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ComputerWorld Zambia

By Michael Malakata

August 4, 2011

As wariness about China’s investments in Africa grows, allegations of procurement flaws and overpricing has moved the Ugandan government to block a US$74 million loan from the Import and Export Bank of China (EXIM) meant for a digital migration project.

The loan process has been halted even though the Ugandan and Chinese governments had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Keith Muhakanizi, the deputy secretary to the Ugandan treasury, made the announcement last week and has thus far given no indication that the loan process would be restarted.

The move highlights growing controversy surrounding the awarding of ICT contracts to Chinese firms in the region. It comes less than two weeks after the Pan African Group of China controversially won a tender for Kenya‘s digital TV signal distribution operation. Opposition lawmakers accused the Kenyan government of flouting the tender process and knocking local companies out of the bidding.

Zambia is also in talks with the Chinese government to supply and install digital equipment at the national broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corp. (ZNBC), without subjecting the tender to the bidding process as required by the country’s laws, according to opposition political parties.

As in many other countries in Africa, the Chinese government has been funding a number of ICT projects in Uganda through loans whose conditions are that supply and installation contracts are given to Chinese companies…The Ugandan government has been under pressure from opposition lawmakers who questioned the cost of the contract and the manner in which the contract was awarded.

Opposition leader Nandala Mafabi told journalists last week that the list of equipment in the tender was totally different from that of the contract. Nandala claimed the real value of the contract is between $20 million and $28 million and not the $74 million being claimed by Huawei TechnologiesRead more.