The Chinese helping hand for Africa

By Sumantra Maitra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 2, 2015
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This has been an excellent week for China. First of all, the IMF announced that China's currency RMB will join the IMF's reserve currency group. This small, and symbolic change is significant, as it highlights how much global economy is integrated and cannot be divided anymore on ideological lines, and perhaps shows more than anything how much China's rise means to the world.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) holds talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe, Dec 1, 2015. [Photo by Huang Jingwen/Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) holds talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe, Dec 1, 2015. [Xinhua]

The second news is more geopolitical, in light of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the China-Africa summit. As Chinese President Xi visits Africa, here are some facts. With 80 percent of infrastructure funding in Africa, with China heading the list of investors, and the Export-Import Bank of China having pledged $1 trillion to Africa in the next ten years, Chinese institutions are already the largest single source of funds for African infrastructure, accounting for $13.4 billion in 2013, according to a Financial Times report. The same report states that only due to Chinese "Belt and Road" initiative, east African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania were finally starting to receive more attention, which is excellent news for the development of the region.

Comparatively cheaper Chinese produced goods are still extremely popular among consumers and African middle class. Yahoo news states China's overall trade topped over US$220 billion last year.

The Chinese government and African nations have historic relationship. China supported African independence movement during the 1960s and 1970s. Along with that China never interfered in African internal governance and structures of governance, and kept itself solely on a cooperative and mercantile basis with African countries.

Africa on the other hand is a land blessed with natural resources, but unfortunately comparatively untouched by technological advancement although with extreme potential and manpower. The fact that China-Africa trade was US$10 billion in 2000 and rose to US$220 billion in 2014 is testament to the fact. African raw material exports to China significantly benefit their economies and GDP, while the finished product helps in their standard of life.

The IMF has also reported that Africa's increasing growth rate is partly due to increased commodity demand from China.

Africa can learn a lot from China's growth model. The fact that China since 1979 has brought millions of people out of poverty and with astonishing development in the coastal and port regions is something African countries would do well to emulate. Controlling of tariff problems, and cutting down on structural problems like corruption and taxation is also significant.

For China, there is something to be kept in mind. With increased investment and engagement with Africa, there will be a time, when the security burden will have to be carried as well, not just for Africa, but for thousands of Chinese citizens in Africa. Consider the fact that in 2011, China had to evacuate 30,000 oil workers from Libya, and in May this year, Chinese workers were again evacuated from South Sudan, both the times due to heavy fighting. While both the operations were successful, with increased engagement, China will have to keep in mind increased logistical need, and right to intervene, to provide security to her material interests as well as safeguard lives of Chinese citizens. The FOCAC and the resupply base that China has announced to build in Djibouti are two steps in that right direction.

The writer is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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