China-Africa symbiotic links
Written by: George Kalisa
Thursday, July 26th, 2018, 3:37
China’s growing appetite to invest in Africa, as expected, has spurred mixed reactions from economic analysts as to whether China has a hidden agenda near to exploitation similar to that of the major Western powers that largely led to more economic quagmire than solutions to underdevelopment that has lingered on for decades despite their engagement. And/or China’s were frank feelings to liberate Africans from chronic underdevelopment by fueling industrialization.
West aid has always had conditions attached to it before it goes to recipient countries [read poor countries]. Human rights records of a country being a key condition.
The ever growing debt coupled with ineptness to pay off by most African nations keep debts accumulating to alarming magnitudes that not only create a debt crisis and poor performance of recipient economies but also make donor nations think they are entitled to unquestioned loyalty to the extent that they claim to have the moral authority to dictate the management of the political affairs on the continent.
On the China-Africa honeymoon some critics say Africa is jumping from a frying pan to fire while others maintain China provides a relief from the West-breathed debt burden and thus regard China’s occupation on the continent a friendlier option and the only escape route for the developing African countries.
Why? China offers “zero-string attached” debts and cares more about the realization of tangible development of the recipient countries in a way President Xi Jinping described as “a win-win economic cooperation” during his second stop over in Rwanda on his four-country African tour, the first one since his reelection under the new rules. Xi proceeded to Johannesburg, South Africa for the BRICS Summit after his counterpart bid farewell to him.
True. Both the West and China take resources from the continent such as minerals, timber, oil et cetera as well exporting their expertise in construction, medicine, military to name but a few. However, there are some factors that seem to buttress the China-Africa relationship.
First, since Africa’s independence the West has been a key trading partner of the continent either by default or intention. But, Africans accuse them of having done little or nothing to provide sustained strategies to usher long term solutions to Africa’s socio-political and economic problems which the continent is still submerged in.
Yet, some Western nations have been accused of having a hand in perpetuating the undesirable situation that has led to deepening social and economic imbalances between the West and Africa. Hence, their occupation has been tested for decades and hope in delivering Africa from underdevelopment is fast waning.
On the contrary, China’s intervention and commitment to address the social, institutional and infrastructural challenges Africa currently grapples with, is proven and tested in African countries like Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and of late Rwanda. Experiences of the China-Africa cooperation in such countries where Chinese factory investment has had substantial impact on the pace of industrialisation, show that Africa has strong reasons to trust China as a more reliable trade partner.
The second unknown factor that makes a considerate number of African nations appear more repellant to the West is that much as the debt burden remains a constant on either side one chooses to go to, President Xi Jinping said during the signing of 15 bilateral agreements between China and Rwanda in the capital Kigali that Africa and China enjoy a win-win engagement.
Following the growing confidence between China and Africa, which is no soft landing either, over half of China’s foreign aid is spread on the African continent and in 2014 China had over $200 billion in investment on the vast resource rich continent.
Rwanda that has enjoyed excellent diplomatic ties with China for 47 years has a living testimony about China’s undying political will to take cooperation to between China and Africa to greater heights on the long journey to improve the wellbeing of the people on both territories.
Cooperation between the two nations has led to growing flow of foreign direct investments in almost all sectors with manufacturing and real estate claiming a big share.
Rwanda’s imports from China currently stand at Rwf205 billion compared to Rwf4.3 billion from exports as of 2017 according to records in Trade and Industry.
While Rwanda registered 61 Chinese investment projects and joint ventures worth US$419.6 million in the last decade with actual investments nearing USD$352. 6 million in construction, tourism and mining sectors.
Belt and Road initiative fast-tracks China-Africa cooperation
The China-Africa friendship dates back to the Ming Dynasty over 600 years when Chinese navigator Zheng He led diplomats to African coastal region traversing from the Eastern to the Southern.
The highly anticipated Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, conceived in 2013 by President Xi Jinping will accelerate Africa’s connectivity and integration as well as the AfCFTA through development of transport network under the China-Africa cooperation. The initiative is a replica of the Chinese ancient Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Aside from the Chinese supported free trade zones like the Djibouti International Free Trade Zone there are several projects under the China-Africa cooperation which are set to increase connectivity of landlocked countries. For instance, the electrified railway linking Ethiopia to Djibouti, the Mombasa- Nairobi standard gauge railway (Kenya) and the Maputo Cross-Sea Bridge (Mozambique).
At least 50, 000 Kenyans as a result of the Mombasa-Nairobi rail gauge project while other 5,000 technicians received training since construction kicked off in 2014. And, the Maputo project is expected to create jobs for over 20,000 Mozambicans, Xinhua, a Chinese News outlet reported recently.
There is mounting pressure from economists in West Africa on governments to join the belt and road initiative. As a result, Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy reportedly expressed interest as well as Mauritania and Ivory Cost.
Needless to mention, the Belt and Road Initiative may be high on the agenda in upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit due September in the capital Beijing.
Xi Jinping says China- Africa is win-win cooperation
Chinese leader Xi and his counter President Paul Kagame who is also the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) and a principal advocate for the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), gave glaring insights on the Africa-China relationship.
President Xi Jinping who was in Rwanda for a two-day state visit on July22-23 said that China and Africa are set to benefit from a win-win cooperation, citing Rwanda’s participation in the Belt and Road initiative which benefits China and Rwanda.
“I welcomed Rwanda to participate in the Belt and Road initiative and I have no doubt both China and Rwanda will benefit from this cooperation,” said President Xi Jinping during the signing ceremony of 15 MoUs.
The Chinese leader reiterated his government’s commitment to strengthen economic ties with Africa in order to lead to a “sincere development partnership with African countries” said Xi, “Africa is China’s good partner”.
He was in Kigali on his second stopover as part of his African tour since he started his second term, before proceeding to the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
On his part Rwandan President and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Paul Kagame has today said that China’s actions on the African continent demonstrate that China and Africa are equals. Kagame has described the China-Africa relationship as a revolutionary posture in world affairs, which is more precious than money.
More generally, China relates to Africa as an equal. We see ourselves as a people on the road to prosperity. China’s actions demonstrate that you see us in the same way. This is a revolutionary posture in world affairs, and it is more precious than money” said Kagame.
“I also want to say a few words from the heart. The growing relationship with China is based as much on mutual respect as on mutual interests. That is evident in your personal commitment to our continent, Mr. President,”
“Mr President, in your moving letter to Rwandans, published a few days ago, you quoted a Chinese poem about how friends recognise each other, no matter how great the distance”President Kagame said.