By Lawrence Freeman
For the thirty-third consecutive year, the first foreign trip by China’s Foreign Minister was to Africa. China’s new Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, the former Ambassador to the United States, traveled to Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin, and Egypt, from January 9 to 16, 2023. In addition to visiting these five African nations he was also invited to meet with African leaders at the African Union and the League of Arab States Headquarters. The stated purpose of the trip was: To deepen the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership and boost friendly cooperation between China and Africa.
Friendship Remains Strong
Starting in the year 2000, China organized the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which meets every three years, alternating between China and Africa. These conferences provide a unique opportunity for African leaders and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, to discuss future economic, cultural, and political collaboration. Contrary to continued efforts by the U.S. to malign Africa-China cooperation, China and Africa have remained steadfast in their shared common interest; the development of their people.
One of the highlights of Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s visit to Ethiopia, was to inaugurate the new Headquarters of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). The new Africa CDC, located outside of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, was built by China and given as a gift to Africa.
This is a critically important contribution to Africa, a continent of one and a half billion people, which was given a very low priority for vaccinating against COVID 19, and continuously suffers from a weak healthcare system.
Foreign Minister Qin met with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen. He was the first foreign government official to visit Ethiopia following the signing of the peace agreement of November 2, 2022, that ended a two year long war in northern Ethiopia. He expressed China’s support for “Africans in solving African problems in African ways.” This attitude differs dramatically from the U.S. and Europe, who undermined the government of Ethiopia during the war. Foreign Minister Qin pledged to assist Ethiopia in its reconstruction efforts, which are formidable following the terrible damage that the country suffered in fighting to maintain its sovereignty. Additionally, he announced that China will forgive thirty million dollars in Ethiopian debt.
In December 2022, the U.S. convened its first U.S.-Africa Summit in eight years. The unspoken “secret topic” and motivation for the three-day conference was, how to counter China’s growing influence on the African continent.
There are yet to be any “deliverables” from the U.S.-Africa Summit. While the Biden administration seems to be more focused on exporting the “infrastructure of democracy,” China is building and financing more hard infrastructure projects in Africa than the rest of Western nations combined. These projects impact the daily material needs of the African people, which is essential to eliminate poverty on the continent.
China-Africa Trade Not Debt
China’s trade with Africa during 2022 expanded to its largest single year total of $282 billion. China exported $164.5 billion to Africa and imported $117.5 billion over that twelve-month time, which represented an increase of 11% over 2021. From January to November of 2022, U.S. exports to Africa, were $28.5 billion and imports of $38.9 billion for a total trade of $67.3 billion, almost no increase over 2021. Thus, U.S. trade with Africa was approximately one-fourth that of China for 2022. If the U.S. intends to counter or challenge China in Africa, it will have to do a lot more than “exporting democracy.”
As you can see from the chart below the myth spun by Western officials and the media that China is primarily responsbile for Africa’s debt, is simply not ture. This intentionally false allegation has been refuted again and again, but Western governments continue to propagandize Africa nations that China is using a ‘debt-trap’ diplomacy to seize their resources. Chinese ‘Debt Trap” is a Myth-Biden Would be Wise Not to Continue Trump’s Attacks on China in Africa,
The total outstanding debt for sub-Saharan African nations to foreign entities totals: 454.4 billion USD. China is not even close to being the largest debt holder. China owns 79 billion USD of sub-Saharan Africa’s debt, less than one firth-17%. The debt held by bondholders, the World Bank, and the IMF, equals 286.9 billion USD,-63% of the total foreign debt of sub-Saharan Africa,
Investing in Manufacturing
Contrary to Western propaganda, which accuses China of stealing Africa’s resources, China is actually expanding Africa’s manufacturing sector. This is a vital contribution since African nations suffer from an anemic production capability to add value their natural resources. A good example is the investment by Dinson Iron and Steel Company (DISCO), a Chinese steel manufacturer, who intends to invest in building a lithium battery manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe. chinese firm to manufacture lithium batteries in zim. The Zimbabwean government has wisely banned the export of raw lithium. Having its own manufacturing plant, will create jobs and improve the standard of living of Zimbabweans, since mining and export of valuable minerals does not lead to economic growth for the population.
This kind of investment in local manufacturing along with China’s Belt and Road strategy of building infrastructure throughout Africa, is exactly what is needed to assist African nations in creating strong sovereign economies.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. He is also the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton