Much has been written about China in Africa — China’s #1 spot as Africa’s biggest trading partner, its massive investment in infrastructure development across the continent, its hands-off approach to domestic politics, African civil society opposition to Chinese involvement — but is talk of China’s domination in Africa overdone? The Economist reports.
China is unfazed by fierce competition for investment in Africa. “This is a good place for business but there are many others around the world.”
China’s corporatist development model has attracted few followers beyond Ethiopia and Rwanda. Most fast-growing African nations hew closer to Western free-market ideas.
China has few political ambitions in Africa. It cooperates with democracies as much as with authoritarian regimes. Its aid budget is puny. The few peacekeepers it sends stay out of harm’s way.
Chinese immigrants in Africa chuckle at the idea that they could lord it over the locals.
Why China has become so big in Africa
By The Economist, published January 18, 2015
Across Africa, radio call-in programmes are buzzing with tales of Africans, usually men, bemoaning the loss of their spouses and partners to rich Chinese men. “He looks short and ugly like a pygmy but I guess he has money,” complained one lovelorn man on a recent Kenyan show. True or imagined, such stories say much about the perceived economic power of Chinese businessmen in Africa, and of the growing backlash against them.
China has become by far Africa’s biggest trading partner, exchanging about $160 billion-worth of goods a year; more than 1 million Chinese, most of them labourers and traders, have moved to the continent in the past decade. The mutual adoration between governments continues, with ever more African roads and mines built by Chinese firms. But the talk of Africa becoming Chinese — or “China’s second continent”, as the title of one American book puts it — is overdone.
The African boom, which China helped to stoke in recent years, is attracting many other investors. The non-Western ones compete especially fiercely.
African trade with India is projected to reach $100 billion this year. It is growing at a faster rate than Chinese trade, and is likely to overtake trade with America.
Brazil and Turkey are superseding many European countries. In terms of investment in Africa, though, China lags behind Britain, America, and Italy.