China’s involvement with Africa is no big secret. As a matter of fact, it is an affair the West has attempted to hamper for a while now. Trade has been the main selling point of the Africa-China relation, and year after year, the total amount of trade between Africa and China increases astonishingly, from $10.5 billion in 2000 (Ighobor, 2013), to over $200 billion in 2013 (AFP, 2014). In 2009, China surpassed the US to become Africa’s leading trade partner, and it has not let go of the title since.
Relations between Africa and China exceed trade. Often, China provides aid to a needy Africa. Some view this aid as harmless, but not everyone follows that train of thought. In December 2011, the building of the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa was completed with the $200 million bill being paid for by China (Ighobor, 2013). The general feedback was not overwhelming thanks from all directions. Some referred to the building as an insult that symbolized how dependent Africa was to have its own AU headquarters be built by a foreign nation.
Africa-China relations range from trade, to culture, healthcare, military, and diplomacy, and Africa has often been warned – by nations such as the U.S.A undoubtedly – to tread carefully with China, for although China may be a rose by her side, she could very easily become a thorn. The Africa-China relationship has also been characterized as a new form of colonialism in which resources are easily taken out of a nation through bribery of leaders. (Ighobor, 2013) With relations between China and Africa becoming stronger day by day, who is to say what could become of it.
Personally, I prefer for Africa to keep an open mind and not just bend to the whims of any nation. Where the U.S.A has lost a foothold, China is gaining one. Chinese goods flood African markets, sometimes at the cost of local businesses, but in a continent that cares more for prices than for patriotism, it becomes almost an impossible task for local goods to compete with super cheap Chinese ones. Because of reasons like this, and others such as the language barrier, China’s gradual invasion of the African continent has not gone as smooth as possible. To curb some of these bumps on the road, the China Africa News service was launched in 2008 to bridge the information gap between Africa and China (Ighobor, 2013). Some saw this move instead, as a foothold for China to introduce its cultural values on Africa. Nonetheless, as a continent, Africa must not let the gifts of China cloud her judgement.
If China was a man, and Africa a woman, to put it in other terms, I would say it seems to me like China is running Africa. The occasional gifts here and there add a nice touch either to cover up mistakes, or show genuine affection. China’s interest in Africa has grown over the years, and the fact that that interest infuriates Africa’s ex, the West, adds a decent touch. China could just be a nice guy looking for a nice easy going lady, or a player looking for an easy girl. Either way, the play has been set. What China will do with its hold over Africa, only time will tell.
AFP. (2014, February 23). China-Africa trade surpassed $200 billion in 2013. New Vision. Retrieved from http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/652867-china-africa-trade-surpassed-200-billion-in-2013.html
Ighobor, K. (2013, January). China in the heart of Africa. Africa Renewal, 6. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/january-2013/china-heart-africa
- Nii Apa Anertey Abbey
- Manuel Ocansey