China-Africa Relations Scrutinized in AfDB’s New Book

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The African Development Bank today released a book titled "China and Africa, An Emerging Partnership for Development?" In recent years, China has been the prominent emerging partner for most of Africa and new China-Africa relations have generated  heated debates. Is China really the sole winner in its relations with the African continent? This book challenges this idea by analyzing opportunities and challenges for both parties.

According to AfDB Vice-President and Chief Economist, Mthuli Ncube, "China’s growing presence reflects this country’s growing economic and political power in the world and its appetite for natural resources of some African countries aims to fuel its economic expansion." On the one hand, China needs natural resources; on the other, it plays an important role in providing financing and expertise needed for the continent’s development.

Trade between Africa and China is quite substantial. In 2009, trade flows rose to 93 billons dollars, an eight-folds increase in a decade. African exports to China come mainly from the four resource rich countries. Indeed, natural resource and oil exports account for three-quarters of Africa’s exports to China and only six countries receive two-thirds of Africa’s total imports from China.

Chinese trade and investments are mainly related to extractive industries and infrastructure. More than 35 African countries benefit from funds in this sector. Investments increased seven-folds in six years. Improved infrastructure facilitates African products access to regional and international markets. Opening special economic zones run by Chinese offers additional opportunities to strengthen manufacturing capacities in many African countries.

China’s growing role is complementary to those of Africa’s long-standing traditional development partners, who are still dominant in terms of official development assistance, trade and investment. In addition, these traditional partners often provide some forms of aid such as budget support, which is very effective. The Bank considers that traditional donors and emerging partners such as China complement each other. The AfDB wishes to leverage Chinese resources and development expertise for the benefit of African economies.

This new book is the culmination of Bank work in the framework of the "China in Africa" project. It contains contributions by some of the leading experts in China-Africa relations, and received financial support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).