China, the West in Africa: more room for cooperation than competition
Updated: 2015-04-01 16:02
NAIROBI - The past decades have witnessed China and Africa accelerating their steps in expanding cooperation in various fields despite headwinds of fantastical theories from some in the West.
The theories on China-Africa engagement over the years like "Neocolonialism," "Resource Diplomacy," "Concrete Diplomacy," to name a few, have actually not been sold well in Africa because these critiques and views apparently did not hit the nail on the head.
For example, China has been depicted as a plunder of Africa's raw materials, especially petroleum. It is true that African oil is important constituent part of exports to China. But the argument is disingenuous.
The United States had been for the past decades the world's biggest consumer of African oil, importing more than a quarter of the continent's total exports until 2010, which saw the US began to boost shale oil production domestically.
According to the US government's Energy Information Administration (EIA), China is importing 22 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's oil. The US began to cut way back on Sub-Saharan African oil, importing 13 percent in 2012, and Europe gets 28 percent.
As for the claim of "Concrete Diplomacy," it is even not to merit refutation because poor economic foundation and insufficient construction funds have been factors limiting the development of African countries for so many years.
China's investments are by no means a threat to the Western interests in Africa. There are always overlapping interests between countries nowadays. Britain, the conventional Western power, decided in March to join a China proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and Downing Street believes its decision is "in the UK's national interest". France, Germany and Italy also expressed intentions to join the China-backed financing mechanism.
Similarly, a secure, stable and prosperous Africa is also in the interests of China, the West and the world. In Africa, despite the need for healthy competition, there is more room for cooperation than competition between China and the West.
Both China and the West need to focus on helping Africa improve poor infrastructure, narrow wide gap of jobs and skills as its population explodes, and deal with persistent security threats.
Africa is striding towards an more integrated continent preluded by the looming tripartite grand free trade area encompassing 26 countries.However, the continent is constrained by insufficient infrastructural investment despite increasing investment from China. According to the World Bank, an extra $93 billion is needed every year over the next decade to bridge the infrastructure deficit alone in Africa, while some donors have withdrawn their support to the poor continent's transport sector.