The Chinese In Africa: Empire Builders Or Pioneers?

The Chinese In Africa: Empire Builders Or Pioneers?
The Chinese invasion

Here and there an attempt is made to gauge the attitude of Africans to this Chinese invasion.

Mostly they blame their own governments for entering into corrupt relationships with Chinese companies.

During French’s visit to Mali, his driver Coulibaly, for example, repeats one of the stock phrases heard from Africans throughout the continent: “We don’t like the Chinese. We are Malians. We’ve already been forced to learn French. We don’t want to be speaking Chinese someday.”

Coulibaly, however, is clearly impressed by the fee-free Chinese hospital in Bamako.

Empire Building

Despite the fact that there is no avowed Chinese neocolonial project in Africa, French believes the sheer numbers of Chinese moving to Africa to look for job opportunities or simply because things have become “too crowded” at home, constitutes the beginning of empire building.

According to French, there could be about a million Chinese in Africa. This, however, is probably a conservative figure, given that he says there are at least 100,000 Chinese in a middle-sized country like Mozambique.

There would be many more Chinese in the countries most known for Chinese mega projects, such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia. Regional heavyweights South Africa, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya were not included in French’s road trip.

Some would argue, however, that empire building is a political notion and, for now, China has not been involved in local politics.

What is clear is that African governments will sooner or later have to make difficult decisions about how to manage this growing relationships with China, the new pioneers.


By: Lies Louw-Vaudran