Thursday, 24 January 2013

China’s influence in Africa

In recent months China have stepped up its influence in Africa. It is important to note that China’s relations have been longstanding and this blog does not attempt to look into previous goings on – but focuses on what is happening now, why it is happening and why it is important.  

Why is China involved in Africa?

It is well documented that China has relations with Africa, which are becoming more and more intertwined – but why? Quite simply – Natural resources – Oil and Natural Gas. China is now Africa’s biggest trading partner, with over 800 Chinese firms involved in Africa, it is thought that trade between China and Africa is at $166.3 billion which is triple the figures seen in 2006. China and Africa set up the FOCAC in 2000 to monitor relations, estimates say that investment could reach $2.1 trillion by 2035.

What’s in it for Africa?
Sinopec, one of China’s largest state owned oil companies, provided Angola with $2 billion from China’s Eximbank to rebuild the country’s railways, state buildings, hospitals and roads. Many African governments believe the investment from China as key for them to gain economic security and develop. However, the investment comes at a price, China is investing to gain access to oil and economic gain. Critics condemn China for providing aid as a bargaining tool and believe China are attempting to elevate the pressure they are facing over Human Rights.

Why are China’s relations with Africa important?

Many African nations suffer at the hands of dictators. The vast majority of the continent is still part of the developing world and therefore relies on aid from developed, mostly democratic nations.
As a result, aid comes from the Western World with demands over human rights, cease fires and control over where the aid goes. China is all too familiar with Western pressure about human rights and makes no such demands on Africa.
China has been accused of exploiting Africa and acting in a “neo-colonialist” manner, as well as actively supported dictatorships. In recent years, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe seized land from civilians - the land has been contracted out to China to farm. Last year the resultant famine led to a revolt by those who had lost their land - Mugabe fled to China for protection.
The ‘Western-World’ see China as supporting and perpetuating Africa’s problems for its own gain, yet this would not be the first time Africa found itself in such a situation. In the not so distant past, it was the West who took advantage of Africa to colonized and developed. Following Algerian-French war in 1962 Algeria gained independence, yet France walked away with an agreement, which still gave them access to Algerian oil for the next six years. In 1914 Nigeria signed an ordinance, providing BP with sole access to oil exploration. Africa has vast quantities of natural resources that are untouched.  As the developed world expands these resources become more valuable which could be financially extremely beneficial to Africa. However, this in turn will allow Africa to expand increasing its own demand for natural resources - could this mean for the future of the worlds obsession with fuel. 

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