China’s engagement with Africa is the most momentous phenomena in the continent over the last decade. The two-way economic relations have improved exponentially. This has not only been attributed to China’s remarkable development but also Africa’s fast economic growth.
Many Africans view China’s engagement in Africa as a golden opportunity to finally rise up and be counted among great nations and shed the unflattering tag of the continent. African leaders, scholars and businessmen recognize that China’s engagement has a developmental impact to the continent.
China and Africa need each other to realize common development, to maintain peace and stability, and speak for developing countries in the international arena. Since China entered in Africa’s development agenda to establish a new type of strategic cooperation with Africa, there is enough proof that this relationship is mutually beneficial.
In the political arena, China has proven to be a reliable political ally to Africa. Since regaining its legitimate seat at the UN, It has stood with African countries by safeguarding their interests at the Security Council. China has consistently called for larger representation of developing countries within the United Nations Security council, specifically African Nations, in line with the UN reforms. This has tipped the balance of international forces in favour of equality and respect among nations.
Economically, China has contributed significantly to the economic growth of African nations. A decade of engagement has helped Africa to develop and grow African economies by 20 percent. Trade between China and Africa soared from $10 billion in 2000 to $200 billion in 2012. James Oruko, a lecturer of Development Studies at Egerton University, attributed Africa’s fast economic growth in recent years to Chinese demand for commodities from Africa.
China’s accumulative investment in Africa reached $20 billion by the end of 2012. In his first foreign trip as President, Xi Jinping came visiting Africa and reconfirmed China’s commitment to provide $20 billion in financing. Most of these funds go to infrastructure projects and people’s livelihoods, which are the firm foundations for Africa’s industrialization and economic development.
Kenyan former Finance Minister Robinson Githae said infrastructure cooperation has not only helped bring Africa’s goods to China, but also transferred China’s technology to Africa and created more jobs for African people. “China continues to do its best to increase assistance to Africa, optimize the structure of assistance, and focus on assistance projects in education, agriculture, health, poverty reduction and other projects concerning people’s lives as well as energy conservation and environmental protection.”
The number of technicians, volunteers, agricultural experts who have come to support African workers has reached 350,000 in total from 1960’s to 2012. And 18,700 medical doctors have voluntarily served in 48 African countries.
Furthermore, China is already increasing its investments in the manufacturing sector in Africa with an aim of promoting industrialization and production in Africa by Africans. Several industrial zones are already underway and many others planned in various African countries. These not only offer jobs, but also facilitate technology transfer and value addition of locally produced raw materials.
Out of the 2,000 Chinese companies in Africa, 85 percent of their workforce is comprised of local employees and with continuous training in highly technical areas, the numbers keep rising. By the end of 2012, it is estimated that China had facilitated the training of over 40,000 African professionals in various sectors.
Dambisa Moyo, an International economist, explains that “With approximately 60 percent of Africa’s population under age 24, foreign investment and job creation are the only forces that can reduce poverty and stave off the sort of political upheaval that has swept the Arab world.”
China plays a crucial role in Africa’s development. It offers great opportunities for African governments to pursue development and economic growth for the betterment of their people. Despite its imperfections, its role in Africa is broadly welcomed across the continent as it prioritizes the provision of basic elements of development to African people.
(Wu is the Spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in Kenya)