China has been in bed with Africa a better part of this decade with the relationship growing stronger by the day. Has the partnership really been profitable on both sides or the stronger party is winning as happened with the colonial era? It is estimated that $136 billion has been invested in Africa over the last 17 years and $60 billion has been promised in the next few years. By 2015 trade between China and Africa had reached almost $300 billion.
McKinsey opined in a June 2017 report that there are over 10,000 Chinese-owned companies in Africa. Opinions have streamed in from opposing sides of the divide as to whether China’s big step in Africa is a win-win situation or a zero-sum game only for China’s benefit. How much of Africa would be standing by the time China is done with Africa? Africa currently has to deal with the remains of colonialism from the West being defunct political leadership, broken economies, institutionalized corruption, poverty and severely under-developed infrastructural environments.
Leading the opposing side of the arguments is the West who see the Sino-Afro deals as a Debt Trap, Vanity Projects and Neo-Colonialism. China on the other side promises building a community for a shared future that features a win-win corporation, happiness for all and harmonious co-existence as contained in a recent speech by President Xi Jinping.
There is however a seemingly stiff competition from the West in a bid to regain their colonial strong holds with both Theresah May and Angel Merkel completing their African visits, while China hosts African heads of state. The ensuing competition from the West is what makes their opposing tirade not very convincing. The results to show for Africa after their long colonial order does not inure to their advantage.
May be it’s about time Africa tries the east. After all Africa needs the infrastructure which the centuries of colonization by the West could not provide, while China also needs the market and the raw materials to further develop. What makes China appealing to the African leaders is the no-meddling approach China uses in its engagement with African countries.
It is interesting to note that comments from most African presidents have a positive connotation about their involvement with China. Indeed, a quote has been ascribed to Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe saying, ‘it is better to look to the East where the sun rises than look to the West where the sun sets’. It is very obvious that in this day and age, no one country can develop as an island.
Historical references have proven that associations with the West have been a zero-sum game to Africa with little benefits to the continent. It is as if even aid was designed to make Africa weaker and indeed it has. Collaboration in developing Africa cannot be ruled out at this age. The little worry however are the ‘blindness’ of African leaders in such situations and the propensity of the Chinese to ignore ethical considerations in such dealings. It is therefore imperative that African leaders better interpret their needs and put them in better perspectives to rake in realistic benefits from this collaboration.