China ‘Friend Requests’ Africa

Ashby Monk

The always interesting Jamil Anderlini strikes again this morning with a story about China’s attempt to win “friends” in Africa. Drawing on observations from the Ceremony for China-Africa Friendship Awards, he suggests that “China obviously thinks it has an image problem in Africa.” The topic is all the more pertinent given that this week saw a whopping billion dollar investment by a Chinese consortium, which includes the China-Africa Development Fund, in a South African platinum explorer.

Anyway, the Anderlini article reminded me of a line out of a fascinating new paper I just read by Martyn Davies of the OECD entitled ‘How China is Influencing Africa’s Development‘:

“The Chinese Government’s brazen corporatist approach to engaging Africa is being actively downplayed through political rhetoric that appeals to a political solidarity that China has with Africa as well as the ramping up of aid to African states.”

In other words, Anderlini and Davies agree: China is trying hard to change its image and make nice in Africa. And it looks to me as if the jury is still out on this topic. Here’s how Davies concludes his paper (which, by the way, is well worth your time to read):

“I do not believe that we as Africans have even begun to comprehend the long-term strategic implications of China’s growing commercial presence in Africa. A shift in Africa’s economic relations is occurring – away from traditional economies toward the east and  China. This force has not been created by the current crisis that is inflicting western economies, but it has definitely accelerated it. The developmental impact of this shift in Africa will begin to become clearer as the depth of China’s commercial penetration becomes greater.”

So, basically, Davies says, ‘Watch this space!’ At least there’s plenty to watch:

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This website is a project of Professor Gordon L. Clark and Dr. Ashby Monk of the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. Their research on sovereign wealth funds is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and The Rotman International Centre for Pension Management.

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