China is Africa’s biggest economic partner, but many countries would like to take its place. Developments like America’s withdrawal from global trade and Brexit all have a role to play in Africa’s future. What led to China’s friendship with Africa and what is the future of the Chinese-African relationship? Keep reading to find out.
China and Africa’s growing connection
The Chinese economy is booming, and it’s taking that wealth and powering the Belt and Road Initiative. This strategy is one based on connectivity, both by land and in shipping routes. Chinese investment is powering many poorer countries.
For example, a Chinese firm partners with the government of a place like Nigeria to give a loan for infrastructure, for example, the construction of a building. Utilizing their knowledge and Chinese labor, the new buildings popping up in cities all over the continent carry Chinese script built into their very foundations. At the same time, China is creating jobs with its investments. This helping hand is welcomed by most African countries and their leaders. Of course, it could come with the perceived danger of political influence over the direction of these partner countries on the continent. The relationships built also ensure that Chinese connections will continue in the years to come.
Many American and other Western voices say that Chinese efforts in Africa are nothing more than a new form of imperialism and colonialism. It’s interesting to note that China is currently sub-Saharan Africa’s largest creditor. If there is economic power and leverage in holding debt, this Asian giant is miles ahead of everyone else. However, an investigation by the Washington Post found Africa has agency and is not just a victim as the popular narrative goes. The relationship is one based on globalization, not colonization.
In contrast to the Chinese model, American foreign investment entities are not as cohesive or modern. Chinese companies have the support of their government and the backing of the prestigious Belt and Road Initiative. U.S. companies are therefore nowhere near as competitive in the African market. The amount of trade going in both directions has dropped in recent years. The engagement which was formerly there just isn’t present anymore.
The European Union has historic links with Africa, but that is not enough. The two-share language, culture, and Europeans have local knowledge of how the post-colonial societies work. The EU is doing better than the U.S. as it has launched a number of free trade agreements. This move to a more reciprocal relationship in trade has served it well. Instead of just giving aid, the EU has also said it will give sustainable investment to help African countries develop and modernize.
Like most places that are the beneficiaries of development assistance, Africa has a chance of making the most of it or seeing it fail. This is no different to efforts from American or European actors in the past. The only difference with China is that the influence comes from East, not West.