Chinafrica, time for questioning?

Audio 03:56

The China-Africa Forum in Dakar is held at the ministerial level.

In the photo, Uhuru Kenyatta (left row 2) with his African counterparts around Chinese President Xi Jinping at the China-Africa summit on September 3, 2018. (Illustrative image) HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP

By: Dominique Baillard Follow

3 min

The biannual China-Africa summit started yesterday in Dakar in a more modest format than the previous ones, it is held at the ministerial level.

Is Xi Jinping's absence a sign of the weakening of economic relations?


It is mainly because of Covid 19 that the supreme leader of the People's Republic of China has stayed at home. It is also because of the pandemic that major Chinese investments planned in Africa are now overdue. The high-speed railway line between Monbassa and Uganda is no longer funded, as is the highway between Douala and Yaoundé in Cameroon or a large railway project in Ethiopia. Chinese banks have become cautious or even reluctant to engage in Africa and the investments made under the Silk Road have plummeted from $ 11 billion in 2017 to $ 3.3 billion in 2020. This is not why no one expects todayHui in Dakar thundering announcements of Chinese investment amounting to tens of billions of dollars as was the case in previous editions.

China is no longer the ideal partner for African development?

What has been accomplished in twenty years remains. With exchanges of 200 billion dollars per year, China is undoubtedly Africa's largest trading partner, its largest creditor and its construction companies are omnipresent, they now capture a third of major infrastructure projects. According to the Afrobarometer published in Ghana, the Chinese presence remains very appreciated by the African street. But African leaders are emerging from their blissful fascination with this seemingly very accommodating great power. First, because they realize that the easy money of the Chinese is in fact very expensive, they lend, but on their terms, by coming with their own staff for the benefit of their own businesses, and by obtaining tax breaks. In the end, theaddition is astronomical and very indigestible when the crisis occurs. 

Beijing willingly presents itself as an alternative to neocolonialism, is that justified?

Behind this official account, her motivations are not so far from those of Africa's historical partners, she was first attracted by the riches of the African subsoil, to meet her own needs, and her very strong economic presence. in Africa has in no way changed the continent's economic situation, it has not escaped the dependence on raw materials which still constitutes 80% of its exports.

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves le Drian, puts it bluntly: China is acting "as a predator".

The harshness of the comments made in an interview given to our colleagues from the newspaper

Le Monde

startled the Chinese.

Their frankness testifies above all to the growing rivalry between the West and Beijing to regain the confidence of Africans and the market shares that go with it. 

Has the Silk Roads model taken hold? 

Europe is refining its

Global Gateway

with Africa, a partnership presented this autumn by the President of the European Commission. The United States is deploying its own tool,

Build Back Better

; Anthony Blinken, the head of American diplomacy, recently made a first tour of the continent with the prospect of an Africa-United States summit in 2022. Westerners are waking up and in turn proposing partnerships more attractive to Africans. It's time. Because competition has increased in this large emerging African market. Russia, Turkey, Brazil and to a lesser extent India are also on the offensive. 


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