In a Game of Dodgeball, Africa Picks China

China’s agenda has recently looked like this:

Image by Supal Desai
Image by Supal Desai

Our recent articles, “Africa’s Soil Box” and “China’s Fortune Cookie says: Invest in Africa” outlined the growing interest China has in Africa and the current development deals underway.  In theory, US-China bilateral assistance to Africa surely has got to work as well, with China supporting entrepreneurial endeavors and US providing its consistent aid. But have their combined efforts been beneficial to development in Africa? No. Who told us? The “leaks.” According to Kenyan ambassador to China, Julius Ole Sunkuli,

“Sunkuli claimed that Africa was better off thanks to China’s practical, bilateral approach to development assistance and was concerned that this would be changed by ‘Western’ interference.  He said he saw no concrete benefit for Africa in even minimal cooperation.  Sunkuli said Africans were frustrated by Western insistence on capacity building, which translated, in his eyes, into conferences and seminars.  They instead preferred China’s focus on infrastructure and tangible project.”

Currently, China is providing African countries with aid on the condition that African countries use China’s telecom facilities.  As mentioned in one of our previous blogs, such deals benefit Africa because China helps replace Africa’s current telecom operating system and thus boosts the participating nation’s technological readiness score (reviewed in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report). Additionally, the African country  recieves development loans to initiate various projects, such as agribusiness in Sudan.  Such deals give Africa the incentive to establish their business sector AND receive foreign assistance.

But what has the West done with regards to development in Africa? Elsje Fourie’s blog outlined 4 problems with development projects in Africa.

  1. Traditional donors would not lend money for infrastructural development unless the donors used their own construction companies for the task.  This was highly criticized and resulted in more open loans.
  2. Western donors did not consult with local communities on the communities’ desires.
  3. There is no transparency even with the efforts of International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATS)
  4. Donors do not follow up on their aid initiatives.

It seems that the US got it wrong, while China has won the hearts and minds in Africa.  African officials have indicated that the competition among donors has had a positive influence on Africa’s development.  With decades of Western development projects and initiatives, African countries now enjoy the options presented to them from new and traditional donors.

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