Ties between African countries and China are complex. Understanding this matters

2 days 23 hours ago
Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo and China's President Xi Jinping at the 2018 summit in Beijing. EPA-EFE/Andy Wong (Pool)

The complex relationship between Africa and China has become even more complicated this year. Initially, 2018 was set to reaffirm the bond through the latest Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit held in Beijing in September. The summit delivered its usual pageant of African leaders, side deals, and the announcement of a USD$60 billion financing package. The year also saw the recurrence of misgivings about the relationship.

The most explicit theme of this conversation was debt. Donald Trump’s US administration added fuel to smouldering anxiety, and China found itself having to defend its lending to Africa – at home and globally. At the same time, African governments are battling rumours that they are about to hand over state assets to the Chinese.

The debt debate is flawed – not least for underestimating Western contributions to African debt. Nevertheless, it is revealing. In particular, the debate reflects an anxiety that has haunted relations between China and the continent since the beginning of this century: the massive power gap between China and individual African countries.

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China, Kenya relations and the question of racial discrimination

5 days 18 hours ago
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese President Xi Jinping prior to a bilateral meeting in Beijing, China. Etienne Oliveau/EPA/Pool

The Chinese have established themselves as one of the biggest investors in Africa’s infrastructure projects. In Kenya, one of their flagship projects is the country’s new standard gauge railway, which is estimated to be worth $3.2 billion.

Several other Chinese projects have been initiated in the country, particularly in the manufacturing, construction and hospitality sectors. But this flourishing business partnership has not been without challenges. One of the biggest has been accusations of racial discrimination by Chinese nationals against their Kenyan counterparts.

A few weeks ago, an investigative journalist revealed that Kenyan workers at the Chinese-built railway were being subjected to repeated incidents of racial discrimination and abuse by their Chinese supervisors. The report also alleged that the China Road and Bridge Corporation, the Chinese conglomerate that operates the 473 km Nairobi-Mombasa railway, was implementing a deliberate segregation policy.

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5 hours ago
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