BEIJING — Africa is growing faster economically than any other continent on earth––in fact, 7-10 times faster. Despite problems with hunger, violence and disease, Africa is rapidly developing and has reason to be optimistic about its future.
For example, foreign direct investment and bilateral trade deals with countries like China––Africa’s biggest investor and trade partner. In 2015, Chinese president Xi Jinping announced that the nation, having already invested billions in Africa during the 2000s, would invest another $60 billion in Chinese aid to Africa. That is only a piece of the picture, as Chinese aid to Africa also comes from private Chinese companies. A year after President Xi’s announcement, Chinese companies had already invested more than $56 billion in Africa.
Global consulting firm McKinsey and Company recently found that there are more than 10,000 Chinese firms in Africa. Of these firms, roughly 90 percent employ locals and nearly two-thirds provide skills training for employees, bringing the continent human and financial investment. The company report also finds that 48 percent of Chinese firms in Africa are manufacturing and introducing new products to their respective regions, and that 36 percent of these firms are bringing new technologies to Africa.
Combining both Chinese public and private investments in Africa, China’s contribution to African infrastructure dwarfs its contributions to technology and manufacturing. Funneling money through the state-run Export/Import Bank of China, Chinese aid to Africa includes thousands of major infrastructure projects. Al Jazeera estimates that nearly 30 percent of new infrastructure projects in Africa are funded by Chinese investments.
In Liberia for example, China has funded government infrastructure in the nation’s capital, Monrovia. From Monrovia to Ganta, a city bordering Guinea, stretches a 155-mile Chinese-built highway. Roads of this quality are a rare sight in the West African nation, but have helped improve the Liberian economy by allowing the convenient travel of persons and goods.
China’s “One Belt, One Road” is a state-sponsored project looking to link countries’ markets by providing infrastructure like railways. The Nairobi-Mombasa railway opened this year and will eventually span Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. At $3.2 billion, the project would not be possible without Chinese investment accounting for 90 percent of the railway’s cost.
Another investment is in South Africa, where energy giant Eskom has signed a $1.5 billion agreement with the China Development Bank. Eskom has faced problems in the recent past, having to make power cuts because of a lack of energy supply. The new Medupi plant, however, will be the world’s largest dry-cooled and coal-fired power station once complete, producing 4800 megawatts of power.
Eskom’s acting CEO Johnny Dladla recently told reporters that the Chinese loan will “ensure security of energy supply.”
China is hoping that its investments in Africa will be mutually beneficial. With new infrastructure in place, Africa will be able to further boost its economy, the fastest-growing of any continent. China, on the other hand, needs access to African mineral resources to continue developing its economy, the fastest-growing of any nation.
In a 2009 report, the World Bank noted that sub-Saharan African countries had seen yearly real GDP growth of around 4 to 6 percent for several years, and that foreign investments in the region had facilitated this––with “China being by far the largest player.”
It is no wonder that African views of China are changing given the economic progress China has facilitated. Data from Afrobarometer shows that 63 percent of the 56,000 surveyed Africans had positive feelings about China’s presence on the continent.The partnership is improving millions of lives; Africa is getting the infrastructure and energy needed to develop economically.
African college students are choosing to study in China more frequently than the U.S. or U.K., and China has pledged to grant 30,000 African students scholarships to study in China by 2018. Because of China’s strict visa policies, many of these students will have to return to Africa after receiving their degrees.
Chinese aid to Africa unmatched –– and, believe it or not, growing. Trade between China and Africa has grown around 20 percent a year for the past decade. At this rate, Africa can expect another $200 billion from China in trade deals and investments by 2020.
– David McLellan