Why Africa is Turning to China

Kwei Quartey


Kwei Quartey: Why Africa is Turning to China


In a recent article in Foreign Policy In Focus, Quartey argues that as African countries like Ghana search for infrastructure improvements to accelerate their economic growth, China has eclipsed the role of the West in Africa to the chagrin of western leaders like U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who characterize China's role as a “new colonialism.” Quartey notes that China's role as the largest financier on the African continent is due to its willingness to take on hard infrastructure projects, in power, rail, and the building of dams.


In 2009 the World Bank estimated that Chinese financial commitments to African infrastructure projects rose from less than $1 billion per year in 2001–2003 to around $1.5 billion per year in 2004–2005, reaching at least $7 billion in 2006. The estimate for 2010 to 2012 is $101 billion. In July 2012, Chinese President Hu Jintao offered African countries 20 billion in loans over the next three years.


Quartey notes the ubiquity of China's involvement in Ghana, for example, in building the George W. Bush Highway, the construction of the Ministry of Defense building in Accra, Ghana, the construction of the Bui Hydroelectric Dam, China's invest in a new Ghanian airline, and the likelihood that China Airports Construction Corporation will be involved in building Accra's new international airport.


Chinese companies are commonly accused of favoring Chinese labor over relying on the local labor force, but Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argues that, at least in Zambia, the ratio of African workers to Chinese workers is thirteen to one.


Indeed, Many African governments prefer China as an economic partner over Western countries because of the instructive value of China’s own development experience. Moreover, “China meets Africa’s need for critical infrastructure more cheaply, less bureaucratically, and more quickly. And finally, China portrays Africa more positively as a partner in “mutually beneficial cooperation” and “common prosperity,” rather than a “doomed continent” requiring aid.”


Ultimately the reputation of China will rest upon whether China delivers what is best for the continent. 


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