China is repositioning itself as the primary economic interest in Africa, and it’s there for the long haul. Nandini Lakshman explores a rapidly evolving relationship
In May this year, when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addressed a gathering at the African Union’s swank headquarters in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, it wasn’t just the usual trade promotion talk. On his first foreign trip, which also took Keqiang to Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, he not only elaborated on the importance of Chinese investment in infrastructure, but also proposed collaborations on ecological protection, poverty reduction, education, sanitation, clean drinking water, and the prevention and control of epidemics.
Barely two months earlier, in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping had unveiled a similar strategy to promote livelihood issues during his three-nation maiden visit to Africa.
The change in the Africa rhetoric and a move towards a holistic investment approach isn’t coincidence. China experts claim that the predetermined narrative is China’s way of deflecting global flak at what is being seen as an exploitative focus on Africa’s natural resources and a rising involvement in its security affairs.