Chinese engagement in Africa
China’s increased presence in several African countries over the past twenty years has led to debates and discussions in the West. Sometimes even the word “colonisation” is mentioned. NAI guest researcher Daouda Cissé thinks that this is ridiculous coming from former colonisers whose colonial presence in Africa was brutal, violent and barbarous.
– Talking about Chinese colonisation in Africa from former colonisers, particularly Europeans, while the reality is about establishing political, economic and diplomatic ties in today’s global interconnectedness shows a lack of respect and consideration for sovereign African countries.
We should rather speak of a Chinese economic colonisation of many European countries and the United States whose economies depend on the Chinese economy for trade, investments, manufacturing, finance and so on, says Daouda Cissé.
A common argument against Chinese investment in Africa is that it does not take into account social and environmental factors.
– It's more about the African countries' ability and willingness to negotiate good contracts with all investors to make good use of foreign investments. It is up to African leaders to serve their respective country and people. One way could be by developing sectors other than just the traditional exports of natural resources to change Africa’s trade pattern with the rest of the world. African governments should make sure that foreign investments contribute to creating employment, skills and technology transfer, developing the manufacturing and services sector in a sustainable way, says Daouda Cissé. Following the global financial crisis of 2008 many African countries have established or strengthened economic partnerships with other countries in order to reduce vulnerability to financial crashes that their traditional economic partners Europe and the United States face.
With the AGOA and EBA trade policies to enable African countries’ exports to the US and EU, products manufactured in Africa receive a tariff-reduction or tax-exemption. Even though it has its limitations, this opportunity should be carefully managed in African countries; otherwise it could be an incentive for Chinese companies and other emerging economies whose products face tariff and tax imposition to enter the EU and the US markets to set up manufacturing industries in Africa.
– In addition, the increase of salaries and standards of living within China mean that their industry is less profitable. Companies’ search for profits based on cheaper labour and production costs alongside market size and resource availability to manufacture products can be an opportunity for African countries to attract investments in their manufacturing sector and lead to the continent’s industrialisation, says Daouda Cissé.