China’s foreign aid in Africa – a blessing or a curse?

It is a fact that China has become Africa’s largest trading partner with varied investments. But the reaction to that develpment is often very critical, no matter if it’s from the western countries or Africa itself. Often you can hear the words “Chinese Invasion” – but how much truth is contained in this expression? With this blog post I want to report on the existing opinions of several parties in order to give a clear overview of who says what in this complex matter.

The Zimbabwean Prime Minister called Arthur Mutambara is convinced that there is nothing such as “Chinese Invasion” since he is sure that this is just an American propaganda because America’s economy is unsteady whereas the Chinese economy is growing. Lately, China’s rising low cost manufacturing exports has contributed to lower manufacturing prices on the African market, which is a problem Mutambara commented on:

“What we need to do is to embrace Chinese investment. We must work on our own terms. […] We shouldn’t fight and describe them as invaders. […] China is moving. We need to do well by ourselves, to fix our economies, be successful. Nations are not driven by altruism; nations are not driven by Charity. We have natural resources in Africa – we have oil in Ghana. Africa must come to the table not for charity, but for economics. We must work together..”

Jacob Zuma, the South African president has another, rather alarming opinion regarding the massive Chinese interfering – he states that the unbalanced nature of Africa’s growing trade ties with China is unsustainable in the long term. Meanwhile, China’s president pledged $20 Billion on loans to Africa, which is the doubled amount of what was decided on the China-Africa Forum in Beijing.

What’s China’s view on this?
The Chinese president Hu Jintao is of course, in favor of what he calls “a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership”.

“The Chinese and African peoples have always treated each other as equals… we will… forever be a good friend, good partner and good brother of the African people.”

China has been importing many agricultural machines such as tractors, ploughs and harvesters to Africa but did never care to invest in a, let’s say, tractor manufacturing plant in Africa. This dependency on China is what Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga criticises. Here is what he has to say concerning the agricultural help from China.

“We should have a fertilizer manufacturing plant here instead of importing the product from China which causes delays and poor harvests.”

In the end China should not only invest in infrastructure and buildings, and should not concentrate on exporting made-in-china goods, BUT invest more in African factories and businesses, and create more jobs for Africans. This would be the key to win over many of the doubters.