If you are familiar with the oratory and protestations of Pan Africanist and Law Professor PLO Lumumba, China is leading the recolonisation of Africa. Under the 2013 Belt and Roads Initiative China has become Africa’s biggest trading partner and investor.
According to the China Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University the total loans to African countries number 1143 and amount to $153bn. There are concerns that those loans represent so called debt traps that entice disparate African leaders into overleveraging state resources and assets. 90% of those investments come through private companies, with the major infrastructure projects in the energy, agriculture, and transport sectors being delivered by state owned enterprises (Miao Miao 2010). Alongside the economic concerns, critics also cite the issue of labour exploitation and the underutilisation of local workforces. They also cite more soft and cultural concerns as many governments adapt their language policies to include mandarin on the curriculum. However, in 2018, at the Forum for Chinese/Africa Cooperation in Beijing President Xi Jinping offered African leaders an additional US$60 billion in finance, and if research by global law firm CMS is to be believed 72% of senior African executives are open to more Chinese development projects. That $153bn, in the short term at least, looks set to grow.
The counter arguments are equally compelling. Africa has a clear infrastructure gap and needs finance to fill it. The loans from China are cheaper than those from the IMF and the African Development Bank. Like all borrowing and national debt, if used with fiscal responsibility there are good opportunities for nations to accelerate industrialisation at scale. Not only that, trade partnerships work both ways. The economic trends indicate African exports to China is a key stimulant of growth in stagnant economies. Plus, the whole world borrows from China. The Belt and Road initiative includes almost 100 non African countries. Yes, China is competing against the US to become the world’s most dominant superstate, but this is how the business works, this is the business of development. If you look at China 50 or so years ago it was not too dissimilar to Africa, with a huge and young population, maybe there is much to learn of their success. China’s emergence as a new imperial force might well be true, even if only ideologically, but under the strict definition of the term, in the China Africa relationship, there is little evidence of political imposition or conditionalities that constitute colonialism and neo-colonialism?
On 23rdNov we have two expert scholars to debate whether this to be true or untrue for you to decide.