China and Uganda – an Uneasy Friendship

The dynamics of Sino-Ugandan relations and its economic and societal im-pacts on Ugandan society

In April 2017, a decade-long resentment of the prevalence of Chinese traders reached a tipping point in Uganda’s capital as shop owners and petty traders took to the streets to protest the unfair competition posed by the foreigners (SCMP, 2017). In a separate case, a young Chinese factory administrator was shot and killed in early September, and though the investigation is still ongoing, offi-cials believe the killers could have received assistance from inside, possibly with the help of a ‘disgruntled employee’ (Sabano, 2017), which would not be the first time Chinese employers have received criticism and threats over their harsh demands from em-ployees and their severely rigid work ethic (Choksi and Wall, 2016).

In many ways, Chinese nationals have made their mark in Uganda and, judging by their perseverance and success at doing so, are here to stay. In fact, in 2009, China over-took the United Kingdom and became Ugan-da’s largest foreign direct investor (Nakaweesi, 2010). Additionally, by 2017, China overtook India – a country that shares a long history with Uganda that dates back to the early years of colonialism – to be-come Uganda’s top import market (Muhu-muza, 2017). Chinese influence – especially in the capital, Kampala – is ubiquitous, and ranges from Chinese-owned restaurants, to shops, clinics and hospitals, and even to en-tertainment centres such as karaoke bars. But even beyond Kampala’s busy streets, Chinese contractors are building roads, bridges, dams and factories, which are scat-tered across the country. The great power has had an enormous economic, political, and cultural impact on the East African coun-try, with winners and losers on both sides.

Author: Leandra Bitahwa