CHINA AND AFRICA
We all know that China is deeply invested in Africa. There is, at least on the surface, a mutually beneficial relationship to be had between China and individual nation states. China has money, the capacity to invest and build in Africa, and tends not to be too concerned with such niceties as human rights. Africa has natural resources, a craving for outside investment, and a desire to work with investors who won’t go about encroaching on national sovereignty.
So what are the countries that most benefit from Chinese investment and partnership? The Christian Science Monitor has a slideshow of the top five. The top three will come as no surprise: Angola, Nigeria, and Sudan are big countries with vast (and reasonably developed) oil resources and are happy to partner with China, which is happy to extract the oil while ignoring the political situation on the ground. The last two are something of a surprise. Mauritania has experienced two coups in the last decade, but it seems that on all political sides there is agreement on a desire for a heightened Chinese presence in a country that has both burgeoning reserves and an ambitious port project.
President Zuma in China
Coming in fifth is Botswana, which does not have oil like the other four, but it does have abundant natural resources, a fast-growing economy in a stable society, and a desire for strong investment partnerships. China is happy to reciprocate. Anyone who has spent time in Gabarone and has visited the University of Botswana or the National Stadium has seen the almost stunning volume of building that Chinese companies are carrying out.
Chinese involvement in Africa is a dual-edged sword. After all, looking beyond the West for investment and other partnerships makes complete sense, especially in a post-Cold War world where the bilateral struggle for dominance by the superpowers that led to considerable (if oftentimes deleterious) attention from the United States and Soviet Union gave way to not-so-benign neglect. But the question remains whether many African states are inviting unintended consequences much like those they faced during the Cold War when they largely represented pawns in a geo-political game. It’s savvy to look east as long as doing so does not preclude continuing to peer westward as well. Indeed, looking both ways and not going all-in with any particular partner, however seductive, might just provide the best path for true growth, development, and political autonomy.