The Presence of China in Africa: But is China the Savior for Third World Countries?


The question of how China is impacting the world is often framed as a welcome development to Third World Countries. When China opened up to the world, the clear objective was to seek opportunity for resources with vigor and self determination. This remarkable paradox deserves our attention. For 30 years, China focus on building its domestic economy, creating a tailwind economy that glean resources from the Third World to Mainland China for domestic consumption. In light of China’s meteoric rise, it is plausible to understand why there presence in Africa makes economic sense. To raise the realm of China’s presence in Africa is to ask what is Africa gaining in return? The reality is of course far cry from solution.

One of the most disconcerting notion of China to Africa is the said aforementioned that, it provides incentive for socioeconomic advancement which would ultimately be the bedrock for infrastructural development. Without taking various stride into consideration, China’s economic engagement in Africa is a Debt Trap. A vivid illustration of this points to the Momba- Nairobi gauge railway project built by Chinese skill workers. It is therefore worth underlining that 80% of the project cost was loan through China; equating around the region of $3.2 Billion. While it is agreed that Africa needs serious investment in infrastructure, it is to be realize that the logistics of the contract is not economically feasible. “The loans are the country’s biggest yet- accounting to 6% of gross domestic product (GDP),” echoing this sentiment was Nancy Kacungira, a BBC correspondent for East Africa.

Another explanation put forward was the Ethiopia – Djibouti railway project which was unveiled in 2016. In similar vein, the contract was chanelled through Chinese bank eclipsing more than $3.4 Billion in development loan according to information obtained from BBC.

Contrary to popular views, China’s influence in Africa is uncas, eerie – from the economic stand point. By blurring the lines, the position of China in Africa is a reflection of neo colonial sentiment. The popular consensus is that China’s involvement in the continent is quid pro quo. Such phenomenon or conclusion echoes that China comes to Africa with provision of raw cash in exchange of resources and development projects.

There is a tendency manifested by China to solidify it’s global wing. Many explanations that speak for this is the Micro-Macro Paradox. China, as the new economic frontier on the pipeline, goes beyond and above creating short-term fixes for world’s economic conundrum. Drawing from recent evidence, China granted $5 Billion in development loan to Venezuela in an effort to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis of the country. The condition of the loan will succinctly allow China to salient over key investment assets under Chinese control.

Finding new ways to understand China’s economic objective therefore requires to focus on their history. China had always shown strong ambition to be the world’s pioneer in developmen prospect, an effort which must be commendable. Recall the Great Leap Forward under president Mao Zedong which occured in 1957 — was a campaign aimed to reinvogare the country from agarian economy to industrial base system. The outcome, however, resulted a total collapsed of China’s economy thereby — claiming so many lives. The context given here suggests that China’s desire to cement its global dominance is not a new phenomenon. They have been orchestrating this for so long!

In the quest for a solution to Africa’s economic woes, the real importance is the human emphasis. A persuasive argument could be made that the way forward for Africa is to invest in human wellbeing. Creating an environment where citizens are accorded the opportunity to improve their social strata should be the ultimate objective. Focusing on GDP to measure development is a misguided theory of development. For it doesn’t focus on poverty elevation, it often negates the real importance, which is, the state of human wellbeing.

In my capacity as a political observant, too often, development is seen as a tantamount to building infrastructure or anything deem tangible in public space. While this might not be a sound approach, it is not always benign in context such as growth and human development.

On final note, am hopeful a young generation of African will change the political and economic landscape of the continent with vigor and selflessness!


Ebrima/Sellu Baldeh

Ohio University: Center of International Development


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