Xi pledges one billion vaccine doses . . .
On Monday, at the triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the premier forum between China and 53 African nations, Chinese President Xi Jinping, joining via video, pledged more than C$50 billion in financing and one billion vaccine doses. Unlike previous iterations, the 2021 summit, held in Senegal, was downgraded to a ministerial conference due to pandemic restrictions. China recently published a White Paper on China-Africa co-operation, claiming that it ranks first among G20 countries in debt deferrals with African countries and that Chinese companies invested more than C$55 billion in Africa in 2020.
Mounting debt, trade imbalances . . .
Though China’s commitments to Africa remain considerable, this year’s FOCAC may signal a shift in the relationship, with a complete absence of direct state investment pledges and a new emphasis on private investment, trade, and small business. Researchers note that this aligns with trends in the past three years, which saw a drop in lending and increased concern from Chinese banks about the viability of some existing loans. On the African side, government leaders have increasingly appealed to China to restructure existing debt and encourage Chinese imports from Africa to address their trade deficits with China. Although African publics largely view China more favourably than other major countries like the U.S. or former colonial powers, a majority are concerned that their governments are too heavily indebted to China.
Rival initiatives to counter China's deals . . .
African nations suddenly have surprisingly similar alternatives to Chinese investment. Two weeks before FOCAC, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken toured three African countries, committing to investment without unsustainable debt. And yesterday, the EU announced more than C$434 billion in infrastructure investment as its answer to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, although it is unclear how much of the spend will be destined for Africa. But these American and European pledges may still pale compared to Chinese activity on the continent, and African countries may be skeptical of pledges without seeing proof of follow-through. As China becomes more of a ‘traditional donor’ and other major creditor and donor countries step up to the plate, African countries will likely take advantage of competing offers without choosing sides, strategically maintaining neutrality to secure the most investment possible.
- The East African: China signals cuts in loans to Africa after reduction of financing pledge
- Le Monde: « Chinafrique », l’heure des désillusions
- South China Morning Post: Xi Jinping plays up roles for private sector in China-Africa trade and finance