By Julissa Treviño
Photo illustration by Plamen Petkov for Fast Company.
In the past few years, China has become the most aggressive investor in Africa, according to a Fast Company article. “There are already more Chinese living in Nigeria than there were Britons during the height of the empire. From state-owned and state-linked corporations to small entrepreneurs, the Chinese are cutting a swath across the continent. As many as 1 million Chinese citizens are circulating here,” reports Fast Company. The writer goes on to detail the importance of certain African materials and products to the Chinese: “…four African countries central to China’s overall strategy: Mozambique (a key source of timber for China), Zambia (copper), Congo (a wide range of minerals), and Equatorial Guinea (oil). What I found is that while flat-footed Western governments largely watch from the sidelines, cash-flush Chinese firms — many with state-directed financing — are cutting deals at a dizzying pace, securing supplies of oil, copper, timber, natural gas, zinc, cobalt, iron, you name it.”
Chinese influence in Africa goes back to the 1960s, when the Chinese spent large amounts of money on great infrastructure projects, usually without any economic development in the African countries. Throughout the decades, China provided technical expertise, doctors, scholarships and other forms of aid. Today more than 900 Chinese doctors work in African countries. But then in the ’80s, reports the Council on Foreign Relations, China was unable to compete with Western aid to Africa. In the past few years, China has returned to Africa with the need for resources and the money to spend on the country.
“‘Africa needs infrastructure,'” said Youssouf Ouedraogo, a special adviser to the president of the African Development Bank in a BBC News article. “Ouedraogo recognises that in exchange for the oil, gas and minerals that drive China’s fast expanding economy, there is hard cash available for Africa’s biggest projects. ‘We need the ports, roads, electricity, the airports to help Africa’s poorest country grow. You can’t do that without money for infrastructure,'” he said.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen JiaBao is pledging $10 billion in new loans and 100 new clean energy power stations over the next three years. These are loans, however, which the countries will have to pay back, probably with high interests.
The Chinese have gotten more criticism than using African resources for their own benefit, though (the Chinese Prime Minister denies allegations of Chinese neo-colonialism on Africa). Last month, a Chinese company invested $7 billion in a mining deal in Guinea, despite the international condemnation there has been for the country’s military junta. In September, the army in Guinea opened fire on demonstrators killing 150 people. Like this issue, there have been other criticisms of China’s interference in Africa about human rights issues. More on China-Africa and human rights.
- “China is Africa’s second-biggest trading partner, behind the US
- Between 2002 and 2003 two-way trade doubles to $18.5bn
- By 2008 trade tops $100bn – China exports $51bn, imports $56bn
- Almost all imports come from oil-rich nations: Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, and Sudan
Julissa Treviño is a senior Writing major and co-editor of Upfront. E-mail her at [email protected] or leave a comment.