There are some obvious reasons that make China a preferred partner for Africa. For Africans, China has four major attractions: Unconditional soft loans and access to capital; quick delivery of services and cheap goods; funding of peacekeeping; and an alternative development model.
First, China’s unconditional cooperation has allowed African governments to enjoy access to finance, expertise and development aid. In 2016, the trade between China and Africa reached $128bn, a drastic surge from $1bn in 1980.
At FOCAC in Beijing this year, China offered $60bn for development financing until 2021. While the financial crises in the US and EU limited their investments in Africa, China committed to investing more in the continent.
Chinese soft loans have enabled many African governments to avoid pressure from global governance institutions such as IMF and World Bank to meet Western norms of accountability and conditionality related to political and economic reforms, such as the infamous structural adjustment that does not always serve the interest of Africans.
Second, China has aided African governments to meet their people’s rapidly growing demands for services and infrastructure more quickly. Many people in Africa are now used to quick delivery of services – such as transportation, education, health and telecommunication – by Chinese companies. This has created, and will continue to create, more appetite for Chinese business in Africa.
Third, China is now also engaged in peace and security projects in Africa. Chinese troops participate in eight UN peacekeeping missions of which five are in Africa. Moreover, China is the second largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping missions and it contributed funding to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the IGAD South Sudan mediation.
Fourth, China’s history of fast and successful economic growth is a model from which many lessons could be learned in Africa. China’s capacity to ensure policy sovereignty remains relevant, and highly attractive to African leaders and scholars. According to the World Bank, in about 40 years, China has lifted about 800 million people out of poverty through its untraditional path of development. Notably, it has achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals.
Africans should take a page from China’s playbook on development and sovereignty. They can keep their home in order and make the best out of the competition between great powers and regional players whether they are from the West, Far East or the Middle East.
China’s aid outlay to Africa has grown rapidly over the last two decades, rising to its largest figure of $15 billion in 2018. In doling out these packages, president Xi Jinping has stressed the condition-free nature of the assistance and how Beijing was not seeking “selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation.
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