DAKAR – In recent years, China and Africa have formed one of the modern era’s most successful economic and trade partnerships. China benefits from Africa’s oil, minerals, and markets, while Africa benefits from increased trade and investment in infrastructure, health, education, small-scale businesses, and low and medium technologies.
Some Western observers – and some Africans – have condemned China’s involvement on the continent as a new form of colonialism. But such criticism is largely misplaced. The development model that China is facilitating, which combines productive investment and trade with concessional loans and aid, is helping to break the cycle of under-development in Africa – a goal that Western-led development strategies have failed to achieve.
Moreover, African countries are building on their relationship with China to advance cooperation with other emerging markets, including India, South Korea, Turkey, Brazil, and Malaysia. Such efforts have bolstered global demand for commodities, while diversifying African economies and enhancing the productive capacity of domestic suppliers. Today, Africa’s rate of economic growth is second only to Asia’s.
This could just be the beginning. With Africa’s current market of one billion people set to swell to three billion by 2045 – including 1.1 billion people of working age (more than in China or India) – its long-term economic and commercial prospects are reminiscent of China’s when it opened up more than three decades ago.