Authors: Edward H., Sandy Yao Jun, Qian Yiguan
Affiliated Organization: International Research Journal of Social Sciences
Type of publication: Article
Date of publication: September 2013
Sino-African Cooperation dates as far back as the sixteen century during the Ming Dynastic (1368-1644) when a famous Chinese navigator “Zheng He” visited the East African coast.
Prior to his visit two distinguished African scholars/explorers, Ibn Buttatu of Morocco and Sa ́id Mogadishu of Somalia had made voyages to China. Although these navigations were not of any economic relevance, they demonstrated the intuition of both African and Chinese navigators to embark on trans-continental voyages, which could be viewed as significant breakthroughs of such eras. Through these expeditions, China and African began establishing socio-political corporations and exploring cultural exchanges that have ever been the blue-print in the relationship between the two.
The Bandung Conference held in 1955 was first major conference initiated by the Chinese leadership and African leaders, which started the mapping out of a strategic framework for mutual bilateral and regional cooperation between China and Africa. This mile-stone achievement paved the way for stronger technical and military support that served as a major impetus in some instances in the struggle against colonial rule in Africa . However, this era had little focus on economic partnership but nonetheless marked the start of China’s fraternal relationship with Africa built on mutual respect and benefit that is even now the core of present day diplomatic ties between the two. By extension, this translates into a Chinese foreign policy of non-alliance and non-interference in domestic issues of other countries that has become a trail blazer in her international cooperation with Africa and the world at large.
Post revolutionary era in China has witnessed rapid economic and development growth due to strategic economic reforms that has bestowed supremacy on China as the world’s factory and the second largest global economy.
These achievements come at a cost, and in order to maintain this status or even attain higher goals, China’s demand for natural resources (mineral ore, crude oil etc) in meeting her production capacity has exponentially escalated putting her in a trajectory to fiercely compete with 5 other global economies for the now limited natural resources.
The Bandung Conference held in 1955 was first major conference initiated by the Chinese leadership and African leaders, which started the mapping out of a strategic framework for mutual bilateral and regional cooperation between China and Africa
From 2000 to date, China has organized four forums on China-Africa cooperation that placed more emphasis on trade and economic cooperation. The first in 2000, focused on globalization and enhancement of China-Africa economic cooperation, which reached broad consensus on establishing a fair international political and economic order in the 21st century, and the promotion of Sino-African economic and trade cooperation.
Two official documents emanated as blueprint : the “Beijing Declaration of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation” and “Sino-African Cooperation Guidelines for Socio-Economic Development”, served as a frame work for building long-term, stable and mutually beneficial new relations. A second summit held in Ethiopia, addressed the implementation of the blueprint with special emphasis on human resource development, agriculture, infrastructure, investment and trade corporations. A third summit “the FOCAC Summit” held in Beijing 2006, addressed the new implementation of Education aid for Africa. In this summit, US$ 5 billion worth of concessionary loans to Africa was rolled out and followed by the launching of the China-Africa Development Fund worth US$ 1 billion that was meant to spur up Chinese investment in Africa.
Currently, majority of African countries (49 out of 54) have excellent bilateral relations with China known as the People’s Republic of China.
Moreover, China as a developing country is viewed as a common development partner of African countries. The true fraternal ties between the country and African countries have been manifested even in crises periods by the tendency to maintain diplomatic posts for as long as necessary in troubled African countries. On the contrary however, Western countries have the tendency to provoke or aggravate political crises on the continent and in turn impose economic and political sanctions, an approach that has plunge a number of African countries into long term political instabilities.
The core principle of China-Africa economic cooperation is to achieve a win-win scenario through the promotion of mutual economic benefits.
China’s best approach has been to establish strategic partnership the continent’s regional and economic blocks while strengthening bilateral relations with individual countries.
With Africa struggling under the yoke of under-development, China as a starling model is considered the most appropriate development partner that can usher promise in the continent’s development strides. As a power house for emerging technologies, China is the most willing to share the much needed technological support to drive Africa’s industrial and economic growth as underscored in the preceding narrative. As the second largest world economy and her rising influence on geopolitics, China has a lot to offer Africa in exchange for good will and natural resources. Although Africa is endowed with lots of natural resources, the lack of technical knowhow and capital is a major impediment in maximizing benefits from these resources. If Africa should rise above her developmental challenges, it will need development partners that understand its needs and willing to offer plausible solutions.
China is viewed by the West as a strong competitor for energy and other natural resources around the world. And Africa continues to offer more investment opportunities to China in the areas of agriculture, merchandise, petroleum and mineral resources. Nowadays, lots of Chinese entrepreneurs have secured huge acreages of agricultural land in Africa and are engaged in intensive mechanize agriculture using the local human resources and exchanging modern agricultural practices with local communities. China’s merchandise in Africa is thriving very well although there are still opportunities for further improvements. The country continues to forge new grounds in mining industries in Africa. Chinese investments now hold huge shares in mining companies with a large chunk of mineral ores being exported to China.
The core principle of China-Africa economic cooperation is to achieve a win-win scenario through the promotion of mutual economic benefits
A plethora of Chinese companies now compete with Western companies for infrastructural development contracts in Africa, and China’s long standing and impressive infrastructural investment on the continent gives it an upper hand. In the areas of social services, China is gradually filling the void created by the departure of Western interest.
China’s current investment in Africa is tallied at 1346 in about 45 countries on the continent and the top ten favorite investment destinations for Chinese companies are Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Angola, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana.
Chinese Oil Companies have secured strategic partnership with oil producing African countries. China’s first venture into petroleum investment in Africa dates back in 1995 after the retreat of Western oil companies from Sudan upstream oil fields.
Companies, Chinese companies forged partnership with some rogue oil rich African nations like Angola, Nigeria etc in spite of criticisms.
Africa is endowed with substantial energy resources from both fossil and renewable sources and the continent remains one of the most promising regions for energy investment. Energy reserves have grown to 56 percent in the past decade with recent discovery of oil and gas in Sub-Saharan Africa attracting international investors and developers. The top most viable geographic hydrocarbon hubs that have recently attracted investors in Africa include the West Africa’s Transform Margin, the Gulf of Guinea pre-salt plays, the East Africa’s rift system and the Rovuma Basin . Currently, there is increasing demand for Energy industry services that goes beyond traditional exploration and production as there are abundant downstream openings as well.
Although Africa is rich in energy resources, the continent is still faced with the challenge of producing enough power to stimulate its industrial and economic growth.
There are indications that Chinese companies are weighing the options for investing in South Africa’s iron ore deposits in the Northern Cape. It has a significant investment in the copper and cobalt mining industry in DR Congo and has offered the country a huge loan for its infrastructural development. The West African country Niger, offers prospects for China’s investment in its uranium deposits. Also, a Chinese company in Sierra Leone, recently entered partnership with London Mining Co. Ltd in an investment worth US$ 1.5 million in the country’s iron ore mining. Sierra Leone also offers new mining partnership opportunities to Chinese companies for its aluminum and titanium ore deposits.
The success stories of Chinese economic cooperation with African countries are numerous and stem from the attributes of China’s skilled labor, dedicated, prompt execution of development projects and mutual respect.
In West Africa, Chinese Trade investment is estimated in excess of US$ 5 billion
In spite of all the positive strides to establish solid and fraternal cooperation with Africa, China has been hunted by its adversaries, castigating China’s appalling labor rights record and environmental neglect in its signature investment projects.
Africa is endowed with substantial energy resources from both fossil and renewable sources
China must seek to play a leadership role by engaging African leaders on issues of corruption and good governance. Even though China pursues a non-interference foreign policy with regards countries’ domestic issues, it must seek to actively engage African leaders at regional and sub-regional levels on peace and conflict resolution. It must be noted that as China’s investment continues to expand in Africa, any future success will largely depend on political stability on the continent. The fact that China offers development aid to some African governments without any pre- conditionality could be a recipe for bad governance and unaccountability that will give rise to conflict. Non performing governments that enjoy the generosity of China would want to take advantage of that to hold on to political power indefinitely.
The elite group mostly comprising middle class scholars is quite apprehensive and hostile towards China’s interest, partly due to Western orientation and media insinuations China as an exploiter of the continent’s resources.
Although Africa is rich in energy resources, the continent is still faced with the challenge of producing enough power to stimulate its industrial and economic growth
Education and cultural exchanges could help eradicate stereotypes and strengthen the China-Africa bond. As a way of demonstrating China’s commitment to sustainable development in Africa, putting more emphasis on environmental mitigation practice, community development in its investment strides, will boost future investment opportunities on the continent.
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