bad place", he said. "It's not. As an investor I would say this is a country to invest in, because you have a democracy and a system in which even if there are mistakes, they can immediately be corrected."
South Africa's mining sector, which is mature relative to those of other African states, has underperformed its global peers throughout the last commodity boom because of policy uncertainty, infrastructure "bottlenecks" and rising costs.
But Zuma argues that the real reason behind the criticism is that mining companies would rather invest in countries with lax or nonexistent regulations where investors can "make the rules".
"It's this mentality of wanting to deal with someone who is ... inferior. South Africa has the banks, it has everything. You can't just walk in and do an investment without being charged or whatever," he said, adding that that his officials are looking into the "bottlenecks".
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