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'Small' Chinese condoms could hurt Beijing's Africa aid policy; are rivals watching?

By Shubham
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    The removal of Zimbabwe's long-serving president Robert Mugabe was seen as a move orchestrated with the help of China and not the West.

    In fact, as Beijing has gone on cementing its place in Africa, its grip on the scheme of things in countries like Zimbabwe has only got better. The boycott of Zimbabwe by the western powers because of its poor political and human rights records has also brought its isolated leadership closer to Beijing. The gains have been mutual for both China and Zimbabwe or entire Africa in general.

    Small Chinese condoms could hurt Beijings Africa aid policy; are rivals watching?

    Besides the regular aid and infrastructure building and boosting of trade, one of China's major contributions towards the uplift of Africa has been its commitment to fight against menace like AIDS. China has asserted time and again that it would share its success stories on fighting AIDS with the African countries and also be developing health services and co-ordinating with regional institutions in Africa.

    No less than the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Peng Liyuan, has said in the past that Beijing was always interested to work towards preventing AIDS in the African continent.

    China's Africa aid has hit an unforeseen wall

    But the Chinese welfare scheme recently hit an unforeseen wall in Zimbabwe - a country which has even termed Beijing as its "all-weather friend". Recently, the health minister of Zimbabwe, David Parirenyatwa, said the men in his country were not happy with the China-made condoms that Zimbabwe was buying saying the products were too small in size for them. He has subsequently approached the condom manufacturers to come up with a solution.

    Zimbabwe is a country with a high count of HIV affected people although it has exceeded the UN Population Fund's regional mark of 30 condoms per man per year. The majority of the country's funding in the fight against HIV comes from international donors.

    Big problem but 'small' solution

    Promotion of the use of condoms thus become a high priority for the Zimbabwean authorities to protect the people from the deadly ailment but the 'smaller' Chinese condoms have made it difficult for the country's men to maintain the safety standards.

    The Zimbabwean health minister has sought domestic manufacture of the condoms that people in the southern African nation prefer but the Chinese have assured that they would come up with the customised variants of their condoms to fit the Zimbabweans' need.

    Faulty and ineffective Chinese condoms can seriously hurt Africa's public health

    For China which has made all-out efforts to win Africa's heart through all sorts of aid and welfare programme, a condom fiasco would not be a happy experience and they are trying to mend things as fast as they can. Zimbabwe is not the first country to express disappointment over the China-made condoms. In 2013, Ghana seized more than a million Chinese products because their sizes were not befitting and also had poor quality.

    If China's condoms fail to win markets in Africa owing to size differences, Beijing's anti-HIV campaign in the African continent, which plays a significant role in promoting its welfare image there, takes a beating because ineffective condoms can have a serious repercussion for the region's public health. This could give China's rivals an opening to come up with an alternative and intensify the power game in Africa.

    Reports have said that men from south-western African countries have the largest average penis size while those from the Asian countries have the shortest. Maybe China fumbled to measure the vital length before taking its product to the Africans.

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