By Akshay Sevak
Over the last 30 years Africa has battled wars, disease, corruption and ultimately itself to finally begin to become a player on the world stage.
Africa is no longer simply the willing beneficiary of aid, but of investment as well. Willing trading partners have come knocking with the Chinese leading the way.
They have cancelled $10 billion of Africa’s debt and investments into the continent have grown substantially over the last 30 years: in 1999 Sino-African trade stood at $1 billion.
Today it is over $160 billion. China drinks Kenyan coffee, burns Nigerian and Angolan oil and gas, eats Namibian fish and adorns itself in Congolese diamonds.
Yet looking beyond the figures, the story takes an increasingly sour turn. Just last week Jan Martin Witte, head of the Southern African infrastructure division of German development finance institution KfW, commented that the Chinese investment model in Africa needed to be less top-down and more commercial.
The ‘Beijing Consensus’, China’s investment model, merges business with foreign policy. The Chinese policy on investments is to refuse to comply with the World Bank’s conditionality provisions. In addition African nations aren’t forced to change the way they work in order to benefit from the Chinese.
This allowed Robert Mugabe to circumvent international trade sanctions by securing $1.3 billion in Chinese energy and mining investments. Sudan have also benefited, securing $2 billion in Chinese investments after the US broke trading relations on account of human rights violations.
It’s clear that Chinese investments, from an economic perspective are near perfect; Africa is entering a boom widely made possible by the Chinese.
Yet the Chinese acquiescence to reforming the social and political situations in Africa means it becomes a faceless investor; and not the world power that it seeks to be.
Photograph: Simon Davis/Department for International Development