Does crisis give China new opportunity in Africa?
With the West reeling from the financial crisis and pulling back some of its investment in Africa, could China step into the breach and expand its footprint on the continent – a presence that already worries Western powers?
On the face of it, China, which is relatively unscathed by the crisis, has a golden opportunity to exploit Western disarray and increase its financial and political penetration of the continent. Already there are signs that Africans are starting to look away from the West and towards other emerging markets, especially China, as they watch the banking chaos in the traditional capitalist markets.
This could have a lasting impact on Africa’s perceptions of East and West as they see Asian financial structures surviving better than those in Europe and America.
China’s economy is still robust, despite the turmoil elsewhere, with GDP growth this year expected to reach 8.5 to 9 percent. Its thirst for African commodities, especially oil, is unabated to fuel Beijing’s rapid industrialisation drive. Western governments and aid groups accuse Beijing of turning a blind eye to misrule, corruption and human rights abuses as it invests in Africa, including in controversial countries like Sudan, whose Darfur region is suffering a deep humanitarian crisis. But many Africans welcome China’s refusal to interfere in political issues, in contrast to Western attitudes.
Experts say it is questionable whether China has the capacity to get more deeply involved in Africa economically because of its existing huge exposure and the diversification of investment on the continent to include other emerging market countries like Brazil, India and Russia. Not to mention the huge petrodollar funds of Gulf states. They say that in any case economic contagion will reach China which has vital export links with the West.
But will the spectacle of the Western capitalist system in disarray push African countries to look even more towards the East, finally breaking their strong ties with former colonial powers in Europe and with the United States. What do you think?