Posted: Fri, December 04, 2015 | By: Africa
China recently pledged $60 billion “of assistance and loans for Africa to help with the development of the continent.” This adds to a previous investment of $200 billion over the last forty years. China’s leaders regularly visit African nations where they are lavishly praised, and it is evident that the two regions are destined for an intertwined future.
What will be the consequences of a Sino-African alliance? To determine the answers, BBI interviewed contributing writer Michael Lee, a futurist who resides in South Africa.
BBI: In what African nations is China involved?
Michael Lee: I know of strong relations and commercial ties between China and the following African nations, in no particular order: South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Madagascar, Mauritius, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Mozambique, Botswana, Senegal, Egypt, Benin and Algeria. Some of these relationships go back several decades. I would say China has got Africa sewn up as its major global banker and trading partner.
BBI: What does China want from its involvement in Africa? Food? Land? Political Influence? Access to rare earth minerals? Trading partners?
Michael Lee: All of the above. China’s influence in Africa occurs at the commercial, economic, financial, cultural and even military levels. The future of Africa and China are now interwoven in ways in which it would take many decades to undo. There are over 800 Chinese corporations doing business on the continent and The Confucius Institute, which promotes Chinese culture, history, etc has 20 centers in 13 African countries.
BBI: Do Chinese people want to move to Africa and Iive there permanently?
Michael Lee: It is estimated there are about 1 million Chinese settlers in Africa. In South Africa, where I live, about 350,000 Chinese immigrants have settled since 2000. There are about 259,000 in Angola and 20,000 in Nigeria. I see Chinese immigration to Africa increasing dramatically over the next decade and beyond.
BBI: What benefits do the African people get out of China’s involvement? I have heard that China builds infrastructure - roads, transportation access. I assume Africa also gets money via trade and sale of its resources?
Michael Lee: China is Africa’s largest trading partner and its biggest development finance provider. Today Chinese President Xi Jinping announced $60 billion of assistance and loans for Africa. Africa scores big-time through this relationship through greatly improved infrastructure, energy systems, telecoms, transportation and so-called health diplomacy and care. It also exports heavily to China. China is seen as the big investor in Africa’s future and Africans don’t forget goodwill shown to them. I can see a hundred year relationship forming between this emerging superpower and Africa’s key states.
BBI: Does China seek to influence politics in any Africa nation?
Michael Lee: This is not as apparent as the economic and financial relationship but I am sure this influence opens lots of doors to China, including at the political level.
BBI: Does China do humanitarian work in Africa? Build schools, etc.?
Michael Lee: Yes, especially in the area of health care. It has also written off millions of dollars of debt to Africa so that means it has effectively given Africa a ton of money without receiving any ROI on those written off loans. What I see mostly though is economic and commercial influence, rather than a big humanitarian impact.
BBI: How to the two cultures interact? Are there cultural differences, or do they interact smoothly?
Michael Lee: The Chinese tend to keep to themselves in Africa and it is remarkable that there hasn’t been more xenophobia. The Chinese are hard-working, respectful of other cultures and just quietly get on with their lives. I don’t see a lot of tension between the two cultures - yet!
BBI: You have previously mentioned to me a future “Sino-African race.” Are Chinese and Africans intermarrying or producing babies at a high rate?
Michael Lee: We know there are about 50 million Chinese men who will never have a Chinese wife because there aren’t enough to go round in the gender-imbalanced country so it stands to reason many Chinese men will look for foreign wives. I don’t have any data but [there is] anecdotal evidence that there is a growing number of inter-racial unions. It may sound bland to say so but the conditions are there for the emergence of a future Sino-African race: a growing rate of Chinese immigration to Africa, deepening ties between Africa and China at all levels, including cultural. I would be very surprised by 2030 if there aren’t at least half a million Sino-African children.
IEET: What do you see in the future, in 20-40 years - as Africa evolves with Chinese influence?
Michael Lee: China is already the most influential country in Africa and I see a long-term partnership has started. The conditions are there for millions of Chinese to settle in Africa. On the whole this will be a peaceful partnership and it will accelerate Africa’s development in incalculable ways. If other powers try to push back this influence it could lead to a new scramble for Africa, especially as its role in food production becomes critical for feeding the world’s population.
Whereas the West tended to view Africa as the dark continent China has taken an enlightened long term view of Africa and I, for one, cannot dispute that they have brought a lot of good to our misunderstood continent.