Africa-China Relations: Will they help Africa to Develop?

The relationship that Africa has with China has become a cause for excitement and concern.  It is clear that this relationship possesses complexity beyond political agreements, trading terms, and financial gain. The entire African continent now serves as China’s biggest trading constituency. In recent years, China has extended its political and economic influence through precise and clear policies.

So far, Africans have different views about the Africa-China relationship. Some observers and commentators have associated China’s obvious material needs with its social and economic progress as the reason for this relationship. While when others  look at the different construction projects in Africa carried out by the Chinese, they have the view that the Africa-China relationship is helping Africa to develop.

The main concern for many is where this relationship is heading to because China’s presence in Africa  is mainly focused on material aspects. For example, in Ghana, China has been accused by advocacy groups of being involved in illegal gold mining.  When it comes to construction projects that are managed by Chinese companies in Africa, the workforce used from management to labourers are Chinese citizens. With these examples in mind one can question whether China really wants to see Africa develop?  For development to take place, there must be skills availability and transfer. Therefore, for the Africa-China relationship to breed development in Africa, Chinese companies should have invested more in skills transfer so that African engineers and those possessing relevant skills are able to be involved in the different infrastructural projects.

The Chinese view  this partnership/relationship with African states as  a ‘win-win’ partnership. The Chinese extract natural resources such as crude oil or gas in  exchange for infrastructural development such as urban housing in the case of Angola and sport facilities in Cameroon. The sad thing as mentioned earlier is that the skills involved in realizing these developments are mainly Chinese. It goes without saying that the primary source of wealth for any country lies in its people and their skills.  People can only effectively work to create  wealth within the most favourable surroundings and possibilities.

Expo | sbamueller | flickr


While Western countries have always linked development in Africa to providing aid, China, in trying to remain different, by providing African countries with economic assistance without any political obligations does not convince me that the African-China partnership will help Africa to develop.

An astonishing thing with this partnership is China’s  level of economic ‘imperialism’ that is driven be   the need for natural resources for progress in China. Hence, at the 2018 Forum On China Africa Cooperation, Beijing subtly revealed its intention when Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed that China will provide $60 billion in financial support to Africa at the opening of the China-Africa summit. This is the same imperial testament of humanitarian aid assistant that previous European colonial masters used to give to African countries.  This rationale made African countries dependent on aid. For the Chinese President to emphasise that, the support will be provided in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies is more or less the same financial venom that hampered Africa’s development.

If China aim is to expand its imports from Africa, to facilitate the issuing of debt to African financial institutions’ and to continue to  use its own workforce in Africa, then Africa is headed for its next tragedy.

Featured image | President Cyril Ramaphosa co-chairs Forum on China-Africa Cooperation | Government ZA | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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