China's investments and trade in Africa have increased steadily over the past decade and while many have questioned China's intensions for the developing continent, it is becoming increasingly clear that China's motives are quite benevolent.
The Asian giant is currently feeling the pangs of its interdependency with its largest trading partner as the latter is waging a bitter trade war in a bid to tame China's growth. It all makes complete sense now why a prosperous Africa is in China's best interest while a poor Africa remains ideal for the West.
Many African countries gained their independence after World War II but failed to develop their economies well enough to sustain their ever growing populations. Scholars in and around the continent have pointed fingers at African leaders for the problems while ignoring an underlying sinister neo-colonial system that has continued to feed Western economies while starving Africans.
For more than 50 years, the mineral rich continent has been stripped of its oil, natural gas, uranium, diamonds, gold, platinum, chrome, cobalt and the like by unfair practices, partnerships and agreements designed to benefit former colonial masters and the developed world.
To put this into perspective, Francophone countries (former French colonies) in the central and western part of Africa are some of the poorest in the world yet France continues to benefit from the resources extracted in the region like oil, uranium, diamonds, coffee and cocoa among many others. France is known for having the most nuclear power plants in the world and almost all its uranium comes from Gabon, but surprisingly, Gabon citizens live in abject poverty and many of them have no access to electricity and running water.
The situation is not much better in the other regions that had been colonies of other European countries like Spain, Portugal and England. Many of these countries in sub-Saharan Africa have continued to survive under a slave and master relationship with their former colonial masters. The system in place can only facilitate meager development and is only beneficial to a handful of capitalists and elite while the rest of the citizens continue to live in squalor.
China's approach, however, has been refreshingly effective as it has managed to import its own people-centered developmental approach to give capacity to many African countries within a short period of time. In Zimbabwe, with China's cooperation, the country managed to refurbish power and water reticulation systems to provide electricity and water to its citizens. The partnership also saw an extension to the Victoria Falls airport to make it a one-stop tourist destination and has bolstered tourism to the revered natural wonder. Many more projects are in the cards as well, including an extension to the main airport in Harare and a new high-end parliament building.
Under China's Belt and Road initiative, Kenya now has a high-speed railway network linking Nairobi and Mombasa and the second phase is already in motion. Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda are set to benefit from the initiative as well. Ethiopia and Djibouti have also had better railway systems installed that have cut the traveling time from three days to just 12 hours.
China has constructed several dams in the sub-Saharan region to make hydro power plants that have been instrumental in generating power for local industries and for citizens' consumption. Several bridges, roads, shopping malls, hospitals and clinics and even sports stadiums have also been constructed by Chinese companies all over the region. All these projects have assisted in creating employment for African people and the construction of Chinese factories currently going on in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa is for this reason a quite welcome development.
Furthermore, China's success in raising more than 700 million people out of poverty makes it uniquely qualified to impart knowledge and guidance to a region that has been trying to do the same for decades.
President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion for developmental projects in Africa and also advised the leaders to focus on eradicating poverty to enable growth and development at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in September.
The famous words by Xi, "Poverty is the root cause of chaos, while peace is the guarantee for development. Development holds the key to solving all problems," have been the source of great hope for peace and stability in conflict areas of the sub-Saharan region. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has provided the largest number of peacekeepers to missions in Africa and has over 2,000 troops permanently stationed there.
It is no longer just a matter of opinion but an unassailable fact that China's engagement with Africa is of commensurate benefit. So just as the saying goes in Africa, "If you want to go quickly, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together," the journey to the full development of both China and Africa will be better traveled together. China may just be the vehicle to achieve former South African president Thabo Mbeki's dream of an African Renaissance.
The author is a published author and currently a Political Science PhD candidate at Shandong University.