CHINA’S INFRASTRUCTURAL FOOTPRINT IN AFRICA
The growing modern Sino-African relations dates back to the late 1950s when China first signed an official bilateral trade engagement with several African countries. With Zhou Enlai making a ten-country tour to Africa between December 1963 and January 1964, this has since paved the way over the years, with the new build trade ties across African countries rising. Roughly Africa has about 30% of the most common mineral, holding a more significant number compared to the rest of the world.
This has attracted different powers seeking its precious bounty of natural resources, judging from the colonial era where European countries colonized Africa and the scramble for natural resources. Despite being so richly endowed, Africa has remained among the poorest continents.
Source: The Diplomat, African leaders at a past funtion
With the new civilisation taking its toll on the African countries, trade and infrastructural developments over the years have risen thanks to newly redeveloped China Africa trade ties. China's entry into Africa has overtaken other powers such as the US and is currently using the opportunity to develop Africa and herself as well. Millions of dollars pounded in recent years funding megaprojects around the continent, ranging from telecommunication, railway, seaports, and road projects, health sectors, and education.
Contractors from china are increasing construction of major highways and by-passes amid a growing concern from local companies, which sees it as a favour to the Chinese contractors by the government. Among the roads constructed by state-owned China, WU YI is a 50-kilometre highway in Kenya linking Nairobi to Thika, completed in 2012. The project ended in about two years did not lock out motorists as alternatives routes were built; Kenyans significantly resonated with this.
Other major road projects constructed by the same Chinese contractors are the Southern bypass, linking different roads in the city, the bypass at the Eastern Nairobi, the Northern bypass linking the same roads in Nairobi, the duelling of Lang’ata road, expansion of outering roads and many others. All these projects are a drop in the ocean as there are numerous other trade ties made between the two countries, Indeed this confirmed comments made by President Uhuru Kenyatta terming China as the number one partner accounting for about 17.2% of total trading with the rest of the world.
At least about five African countries have benefited through the railway project, Kenya being the recent beneficiary. The china government and the Kenyan government signed a deal to build a railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi. This project would generate revenue for the Kenyan government and ease congestion on Mombasa road, which is the main route from Nairobi to Mombasa. With phase one already completed, phase two is underway linking the same rail from Nairobi to Kisumu via Naivasha. This railway project has not only cut transportation costs; it has also enabled fast commuting from Nairobi to Mombasa. Since the commencement of the Standard Gauge Railway(SGR) transport, the Kenyan railway sector received a boost, and increasing daily bookings characterize this. The increased number of bookings has since impacted positively on revenue collection.
Source: The Diplomat, China's President, Xi Jinping and South Sudan president, Salva Kiir Mayardit shaking hands at a past funtion
The china government also constructed the Addis Abba rail transit and Ethiopia Djibouti railway substantially, creating a significant impact on the transport sector. These projects have also increased revenue collection and easing transportation across the region. Lobito Luau railway in Angola and Abuja Kaduna railway in Nigeria, both built by the Chinese government, have attracted equal praise from the locals. Renovation and construction of new roads have also taken place, with the first project being the Addis Ababa ring constructed by China Road and Bridge Corporation(CRBC). The ring road is a multi-lane highway with built-in flexible pavements and is divided into significant lines to connect different regions into the capital, Addis Ababa. The project was a part of the city administration commitment to targeting an improved infrastructure in the capital city.
The Chinese government has had a hand in Angola’s mega projects; the railway line is one of them. Even though Angola is the biggest oil-exporting country in the continent, poverty is the order of the day. From this relation with china, Angola seeks to organize and build trade plans. It is a planned trade tie where the Chinese will benefit from oil as Angola boost its infrastructural development. This railway project has not only ease transportation from different regions, but it has also increased the economy through revenue collection, creation of employment opportunities for the more significant unemployed citizens, and generally eased transport activities.
Having emerged from civil war recently, Angolas, the plan is reconstruction, renovation, and creation of a better trade environment for both locals and foreigners. Roads in Angola have also been included in these megaprojects, with most known being the construction of complimentary dirt roads; also, an awarded contract to the Chinese construction company was the construction of bridges for the same dirt road passing through Quizzes, Dala Cachilo, and Quilenda. With flowing financial and technical abilities from china, the Angola government has been able to resist pressure from western financiers such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, among other western powers.
With Nigeria being among the new African countries benefiting from railway projects by the Chinese, this initiative is replacing the narrow gauge rail which has been in existence for ages with a more modern full rail line while enabling high-speed operations. Buja-Kaduna 186 km Standard Gauge Railway from Idu to the northwestern region in Nigeria having about nine stations both cargo and passenger trains. The passenger train being able to operate at a speed higher than 200km/h with the travelling time reduced tremendously.
Nigeria's Gombe links roads also constructed by the Chinese construction company connecting various communities hence boosting the local economy. The construction of these linking roads brought a sigh of relief as the local communities were positively impacted. An increased trade activity between these communities is the order, and This is amid jubilations as hundreds of locals matched in welcoming the Chinese contractors.
Bilateral trade relations between China and the Republic of Sudan has grown over the years with china providing financial support, armoury and technical skills in the development of various projects in the country, on other hand, china benefits through oil importation from Sudan. The construction of the presidential palace, hydroelectrical power, and a railway line from Khartoum, the capital city, to Port Sudan were all conducted by the Chinese government. Sudan’s economic growth has accelerated over the years; an increased GDP has seen a growth in the number of investors who floods into the country yearly. The construction sector, agricultural sector, health sector, and education have both been impacted by the growing economic ties with China
Even with these massive projects mainly consisting of large Chinese workers, the Chinese have not shunned threats and criticisms by the locals mostly complaining that the local authority favours foreigners on employment, this, in turn, has forced Beijing to provide security for these people as well as its sprawling investments.
From a strategic review by the chinas academy for military science, these infrastructural developments have created a need for a system to protect Chinese interests in these countries. Moreover, the communist party of China has also adopted a policy to safeguard chinas interests given the formidability of these projects, projects which include the local governments view seaports, railway lines construction oil and gas exploration, power projects among others, these threats and attacks to the Chinese as an attack to the national interests.
China's Africa action plan signed in 2018 puts the interest of these local Chinese projects and the safety of Chinese workers and nationals, prioritizing this megaproject in security forces cooperation. For instance, Uganda beat all odds, becoming the first country in the continent, deploying the military to take care of the security interest of the Chinese nationals. With Kenya adopting the same, training a particular elite unit to protect Mombasa Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway built by the Chinese construction company
In China’s recent attempt to protect investment interest in Africa, the Chinese government has come up with surveillance, facial recognition systems, this having an impact on Angola, Ethiopia, and Algeria. This has caused debate among the people with some government officials who might use the technology against political opponents and maybe activists.
Undoubtedly, China has dramatically impacted the infrastructural development of Africa, creating a platform for competition in the world's economy. A boosted infrastructure, increased employment opportunities to the locals reduced poverty levels and a growing relationship between the Chinese and Africans. The Chinese construction company not only built and renovated seaports, railway lines, bridges but also constructed major highways and sub highways. As Xiaochen Su stated on The Diplomat, however, “African countries will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets to be able to pay for these projects.” We may not entirely agree with Su’s view on “totally different neocolonialism,” but we can also point out African vulnerability, which in the case of development projects loans, may put Africa as a country that cannot sustain itself.