• Industry: Government & Public Sector
  • Date: 11/5/2013

Case study: China in Africa 

Between 2000 and 2011, trade between China and Africa has grown in value from US$10.5 billion1 to US$166 billion. As a result, China has now overtaken the US as Africa's largest trading partner.2

In the same period, China has also substantially increased its aid to the continent, committing roughly US$75 billion and equaling nearly a fifth of the total flows reported by Western governments.3 Finally, while a large part of this foreign investment has been directed to natural resource extraction, in the last decade there has been a broadening towards more investments in telecommunications, construction and banking.4

The expansion of China into Africa has served its political and economic interests — namely securing energy and other resources for its booming population — but has also been essential to providing Africa with much-needed technology and financial resources.5 However, some have criticized China for importing oil and raw materials while flooding Africa with inexpensive textiles and clothing that are endangering the survival of African manufacturers.6

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has helped promote a more trusting and mutually beneficial relationship between the regions. Through FOCAC negotiations, China has allowed Africa an increasing amount of products into China duty-free, especially from least developed countries.7 The 2013-15 FOCAC action plan also includes agricultural cooperation and technology transfer initiatives.8

A report on Sino-African relations from the Center for Global Development (CGD) explains that China's actions in Africa have been shaped by its own experiences of development.9 For example, Special Economic Zones, which have been used successfully in China, are an approach the Chinese are now helping to replicate in Africa. CGD asserts the importance of such South-South learning experiences cannot be overestimated.10

As the relationship between China and Africa intensifies, a key issue in many countries will be improving governance. For instance, in some countries with weaker institutions, infrastructure projects financed by the Chinese are not always subject to competitive bidding and specifics on the nature and terms of financial assistance are frequently opaque at time of signing.11 Enhancing transparency in China's African operations will be necessary to maintain goodwill and promote stronger ties in a continent of rising economic strength and opportunity, and one which will be increasingly courted by other emerging powers in the coming decades.

1Kingsley Ighobor. January 2013. “China in the heart of Africa”. UN, Africa Renewal Online. Accessed 29 May 2013.

2Benedicte Vibe Christensen. 5 November 2012. “China in Africa: A Macroeconomic Perspective”. Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 230.

3Anonymous.7 May 2013. “Development finance in Africa”. Accessed 29 May 2013.

4Christensen, 2012.


6Yusuf Bangura. January 2007. “Big leap in China-Africa ties”. UN Africa Renewal Online. Accessed 29 May 2013.


8Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. 2010. “The Fifth Ministerial Conference Of The Forum On China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Action Plan (2013-2015)”.

9Christensen, 2012.




Share this

Share this

Download Future State 2030

Full report