The Chinese are the neo-colonialists of Africa. In their pursuit of energy security and raw materials the Chinese government and Chinese companies have locked resource-rich African states into loans and contracts which could start to squeeze them hard in ten or so years’ time. What’s more, many of the jobs that have been created have gone to Chinese workers rather than local people, and those Africans who do get employed by Chinese companies in Africa enjoy little in the way of workers’ rights. Much like the original Western colonial powers, China has no interest in promoting the development of African states by transferring skills and technology. There is no long-term benefit to Africa from Chinese business.
That’s the view of the China critics, but is it a fair one? Between 2007 and 2020, China invested $23 billion in infrastructure on the continent, $8 billion more than the other top eight lenders combined. China doesn’t want to see African countries caught in a trap – the problems with financing have more to do with corruption and lack of transparency than ill will. In exchange for building schools, roads and infrastructure, China gains access to the continent’s mineral assets and both sides benefit. China has an impressive track record of lifting its own millions out of poverty and can do the same for Africa.
Is China’s investment in Africa a continuation of the West’s earlier oppression of the continent? Or is it a win-win story of 21st-century development?