Chinese investment in Africa: a force for good or evil?

 africa imagesBy

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

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