Why Africa Is Turning to China and it will drive Global Prosperi

(2018-02-11 22:30:03) 下一个

Why Africa Is Turning to China

France losing Africa to China – The Mercury News

Africa is changing China as much as China is changing Africa — Quartz

Why Africa Is Turning to China

Ghana held its general elections last December 7 and 8, 2012, reelecting incumbent President John Dramani Mahama. However, Nana Akufo-Addo, flag-bearer of the opposition New Patriotic Party, is challenging Mahama’s narrow win and intends to contest the result in court, a legal process that is sure to be prolonged. The verdict could potentially challenge Ghana’s generally stable and peaceful political environment. What will not change are the country’s close economic ties to China.

On my trip to Ghana in 2011, I observed Chinese foremen at the construction sites of the now completed George W. Bush Highway. The massive Ministry of Defense building in Ghana’s capital, Accra, was constructed with a $50-million Chinese grant. The Bui Hydroelectric Dam is a collaborative project of the government of Ghana and Sino Hydro, a Chinese construction company. In 2012, China invested in a new Ghanaian airline that serves domestic routes, and it is likely that the China Airports Construction Corporation (CACC) will be involved in building Accra’s new international airport.

But Ghana is not the only African country in which China operates. Indeed, China is the largest financier on the entire continent. Chinese corporations, financial institutions, and the government have invested billions of dollars in large new dams, for example.

common charge is that Chinese companies prefer to bring in Chinese employees (and even prisoners) to work on African projects, rather than relying on a local labor force. But Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo maintains that in Zambia, at least, the ratio of African to Chinese workers exceeds 13:1, and that there is no evidence of Chinese prisoners working there.

As African countries like Ghana search for infrastructure improvements to accelerate their economic growth, China has sidelined the role of the West on the continent.

A fundamental question is how China’s model of economic activity in Africa differs from the approach of Western countries, and whether Africa is better off for it. World Bank analyst David Dollar points out that the West has by and large gotten out of hard infrastructure projects, which is where China concentrates its activity, particularly in power and rail.

A 2009 World Bank report estimated that Chinese financial commitments to African infrastructure projects rose from less than $1 billion per year in 2001-2003 to around $1.5 billion per year in 2004-2005, reaching at least $7 billion in 2006. In July 2012, Chinese President Hu Jintao offered $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next three years. The estimate for total Chinese investment from 2010 to 2012 is $101 billion.

How good is all this for Africa? U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has not been sanguine about her opinion of China’s role in Africa, implying during her Africa trip in August 2012 that China is unconcerned about democracy and human rights on the continent—compared to the United States, which she says is committed to “a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extract[ing] it.” In Zambia, she warned of a “new colonialism“ threatening the African continent, adding, “We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders, and leave.”

In July 2010, the Chinese ambassador to South Africa, Xian Xuejun, criticized Western politicians and media who “make irresponsible remarks on China-Africa relations.” After all, when it comes to colonialism and neocolonialism alike, the West’s record has hardly been spotless. We need only be reminded of the cozy relationship between the United States and the ruinous Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, one of many authoritarian rulers on the continent to have been propped up by Washington.

Indeed, many African governments prefer China as an economic partner over Western countries for a number ofreasons. First, China’s own development experience has instructive value. Second, China fulfills Africa’s need for critical infrastructure more cheaply, less bureaucratically, and more quickly. And finally, China portrays Africa more positively as a partner in “mutually beneficial cooperation” and “common prosperity,” rather than a “doomed continent“ requiring aid.

China’s record in Africa will remain mixed and subject to debate, but what happens on the ground in the everyday dealings between Africans and the Chinese will shape the consensus. Stories of dangerous skirmishes can tarnish either side, but the reputation of the Chinese will ultimately rest upon whether China delivers what is best for the continent.

How China's $60 Billion For Africa Will Drive Global Prosperity

 Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (L) and Chinese President, Xi Jinping (R) shake hands during the signing ceremony at Great Hall of the People (Photo by /Kyodo News - Pool/Getty Images)

As a long-term investor and developer of infrastructure in West Africa, I have been tracking China’s courtship of African nations over the last decade. Traditionally, most Chinese foreign investment in Africa has been aggressively one sided and based more on politics than an objective business case. These investments often require local sovereign guarantees and strong local government support. This may be one of the reasons why, despite the strong business case for infrastructure development in Africa, these investments have yielded mixed results.

The basis of Chinese investment in Africa is now changing, perhaps in part due to slowing growth in China and the crack downs on corruption taking place in China and in many African countries, notably Nigeria. In fact, both traditional Western and Chinese investors have acknowledged over the last two years that new, business-focused, transparent investment strategies are urgently required for Africa. Both sets of foreign investors are now collaborating more with credible private local companies and institutions, rather than governments and/or politically exposed people and organisations.

However, China has been the first to back this new focus with significant specific investment commitments. In December 2015, President Xi Jinping ushered in a new era of “real win-win cooperation” between China and Africa. This strategy aims to create mutual prosperity, allowing investors to “do good while doing right.” China has backed this proposal up with a commitment of $60 billion of new investment in major capital projects, which are tied to developing local economic capacity. This level of commitment contrasts starkly with the action, or lack thereof from the West. Western banks and investment institutions tied to archaic and largely ineffective Africa investment models are in danger of missing out on the double digit returns that successful African investments provide. Overall there is strong and growing sentiment that the political upheavals and slow adoption of sustainable business models in Europe and America, present an opportunity for Asia and Africa to help each other to develop and thrive.

By 2050, 25% of the world’s nine billion population will Africans and most of them will be under 30. To unlock the prosperity that such a human capital boon can lead to a transition must be made from financing strategies based on aggressive extraction of short-term high returns and raw materials to those focused on sustainability. The commitments made by President Xi Jinping in 2015 follow this model – comprehensively targeting areas that should foster sustainable economic growth: industrialization, agriculture modernization, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.

Outmaneuvering the competition

This change in investment approach appears to be working already, with the balance of influence in Africa increasingly favoring China’s state-led capitalism. Quartz published in October last year data from Afrobarometer which showed 63% of the 56,000 people polled in 36 African countries responded that China’s influence in their countries was somewhat to very positive. Chinese investments in infrastructure, development and businesses where cited as primary factors contributing to a positive image of China as an enabler of business in Africa. China also ranked highly on the external influence barometer at 23%, just edging out the U.S. and falling a few percentage points behind former European colonial powers.

The exactness of these survey results is less important than what the numbers signify. Aubrey Hruby, co-author of the 2015 book The Next Africa: An Emerging Continent Becomes a Global Powerhouse, notes that the Chinese are known for ‘moving quickly’ in Africa, relative to the U.S. By September 2016, Chinese companies had invested more than $14 billion in Africa – data from fDi Intelligence also shows that Chinese capital investment into Africa increased by 515% up to July 2016 over full-year 2015 figures. As African nations and the burgeoning private sector companies within them pursue exponential yet sustainable growth, the agility of the Chinese will be even more attractive.

Compelling returns will be gained from sustainable business strategies, an estimated addition of $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2030, according to a report launched in Davos in January 2017, by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. It will take more than Chinese and African investment to unlock this U.S. $12 trillion. I hope that the high-profile escalation and shift in strategy of Chinese investment in Africa will stimulate a quicker similar shift in the West. In fact, given the global demographic trends, the untapped potential in Africa, the need for more local empowerment and support for the real private sector it will require more than financing to reach this U.S. $12 trillion goal. Africa needs input from and partnership with a wide range of countries and investors. This will be capital, technology and time well spent as Africa is so clearly a continent that will yield hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions in returns for long-term sustainable investors.

Ultimately, what comes of China’s promises and the shifting global dynamics depends largely on what we do ourselves. As indigenes in African countries we have been the loci for these investments, we must ensure that real local content thrives – both during the building of and the operation of strategic infrastructure. Sustainability relies not only on goodwill from the East and the West, but also on us being able to add value, negotiate and focus on long-term goals in our various countries.

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