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China/Africa: New departures
Justin Yifu Lin
The former World Bank chief economist has been a big proponent of Africa learning from Asia’s experience. He is now based at Peking University at the Center for New Structural Economics. A backer of the idea that governments should use industrial policy to strengthen their economies, he wrote last year: “Africa desperately needs an industrial revolution if it is to create jobs for its fast-growing youth population and reduce migration pressure.”
Xu is Beijing’s special representative on African affairs. The post was created for Zhong Jianhua, a former ambassador to South Africa who helped to shape China’s interests in Africa. Xu keeps busy with face-to-face meetings, and travelled to the Seychelles, Chad and South Africa last year. She is working on plans for the next big China-Africa summit and was a crucial player in the launch of the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000.
Chi is an important face in China-Africa ties as the chairman of the China-Africa Development Fund (CADF), a state institution that provides funding to Chinese companies looking to invest in ventures on the continent. As of December 2017, the CADF had invested $3.4bn in 91 projects. It is due to have a capital base of $10bn for investment in African projects, many of which have so far been focused on the manufacturing sector.
The chairman of state-owned firm Sinohydro has been signing big deals with African countries, as the World Bank and other financiers have shied away from big dam projects because of their impact on the environment and populations. Sinohydro completed the 275MW Soubre Dam in Côte d’Ivoire late last year and is in talks to build three more dams there. It wants to be part of the infrastructure boom that Beijing has promised with its One Belt, One Road strategy.
With 20% of South Africa’s giant Standard Bank owned by China’s ICBC, chief executive Tshabalala is a key financial dealmaker. In January, Standard and ICBC announced that they are the biggest contributors to a $8bn investment in Mozambique’s burgeoning natural gas sector. In the hope of being involved in more projects that bring African and Asian investors together, Standard Bank set up the Africa China Banking Centre in 2017.
In 2013, the then governor of Nigeria’s central bank wrote in the Financial Times: “China takes from us primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism.” Sanusi is now the emir of Kano and he continues to urge African leaders to adopt a more strategic approach to China’s interest in Africa. Last year, he went to China with a team of officials from Kano State and went away with deals for a textile plant and other projects.
Recent Ethiopian governments have been inspired by China’s strong state and its development path. As special adviser to the prime minister, Oqubay is involved in Addis Ababa’s planning for the country’s own industrial revolution, which is attracting Chinese textile investors and business leaders from other economic sectors. Setting out his stall, Oqubay told media last year: “Africa is perhaps the last frontier on the earth for textile production.”
Ismaïl Omar Guelleh
Perhaps no other African president has embraced China so deeply and fully. Djibouti is home to a new Chinese naval base and is polka-dotted with Chinese rail, port and other projects (see page 26). Analysts are issuing warnings that the projects must pay off as planned if the government is going to be able to repay Beijing billions of dollars. With Djibouti’s strategic position, Guelleh is also welcoming the military bases and investment of other world powers.
This article first appeared in the April 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine