Cape Verde, the good son

If Forum Macau did not exist, it would be more or less indifferent to most member countries. The exception is Cape Verde, which has benefited from the door opened by Macau. 

MB May 2020 Special Report | Forum Macau: 17 years, old enough?  

What makes Cape Verde different from other countries that are members of the Forum is not the abundant Chinese investment in the archipelago. 

Even to show São Tomé and Principe that its option for Taiwan was wrong, China bet heavily on infrastructure, having paid for and built among many possible examples, the recovery of the National Assembly building, the Central Hospital of Praia, dams, housing, the National Library and the National Stadium. 

What makes Cape Verde different is the fact that – continuing to receive Chinese investment – it is also being discovered by Macau. And the various examples available show that, being bilateral and non-multilateral, these investments would hardly have reached the Atlantic archipelago without the doors opened by the Forum. 

A few hundred meters from the site of the National Assembly building, whose recovery was paid for by the Chinese government, are the works of the tourist complex that Macau businessman David Chow is building – considered the largest private investment in the country. 

As is public, the intentions of the leader of Macau Legends have suffered some setbacks, starting with the bank that remains unauthorized, but the government of Praia has repeatedly mentioned the importance of the project. 

David Chow is not the only one to bet on Cape Verde, from Macau. 

In 2018, Macao Bringbuys Web Technology signed a memorandum of understanding with Cabo Verde TradeInvest – a public entity focused on the promotion of investment and export to the country – to create a technological hub in Cape Verde. And last year it was said the company is considering an investment of more than US $40 million (MOP323.2 million) in this technology hub project. 

Bringbuys planned to set up a cloud computing centre, an offshore data centre, training facilities and an incubators project in the archipelago with the project divided into three phases, the first encompassing the computing centre, the second the training phase and the third the internationalisation of the project. 

Macao Bringbuys Web Technology is a technology startup founded by local entrepreneur Vincent Chou, and was one of the first projects to be based at the Inno Valley HQ in the Hengqin Free Trade Area for startups from Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. 

Another example is the agreement signed between the local government and the Guangdong-Macau Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Industrial Park, aimed at deepening cooperation in this area with China. 

The Chinese region will give technical and political consultancy, professional training and support in quality control, while Cabo Verde will be in charge of “helping the park in promoting the registry, trade, training and cooperation of projects in the industry of traditional medicine and food supplements,” according to a statement by Macau’s government – a signal of the MSAR presence in the deal. 

“Dissent prevailing in society” 

“It is worth highlighting the dissent prevailing in Cape Verdean society regarding the evaluation of commercial relations between Praia and Beijing. If, in general, cooperation is seen as positive, animosity reigns at the level of small and medium-sized traders and those in the informal trade (carpenters, bricklayers, joiners, locksmiths, etc.) who raise the issue of unfair competition and demand protection of local industries and other State incentives.” This is one of the conclusions of a master’s thesis presented in Portugal on the relations between Cape Verde and China. 

“In any case, we consider it pertinent to advance that the Cape Verdean State, unlike many African countries, has taken measures that were considered praiseworthy and with concrete gains with respect to Chinese investments, imposing conditions for hiring local labour, as well as taking care of the environment, requiring any major investment to prepare an environmental impact study,” says researcher Pedro Borges Tavares, to whom “it is recommended that African partners follow this example and, at the same time, diversify your development partners, thus safeguarding China’s extreme dependence, autonomy of action and safeguarding its national interests.”