From China with broken machines?
Posted Thursday, March 21 2013 at 02:00
China is considered the boon of nations impatient to develop, but which prefer to do business with as few questions asked as possible. As with everything else, however, demanding high standards must never be sacrificed for convenience.
With the onset of the rainy season, travel along the thousands of kilometres of murram roads which interconnect rural Uganda is going to become an even more trying undertaking.
The government had hoped to mitigate the deplorable condition of road infrastructure upcountry by reverting to the do-it-yourself policy which served Uganda well in the 1960s and part of the 1980s. As such, it acquired construction equipment from China on comparatively good terms to enable districts become self-sufficient in road construction and maintenance. Last year, President Museveni was seen being carted around the country happily launching these units.
But alas! What many feared appears to be already upon us. In Kabarole District, the authorities have been left frustrated after some of the equipment broke down, just months after deployment. Things appear so bad, a councillor in Kibito Town Council is reported to have described the machines as pieces of junk. One can only imagine what else is happening around the country.
A number of Ugandans had hopefully gone with the President’s thinking. His plan, after-all, was to short circuit and weed out the networks of hopelessly corrupt private tenderers once the local governments had own capacity. Things would now be much cheaper compared to the very high costs districts had been incurring on roads maintained at commercial rates.
The rapid break-down of these earthmovers reflects rather darkly on China, a country with considerable vested interest in Africa. If the equipment turns out to be not durable enough to justify all the hype about easy Chinese money, will Uganda be in a position to demand a review of terms?
The naysayers could now argue that the eastern country could well choke on its vociferous appetite for taking on huge infrastructure projects across Africa in return for favourable concessions to natural resources. Let this not be further evidence that ‘Made in China’ is synonymous with unreliable.
Compared to the stringent terms set out by bilateral and multilateral development partners in the West, China is considered the boon of nations impatient to develop, but which prefer to do business with as few questions asked as possible. As with everything else, however, demanding high standards must never be sacrificed for convenience.