Friday, October 28, 2016

Africa Has Good Reasons to Warm Up to China
October 27, 2016
Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

The influential think tank, Afrobarometer, has just released a report which has found that the attitude of African people towards China is becoming more positive and the Asian giant now rivals America as a model for development. The study covered 36 countries on the continent and interviewed 54 000 people. Afrobarometer notes that Africans rank the United

States and China number 1 and 2, respectively, as development models for their own countries.

“Remarkably, in three of five African regions, China either matches or surpasses the US in popularity as a development model. In terms of their current influence, the two countries are outpaced only by Africa’s former colonial powers,” says Afrobarometer.

Critically, the think-tank adds: “Public perceptions not only confirm China’s important economic and political role in Africa but also generally portray its influence as beneficial. China’s infrastructure/development and business investments are seen as reasons for China’s positive image in Africa, though that image is tainted by perceptions of poor-quality Chinese products.”

Other highlights include, inter alia; China’s influence is perceived to be highest in Zimbabwe (55 percent), Mozambique (52 percent), Sudan (47 percent), Zambia (47 percent), South Africa (40 percent), and Tanzania (40 percent).

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of Africans say China’s influence is “somewhat” or “very” positive, while only 15 percent see it as somewhat/very negative.

A majority (56 percent) of Africans also see China’s development assistance as doing a “somewhat” or “very” good job of meeting their country’s needs. The most important factors contributing to a positive image of China in Africa are its infrastructure/development and business investments.

There are two main things that can be noted here, namely, being a model, or example; and perception. China is pitted against the US and this is only normal as the two global powers compete for influence.

Africa, as a rising continent, is a natural theatre of such a contest — almost, perhaps disturbingly, like in the Cold War Era. But today’s contest between the two major powers is about the economy and growth as well as political influence. That China rivals the US is an affirmation of its rapid growth over the years.

The story of its exponential growth to global stardom is inspirational hence, as this report points out, its being held as a model by the majority of African countries. As the Harvard Business Review noted in December last year, “China has accomplished a remarkable feat in transforming itself from one of the world’s poorest countries to its second largest economy in just 30 years.”

Many African countries have an average of 50 years of independence but they have never been able to achieve what China has done. In fact, in the late 1970s and 1980s, some African countries were better off than China but have since been overtaken.

Chinese growth was anchored on a conducive political system and strong leadership, export led growth, investment infrastructure, labour utilisation, Special economic zones and FDI; economic diversification and so forth.

China has in turn turned benefactor and has been helping African countries achieve growth, investing heavily in the process. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) framework has been the hallmark of Chinese investment in, and cooperation with Africa. In 15 years from 2000, Chinese trade with Africa has increased from $10 billion to $300 billion in 2015.

The US-Africa trade is half of that as explained by John Burnett, writing for US News, that, “In 2013, for example, trade between China and Africa totalled roughly $200 billion, with Chinese electronics goods and textiles flowing into African nations, while African natural resources were shipped off to China. Remarkably, Chinese-African trade was more than double the trade level between the United States and Africa.”

The figures speak for themselves and Africans know who is a force for good in their countries. While there are pockets of propaganda-driven hate for the Chinese, and indeed some genuine misgivings about quality of certain products, the reason for Africa’s increasingly positive perception of China is understandable.

And if the two global powers, America and China stand there, China has more winning policies and philosophy than its nosy, meddling, bloodthirsty counterpart. It is not a secret that most of the wars and instability being faced in the world today have the fingerprints of America whether by proxy or directly.

America has been seeking and funding illegal regime changes, some of which have led to the suffering of people. Zimbabwe is a case in point where, not satisfied with its sanctions regime, the US sought to drag the United Nations Security Council to “do a Libya” on the country.

China, Russia and South Africa intervened. For the best!

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