Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Is China Good For Africa?"

I'm quoted in R. Asmerom's Atlanta Post article on China in Africa.

Here's the full statement I provided in the interview:
The positive side of the China-Africa relationship is that China offers another source of investment and is an important purchaser of African raw materials, especially oil and minerals, that Africa needs to sell to someone.

The enormous Chinese appetite for these products also helps keep African commodity prices high, although the U.S. actually buys more African oil than does China. In 2009, China passed the United States as Africa's (all 53 countries) largest trading (exports and imports) partner.

Chinese companies have become important investors in Africa although China still provides modest amounts of grant aid, much less than the United States. Most Chinese assistance is in the form of low-interest loans used by African countries to fund large infrastructure projects such as roads and dams constructed by Chinese companies and sometimes tied to a significant component of Chinese labor.

These arrangements are, in my view, win-win-win arrangements, i.e. one win for the African country and two for China. The Africans get needed infrastructure, but Chinese companies build the projects with money provided by Chinese banks that is paid back by the African country usually in the form of oil or minerals.

While China is paying more serious attention to corporate social responsibility and environmental standards in its commercial interaction with African countries, it takes a strict hands off approach to political interference. This means that China is not willing to encourage better human rights practices, democratization as it is understood in the West or even a reduction of corruption.

From a western point of view, this unwillingness to speak out is a setback for African human rights practices and democratization. Authoritarian African governments welcome this policy.

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