Africa is, undoubtedly, the most impoverished continent on the face of the earth. Regularly affected by famine and diseases, the continent is also host to multiple civil wars that have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of African children. The developed world, especially the United States and Europe, have always extended their arms to the continent’s development – through charity or grants. However, China is now set to undermine all previous undertaken efforts. On 4th September, 2018, at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion to the continent in loans, grants, and development financing.
The summit was attended by 50 heads of African State and Government – including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki. More than 240 Ministerial-level officials from 53 African members of FOCAC were also present in Beijing. The leaders used the platform to draw the blueprint for future partnership and cooperation between China and the participating African nations. At the end of the summit, Xi Jinping issued the Beijing declaration and offered to extend $60 billion to Africa – which includes $20 billion in credit lines, $15 billion in interest-free loans, and $15 billion in development and financing. Jinping also assured the representatives of the African nations that he would encourage Chinese companies to invest $10 billion in Africa in the upcoming years.
The Beijing Declaration thrives toward a stronger China-Africa community – one that holds a shared future. The declaration will witness the launch of eight major initiatives in the next three years that’s primarily designed to help African youth. They are: Industrial Promotion, Infrastructure Connectivity, Trade Facilitation, Green Development, Capacity Building, Health Care, People-to-People exchange, and finally, Peace and Security.
While the Capacity Building initiative will provide vocational training for young Africans to promote youth innovation and entrepreneurship, the Green Development initiative is set to assist the continent deal with climate change, desertification prevention and control, and wildlife protection. China has also decided to upgrade 50 medical and health aid programs for Africa through its Health Care initiative, along with developing Africa’s energy, transportation, and telecommunications resources through its Infrastructure Connectivity initiative.
Along with the Beijing Declaration, Jinping has also adopted the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021). This plan deems unprecedented solidarity, vitality, and creativity on both sides that could augment economic and social opportunities. Nigeria, China’s important strategic partner, was at the center of this plan – as the two countries hoped to achieve fruitful gains form friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields.
Many economists and sociologists, however, have criticized the increase of China’s lending practices. They have argued that China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a modern-day replica of the old Silk Road, was a giant “debt trap” and ticks all the properties of “neocolonialism”. The Chinese government is also under tremendous burden amidst the ongoing trade war with the U.S., increasing pressure on the yuan, and a national debt that has skyrocketed from $6 trillion in 2008 to $28 trillion in 2017.
However, the future of 2.6 billion people living in China and Africa is closely related to bilateral bonds between them. China’s efforts to aid an entire continent might help them achieve global superpower status, undermining the U.S. and Europe. On the other hand, it may also help Africa rise from its ashes and eradicate its own inherent problems.