Home Economy Post-COVID, China is back in Africa, doubling down on minerals

Post-COVID, China is back in Africa, doubling down on minerals

by Business News Report

China’s flagship economic cooperation program is bouncing back after a lull during the global pandemic, with Africa a primary focus, according to a Reuters analysis of lending, investment and trade data. Chinese leaders have been citing the billions of dollars committed to new construction projects and record two-way trade as evidence of their commitment to assist with the continent’s modernisation and foster “win-win” cooperation. But the data reveals a more complex relationship, one that is still largely extractive and has so far failed to live up to some of Beijing’s rhetoric about the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s strategy to build an infrastructure network connecting China to the world.

While new Chinese investment in Africa increased 114% last year, according to the Griffith Asia Institute at Australia’s Griffith University, it was heavily focused on minerals essential to the global energy transition and China’s plans to revive its own flagging economy. Those minerals and oil also dominated trade. As efforts falter to boost other imports from Africa, including agricultural products and manufactured goods, the continent’s trade deficit with China has ballooned. Chinese sovereign lending, once the main source of financing for Africa’s infrastructure, is at its lowest level in two decades. And public-private partnerships (PPPs), which China has touted as its new preferred investment vehicle globally, have yet to gain traction in Africa.

The result is a more one-sided relationship than China says it wants, one that is dominated by imports of Africa’s raw materials and that some analysts argue contains echoes of colonial-era Europe’s economic relations with the continent. “This is something late-19th century Britain would recognise,” said Eric Olander, co-founder of the China-Global South Project website and podcast. China rejects such assertions. Reuters

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