At this point, China has a fairly well-established traderelationship with a number of sub-Saharan African countries. Despite someimprovements over the years, Africa has not benefitted from Western aid nearlyas much as they had originally hoped to. Thus, the door has opened for China toincrease already-established economic relations with Africa. While China mayhave more to gain from economic relations with Africa, it is nonetheless animportant relationship for a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa in termsof economic, medical, and educational development. Througheconomic relations with Africa, China has also been able to extenddesperately-needed medical services over forty-six years in the form of ChinaMedical Teams (CMT) that offer free facilities and medication (Anshan, 6). Aspart of this medical aid, approximately 17,000 medical workers have beendispatched to 48 African countries over the years treating roughly 200 millionpeople (Anshan, 6).
Most importantly from an economic standpoint, China hasassisted Africa in human capital development. In the context of modern dayAfrica, the concept of “human resource” is primarily derived from the humandevelopment school (Anshan, 11). In addition to the significance of educationand health in human resource development emphasized by the human resource theory,the human development school goes even further with an included emphasis on”empowerment, cooperation, equity, sustainability, and security” (Anshan, 11).
Human capital has been identified by many economists as being a key factor indetermining the level of well being of an economy, thus human resourcedevelopment is crucial for economic progression (Anshan, 12). This is an areaof development that China has placed added emphasis on in assisting Africa, anarea that many Western sources of economic assistance for Africa have seemed tooverlook. Many African leaders have cited thelack of skilled human capital as a key factor in much of Africa’s inability toflourish in a globalized economy (Anshan, 12).
Many of Africa’s skilled people,especially those specialized in the medical field, have left Africa forwealthier nations in order to earn higher incomes (Anshan, 13). Although Chinais a completely different situation than Africa (seeing as China is just onenation), China is very qualified to assist Africa in human resource developmentin that they too dealt with the problem of a lack of skilled human capital inthe past. In the past, foreign aid to Africa has often heavily relied onforeign expertise with little local input. This is a major detriment to developmentcapacity as it overlooks the various, complex intricacies of a nationaleconomy. A figure that really sticks out is that roughly two-thirds of Africanshave no access to family planning or HIV prevention programs (Anshan, 16).
Alack of general healthcare inherently undermines human resource development.Human resource development in Africa has definitely been hindered by theStructural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) introduced by the International MonetaryFund (IMF) and World Bank in the 1980s (Anshan, 14). As a result of SAPs, manyAfrican nations found themselves in heavy levels of debt. It is also estimatedthat through forty years, roughly 90% of the $12 billion a year in technicalassistance is spent on foreign expertise (Ashan, 15). It appears that theseprograms are not necessarily designed for African countries to “graduate” fromthis foreign assistance, further exacerbating the issue of African dependencyon foreign aid.
Local African expertise is being heavily underutilized. In manycases, technical assistance is often treated as a price of foreign aid ratherthan a solution for local problems (Anshan, 15). China’sapproach to aid in Africa differs greatly from that of the West in that theyplace special emphasis on the receiving country’s sovereignty (Cheng, 2). Chinaalso holds a “no strings attached” policy in which they claim to not imposeideology or values on countries that they provide aid to (Cheng, 3). This is inaddition to their “non-interference” policy in which they have pledged to notbe directly involved in internal conflicts in the recipient nations. Thesepolicies have not been met without international criticism, with some countriesclaiming that China may be ignoring human rights abuses in some of the Africannations that they provide aid to (Kushamba, 5). Many leaders in Africa havebeen extremely appreciative of the assistance China has provided.
China wasamong the first countries to respond to the Ebola crisis (Cheng, 4). They alsopay special attention to the development of infrastructure, an area the Westhas often overlooked (Kushamba, 2). In addition to infrastructure building,China has stressed technical training to manage new infrastructure.While China has had diplomatic andmilitary ties with African nations since the 1950s, large scale trade has beena fairly recent development with 681% increase between 2001 and 2007 (Kushamba,3). Trade between China and Africa grew from $2 billion in 1999 to $160 billionin 2012 (Kushamba, 8). China is also very active in Africa in providing loans.
As of 2013, the Chinese claimed that they had aid accords with 48 Africancountries and loan agreements with 22 (Kushamba, 5). China is Africa’s mostsignificant partner in terms of infrastructure development which some areas ofAfrica desperately need (Kushamba, 7). Some examples of this would be Chineseinvestment in steel-making facilities in Zambia, broadcasting systems inLiberia, toll roads in Uganda, railroads in Ethiopia, and the list goes on(Kushamba, 7). China has invested heavily in the business sectors such asretail, finance, and food processing (Kushamba, 9).
Chinese firms have alsotypically promoted inter-regional trade, allowing for more diversification ofAfrican economies. This differentiates them in their approach to trade inAfrica as they heavily encourage intraregional trade, as opposed to thetraditional Western approach to aid in Africa in which national borders(drafted at the 1885 Berlin Conference) served as barriers of trade (Maswana,106). China is investing in roads and railways to facilitate this intraregionaltrade. In the last twenty years, China has experienced a massive increase inthe import of African materials In exchange for providing assistanceto Africa, China does receive a great deal in return.
One-third of Chineseimports are from Africa (Kushamba, 4). It is also no secret that China givesdisproportionate aid to countries with large natural resource reserves. Therewas also the issue of the Nigerian government rejecting the World Bank railwayproposal in 2007 as it contained stipulations relating to human rights abusesin Nigeria (Kushamba, 8). They instead opted for the $7 billion Chinese planwhich contained no language relating to human rights abuses. This is again aproduct of Chinese non-interventionist policies (Kushamba, 8). A 2013 figureestimates that roughly 55% of Chinese imports were minerals, and they importmuch of them from Africa (Kushamba, 9). In exchange, they import massivequantities of textiles and electronics into Africa.
This says to me that not onlyare the Chinese pursuing resource extraction in Africa, but market developmentas well. However, many Africans believe the quality of Chinese products to besubstandard, having been referred by some as “Fong Kongs” in South Africa and”Zhing-Zhong” in Zimbabwe (Kushamba, 14). Many researchers have also observedthat China’s natural resource extraction in Africa may be damaging to Africaneconomies in that proceeds are not being properly invested back into Africaneconomies (Kushamba, 9).
Over the years, the import of massive quantities ofChinese manufactured products into Africa may have also damaged Africa’smanufacturing sector most likely due to price competitiveness. The SouthAfrican textile industry has been heavily affected by this phenomenon. Chinaalso does not necessarily follow environmental regulations with regard to itsactivities in Africa (Le, 106).
This is true in the case of the Lamu PortConstruction project in the port town of Lamu, Kenya (Le, 106). China hasinvested heavily in this project as this port would be a huge economic assetfor them by increasing shipping capacity to and from East Africa. However, theymay not be paying enough special attention to the potential effects on both thenatural and human environment in Lamu County. Fishermen, honey harvesters, andpastoralists in the region have all reported increasingly lower yields as morefamilies move there for work to make way for the impending construction of theport (Le, 116).
A 2010 feasibility report estimated that the population of LamuCounty will increase by more than ten times from the 2009 estimate of roughly110,000 people to well over a 1.2 million upon completion (Le, 116). As moremangrove forests are cleared to make way for the transport corridor leading tothe port, the livelihoods are being affected as many of them rely on themangroves for timber, home goods, traditional medicine, and mosquito repellant(when burned) (Le, 118).
Lamu County is overwhelmingly Muslim, and the localpopulace fears that conflicts may occur with the migration of new workers intoLamu County (who may be of varying religious backgrounds) (Le, 118). With thenew influx, locals also fear that the risk of sexually transmitted diseases mayspread. 65% of locals interviewed thought that the local environment would bedamaged by the construction of the port (Le, 119). Lamu County hastraditionally been a well preserved area in terms of its rich history, butagain, historical structures as well as local culture may be affected by theport. Another interesting observation isthat the Chinese and Kenyan governments have done a terrible job at interfacingwith the locals, with some not even aware of the construction project (Le,119). China’s importing of unprocessed primary commodities from Africa and theexport of manufactured goods to Africa has been described by Lamido Sanusi(governor of Nigeria’s central bank at the time) as the “essence ofcolonialism” (Maswana, 96).
Using the relative trade index model (RTI), it wasdetermined that there were ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a scorelarger than 1 (Maswana, 103). This indicates not only high volumes of trade,but high levels of dependency as well. In a sense, dependency can be viewed asa precursor to neo-colonialism. What was also interesting was that South Africaand Nigeria, China’s two largest trading partners in Africa, had among thelowest RTIs in Africa (Maswana, 103). This may be due to the fact that they bothtend to have more resources and thus a more diversified economy when comparedto most other African nations. Africanperceptions of China are an interesting topic, with a wide range of opinionsexisting depending on the people and place.
Many African leaders, namelySenegalese President Macky Sall, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and formerSouth African President Thabo Mbeki, have expressed admiration forChinese-African relations (Kushamba, 14). According to a 2010 Pew Researchpoll, 75% of Nigerians held a favorable view of China (Kushamba, 14). However,as noted before, many view Chinese products as poor in quality as evidenced bya study performed by the Ethics Institute of South Africa (2014) in which thevast majority of participants held an unfavorable view of Chinese products(Kushamba, 14). In Ghana for example, the people have mostly viewed Chineseintervention in its economy as positive and conducive to development. However,this has started to change, specifically in western Ghana due to relativelyrecent events.
The Chinese-run bauxite mines of Ghana have met significantbacklash (Aidoo, 60). While the mines have provided jobs, they have also drawnattention in China to the mineral-rich nature of West Ghana, thus attractingmany freelance Chinese miners attempting to participate in “galamsey”. Galamseyrefers to independent, artisanal gold extraction, specifically in Ghana (Aidoo,55). Unlike the local miners who used traditional tools, the Chinese typicallyemployed heavy machinery and chemicals for mining. Some of these chemicals aretoxic and have gotten into the water supply, damaging the drinking water of thelocals and further stirring up anti-Chinese sentiment (Aidoo, 60). However, theChinese miners were readily able to find willing local Ghanaians to work injoint ventures. Further stirring up local anger, it has even been suggested bysome that local chieftains may have assisted the Chinese in the acquisition ofmachinery and chemicals for mining in exchange for kickbacks (Aidoo, 65).
TheChinese dabbling in galamsey are at odds with China’s “non-interventionist”policies. As more Chinese miners flooded the area around the village of Awasoin western Ghana, mass deportations began to occur in 2013 known as the”galamsey crisis” (Aidoo, 58). This crisis could not have come at a worse timefor Ghana because they had just accepted a $3 billion loan from China in 2012,the largest single credit facility to an African country (Aidoo, 61). ManyGhanaians hold an unfavorable view of these Chinese miners, seeing them asinvaders there to exploit Ghana’s resources for profit. Ironically, theactivities of these miners would not have been possible without the assistanceof local Ghanaians.
I think this really highlights the complexities of bothlocal and international players in a globalized economy. Inconclusion, one can draw a number of perspectives from the data regardingSino-African economic relations depending on the source. There is no doubt thatChina is looking to exploit African natural resources and markets for profit,just as Western nations have done in the past.
However, China has at timesprovided a number of African countries with greatly needed medical, humanresource, and infrastructural development. I would say that for some Africannations that lack large quantities of skilled workers, manufacturingcapabilities, and infrastructure, it would be in their best interest to remainin economic relations with China. However, all African nations are not createdequal so this statement will not hold true for everyone. If nothing else,engaging in economic relations with China cannot be any more harmful for Africathan engaging in economic relations with the West, albeit for differentreasons. However, like many African leaders, I believe that the current stateof the relationship is unsustainable (especially with regard to rampant Chineseextraction of nonrenewable resources), and needs to be altered to best benefitAfrica in the future.