Is China changing the developmental trajectory in Africa?

China in Africa : futureatlas.com | flickr

 

Kwame Nkrumah stated that ‘neo- colonialism is a form of imperialism in its final and perhaps most dangerous stage’ insisting that leaders needed to be aware of modern forms of exploitation. It is crucial that we ask ourselves whether Chinese investment will be a gain or a loss for the African Continent. The involvement in Africa is far too complicated to focus solely on the extraction of resources, it is critical to explore all of the reasons that China has interest in the development of African countries. Rather than concentrating on the neo-colonialism discourse. Africa is a high priority foreign policy concern for China due to the need to combat terrorism, stabilize markets and tackle world hunger. The last time the West was so concerned with China’s foreign policy strategy was during the cold war, and we now know much of the fear of China during that time was completely unfounded. Does the rhetoric behind China’s involvement in Africa being purely a means to sustain its dominance in the international sphere carry validity, or are there other benign motivations at hand, like social cohesion?

The subject of Chinese investment in Africa is particularly important in 2017 for multiple reasons. Firstly, the Africa rising narrative is becoming quite prevalent when discussing the current state of Africa. The speed with which African economies are growing is inspiring but, what is intriguing is what this means for Chinese banks looking to invest. Secondly, with historical investors like the U.S. directing their attention away from the region and Donald Trump taking a more protectionist stance with his America First ideology, it is vital to analyse what development means at the hands of investors from the global South such as China. Lastly, studying the type and scope of foreign investment in this way may tell us about the pattern of globalization for the next decade and beyond. While we should distinguish normal aid giving from the strategic Chinese investments which we are seeing, how are African countries expected to develop and join the international community without some form of external investment.

China appears to have the financial power to generate serious change in the global south; the change will occur through focusing upon infrastructure building as a means of fostering development. Distinguishing how Chinese support differs to Western assistance will be quite difficult, however it is something that African leaders need to look into at their earliest convenience. Furthermore, issues surrounding labour rights and environmental impact will suggest whether this new approach will result in a higher quality of life for Africans. Progression and development will only arise if African leaders can ensure that labourers will not be taken advantage of whilst pursuing Chinese investment in Africa.

The direction with which development in Africa is heading does not seem unitary and that is what is so interesting about Chinese expansion in the global south. China recognizes the potential in the natural resources that haven’t been tapped into yet. This can be seen from the way in which the Chinese Government is willing to fully fund endeavours which attempt to salvage resources that are currently lying dormant. A critical example of this is the Sicomines ‘resources for infrastructure deal’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo. China’s insistence upon non-interference and respecting the sovereignty of the recipient states will eventually lead to chaos as opposed to development. Nonetheless, we have to acknowledge that non-interference does not necessarily equate to indifference, donors can demonstrate that they want genuine development without attaching demands. The real debate here is whether non-interference will allow African leaders to nurture their economies back to health the way they deem fit or if this will simply become a new purse for dictators.

Although there are cultural differences, resulting in tension between people and companies, this new wave of bold development is also promising, as large development projects have already created value to African markets.

Overall, the Chinese model of financing projects is helpful to African nations. Yet, I support tighter regulations so as to guarantee better working conditions and more job opportunities for local citizens when Chinese influence proliferates.


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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