China has pledged to overtake the World Bank as Africa’s main financial provider in the coming years
Links between China and Africa are growing. More than 700 Chinese companies are active in Africa, and trade between China and the continent is worth US$55 billion. China gets roughly a third of its oil and many other important natural resources from African countries. These assets have helped fuel China’s remarkable economic growth.
To balance its dealing with Africa, China has pledged to overtake the World Bank as Africa’s main financial provider. Last year, China pledged US$5 billion to set up a China-Africa development fund encouraging Chinese companies to invest in and provide financial support to Africa.
It also promised to train 15,000 African professionals, send 100 senior Chinese agricultural experts to Africa and set up 10 agricultural technology demonstration centres over the next three years. Recently, Chinese president Hu Jintao visited eight African countries (Angola, Cameroon, Liberia, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan and Zambia) and pledged millions of dollars worth of investment.
To Zambia, for example, Hu promised US$800 million over the next three years. With some of this money, China plans to establish an economic zone.
The Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao has repeatedly rejected criticism that his country is only interested in Africa only because of its raw materials. He said his country is committed to helping Africa develop in all sectors of the economy.
Some of the problems arising from China’s investment and donations have been caused because China is a newcomer to international aid issues and Chinese economic activity in Africa is very business-centred. The Chinese government officials argue that China’s scientific presence in Africa is highly enterprise-oriented, mainly existing in telecommunications, and sometimes in the mining or oil industries.
They say that Chinese enterprises are the main source of Chinese money in Africa, but this is mainly because China has not developed a mature foreign assistance system that can operate independently. Many Chinese companies have not been in Africa long enough to develop the capacity to involve local people.
There are exceptions though, like China’s National Petroleum Corporation, which has projects in some West African countries and has donated millions of dollars to help develop infrastructure in local communities.
And though Chinese technical aid exists in agriculture and malaria prevention, the projects are small scale and limited to a few countries, so they may not necessarily be experienced by local people. China is also inexperienced in the culture and politics of Africa.