The second session of the AFRASO-Lecture Series on 21st of March 2013 focused on the economic cooperation between China and Africa. Two speakers presented facts and figures regarding this specific relationship: Prof. Li Xiaoyun, Director of the China-DAC Study Group and Dean of the China Agricultural University in Beijing, China, and Prof. Doris Fischer, who holds the chair for China Business and Economics at the University of Würzburg.
The African continent made an impressive progress in the last ten years: there is an overall growth rate of five percent, as Prof. Li stated. This is in contrast to a few years ago, where there was a world-wide “Afro-pessimism”, which is now challenged by these impressive economic numbers. Prof. Li suggested, the world turns to more “Afro-optimism”, with still major challenges left for the continent, especially the task of poverty-reduction.
This is where China also has some impressive figures to show: the overall growth rate over the last 30 years was ten percent accompanied by a rapid poverty reduction. The fundament for this development was, among other things, an agricultural development-led growth and the building of labor intensive manufacturing. These factors are now major pillars for the Chinese investment in African countries, leading China to use their own model in Africa today. Prof. Li stressed that for example two thirds of the financing of infrastructural projects in Africa already comes from China, and overall China invests 2 Billion Dollars a year in Africa.
Prof. Doris Fischer suggested that today people feel somewhat threatened by China’s presence and this forces China to try and ease the concerns about its own rise. But at the same time there is still the need for China to ensure its influence on a global scale and to prove responsibility on the political level. The rise of China’s influence started with the “Going Global”-policy from 1999 and proved its point of emerging South-South cooperation when the World Bank published “Africa's Silk Road: China and India's New Economic Frontier” in 2007.
For China, the cooperation with developing countries is essential for its own sustainable economic development, to secure resources and get wider access to global markets, and in that way influence means of global governance. This policy is not exclusive for China’s relationships with developing countries, but for all countries. The World Heritage Foundation shows this nicely where China really invests on an interactive map on its Website.
Prof. Fischer emphasized in her conclusion that the economic partnership of China and Africa depends on the political situation in each particular country and its resource endowment and existing production structures. So, why is there this overall interest from China for Africa? Prof. Li underlined that there is a general interest of China for the world, not only Africa. China is also a great investor in Europe, Asia and the US, for example. But the African market is especially interesting as a potential market, as it is THE emerging market with an expected, continuous development for the next 20-30 years. China strategically sees that, especially Africa’s increasing middle-class, which has more potential for economic growth than any other continent.
References: Broadman, Harry G. (2007): Africa's Silk Road : China and India's New Economic Frontier. Washington, DC: World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/7186