Year after year, the relationship between China and Africa continues to improve and strengthen. Investments continue, sometimes at a slower pace than usual, but the flow remains constant. At the beginning of each year, China begins its diplomatic tour through Africa to show the importance of this continent. Thus in 2022, the Chinese foreign minister visited Kenya, Eritrea, the Maldives, the Comoros and Sri Lanka.
This sunny relationship is pissing off Westerners and they don’t understand why China succeeds where they fail miserably in every area. Obviously, the Sino-African relationship is not that of a fairy tale where Chinese and Africans dance the lambada together to the sound of tom-toms. But fundamentally, in terms of development and economy, China has largely succeeded compared to the West. And there are several factors that explain this Chinese progress.
The first is that the West must deal with its colonial past. I am not into whining, repentance and resentment, because the past is the past, but that task remains present and often in contemporary relations Western leaders maintain a superior and condescending tone towards Africans. Just see the performance of a Macron when he visits Africa and like him, Western leaders can’t help talking to Africans like Uncle Tom.
China does not have this problem. She never colonized Africa and therefore, the first contact was made on sound bases without ulterior motives or grudges. Furthermore, China does not teach Africa a lesson and it is never condescending. Its policy of internal non-interference means that it can work with all types of regimes. As long as Chinese interests are preserved, we can still do business. On the other hand, the West conditions its financial aid to Africa if the latter applies “good governance”, that it respects “human rights” and other progressive nonsense which does not exist in African realities.
And in addition to the colonial task, the West has also applied the worst post-colonial policies with the famous structural adjustments via its armed arms that are the World Bank and Africa. Also known as the washington consensusit is pure and simple neoliberalism to the benefits of the West with the privatization of sovereign sectors, lower taxes, generalized deregulation and monetary stability.
These policies have caused veritable economic genocides in Africa, because until today, no African country has developed thanks to the good advice of the World Bank and the IMF. At times, there were lulls in growth, but the country quickly collapsed due to cyclical political crises and structural inequality that is the result of these policies.
For its part, China will use concepts such as union, solidarity or cooperation. There is never a command or sentence that begins with: ” You have to do this otherwise“. In 2010, several organizations launched the initiative Trade, not Aid which was a way of saying that Africans do not need development aid, but trade. China has embraced the initiative by signing trade agreements with most countries on the continent. China provides development aid, but on an ad hoc basis and it is not part of its strategy.
The West has also understood this, but too late, because it is from 2019 and 2020 that we will see development based on trade between the West and Africa, i.e. a delay of 10 years, which which is already a crushing defeat in geopolitics. Moreover, China is mobilizing more human resources in Africa.
When the West uses technocrats, diplomats and other high officials to manage Africa in the same way, usually 5000 km from the continent, the Chinese study each country and they collect regular reports, whether via their embassy, but also from the Chinese immigrants they have there. This collection is sustained and constant and then the reports are sent to the higher echelons of the Communist Party to see what is the best strategy to adopt.
Thus in its first contacts, China immediately understood that Africa had a structural infrastructure deficit. This is why, great investments have been launched on the continent to have energy, industries and roads. On average, China has been investing 8 billion dollars a year in Africa since 2010 while Western investments have collapsed.
Even if Westerners are quick to talk about Chinese debt in Africa, well, the same can be said of Westerners with the IMF and the World Bank. Of course, when you take out a loan, you have to pay it back and sometimes it’s much more difficult than expected. However, when you do not repay your loans from the IMF and the World Bank, then they send their experts to your ministries and govern in your place, choose your channels, comrades.
The next factor is that the West is no longer a dream… for a very long time. If in the 1990s, the West could shine through its hegemony and say to Africans: Do like us, follow our neoliberal policies and you will grow like us“, this statement is now completely contrary to the reality of Western countries. The West is undergoing crisis after crisis in all areas.
In 2020, in a humiliation he has not suffered for 70 years, UNICEF had to help uk to feed poor children. In the same UK, poor people are refusing food from food banks because they can’t pay the energy bills to cook it. United States live with inequality for decades. The opiate crisis has caused 500,000 deaths in 10 years, mainly because of the corruption of Big Pharma in order to make people forget the pain of poor Americans who are forced to work 3 jobs a day.
2021 allowed Africa to laugh at the pitiful spectacle of the attack on the Capitol by cranks dressed as Davy Crockett. Inequality reaches peaks in France where 21%, i.e. 1 out of 5 French people do not have enough to eat. And it is not a crisis of poverty, but of inequality, the UK is the 4th planetary economy and France prides itself on having a GDP of 2000 billion dollars. Inequality is the main cause and under these conditions, the West can no longer teach Africa any lesson.
By contrast, China eliminated extreme poverty in 2020, a plague that had been present in China for more than 2,000 years.. But you can tell me that China, on the political and freedom level, is not a follower of blissful Charlism either. It’s true, as mentioned, China is not teaching Africa or the rest of the world a lesson. She never says: Our model is the best and you must do like us otherwise you are fascist or backward“. China uses the political lighthouse model. The lighthouse shines in the night and encourages others to do like it.
China’s relationship with Africa is always based on trade. She doesn’t beat around the bush and when she wants resources, she says so clearly. It is not like Europe which says that such and such an African country is a good democratic student in order to be able to plunder its resources behind its back.
In short, the West, if it wants to stay on good terms with Africa, must stop exporting its value system and come up with real development plans with Africa. But before that, we must also that he sweeps in front of his door and reduces the glaring inequalities who devour Western peoples like moths on a wooden house. China’s road to Africa also comes up against hiccups, but they recognize their mistakes and adapt.
And we must not forget that nor does Russia have a venomous colonial past with Africa. Even if the Russian priority is Eurasia, its first contacts with Africans went better than with the West. In many countries, Russia is seen as a serious counterweight to the West. The Russian approach does not resemble that of the West or even that of China. Development aid, direct investment, that’s not Russia’s style. She prefers a profitable relationship more than pure trade and given her final divorce from the West, Russia could find fertile ground in Africa.