This week’s summit in Beijing between the Chinese government and the leaders of more than 40 African countries has drawn attention to the increasingly important role that China is now playing on the continent. It is unclear whether this role is mutually advantageous, however. Investment inflows are often beneficial, but China is being accused of undermining Western attempts to improve governance and reduce corruption in Africa, while at the same time ignoring environmental standards. China’s influence also carries other risks, particularly if these countries’ economies over-specialise in satisfying soaring Chinese demand for commodities.
The most visible sign of closer relations between China and Africa is in booming trade and investment flows. Between 2000 and 2005 trade between China and Africa increased from just under US$10bn to nearly US$40bn, and it is predicted to more than double by 2010. China is rapidly becoming one of Africa’s main sources of investment; in 2004 it invested US$900m in the continent, an increase of more than 300% from the previous year, and several large deals by Chinese energy companies recently mean growth in investment will continue to soar. [Full Text]