African business, politics and lifestyle
Hu reassures Africa?
If anyone in Africa was worried that the global financial crisis might dim China’s interest in the continent, President Hu Jintao will be visiting this week to give some reassurances – as well as possibly to temper any unrealistic hopes for the amount of assistance to be expected.
As Chris Buckley reported from Beijing, this visit is also about China showing the wider world that it is a responsible power.
The fact that none of the countries Hu will visit is among Africa’s economic or resource heavyweights – Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius – is seen as a sign that China wants to send a message that its engagement with Africa is about much more than resources.
Trade between China and Africa rose to $107 billion last year and more deals are expected on this visit. Nearly all of Africa’s exports to China still come from a handful of countries rich in oil or minerals, though, and now the global downturn has put those in more doubt.
China’s involvement in Africa is a subject we looked at recently. Alistair Thomson in Dakar found that even if some Chinese investments in Africa were losing their lustre, many Chinese firms were taking a longer-term view to pursue strategic expansion – and some were hunting for bargains. For China, Africa also offers an important destination for exports, as any visit to even the most remote African marketplace will quickly show.
Growing trade relations with China were one of the things seen by Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo in a previous blog post as a way for Africa to emerge better off from the financial crisis and less dependent on Western aid.
But China’s involvement in Africa has brought concern from some in the West – quite apart from those who may stand to lose out on the business front – with some critics saying Beijing’s interest is too focused on the drive to secure resources and pays little heed to the kind of thing that Western donors say they want to promote, such as elections, human rights and the fight against corruption.
Will Africa be able to depend on China in the long term? How healthy is that going to be? What do you think?
Pictures: Money changer Kwami Longange poses for a portrait on a streetcorner in Goma in eastern Congo, February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly
China‘s President Hu Jintao delivers a speech in Beijing December 31, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Lee