China, as a true friend of Africa, has provided sincere and unconditional aid for the continent by improving infrastructure and pouring investment there, African experts said.
Africa has witnessed a fast pace of China-supported growth in the last decade, even in countries without mineral resources.
This is being seen as evidence that potential exponential growth can be realized in a shorter time if relations between the two are deepened. Development analysts say that the pace of infrastructure development in Kenya, a country that does not have mineral resources, is faster compared to the similar period when the country was more Western leaning in its diplomatic relations.
The Chinese-supported infrastructure projects in Ethiopia, which has little mineral resources either, have won the hearts and minds of the local people and helped change the biased perception fed into Africans through the Western media that China intends to exploit Africa.
Kenya just discovered oil a few months ago, but China, especially in the last ten years, has helped the country finance major infrastructure projects through concession loans and grants.”There is enough evidence today that China is not only interested in natural resources in Africa.
It is not an exploitative relation, and this is very clear now. It’s about long-term trade interests that are also beneficial to Africa,” said Professor Celestas Juma, a Kenyan lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an expert on sustainable development.
“The best Africa can do is to harness these relations because of the way it is. China is in Africa for a long time,” Juma told reporters in Nairobi on Tuesday.
For instance, the 50-km long, 12-lane Nairobi- Thika Highway is a signature infrastructure project that not only has eased traffic congestion and increased transport efficiency, but also becomes the most modern superhighway in East and Central Africa.
Beijing is also helping Kenya to develop its geothermal resources, a sustainable, renewable and cheaper alternative that will reduce the cost of electricity.
“Look at it this way, for a project like Nairobi-Thika Highway to get financing, it could have taken a very long time and with lots of conditions, including political ones, before the money is released, if it came from the West or Western-controlled financial development institutions,” said Juma.
“But its construction through China’s help, including the key by-passes, has taken a record time and you can see from the media here that Kenyans are very happy,” said Dr James Oruko, a lecturer on development studies from Egerton University.
Dr Lloyd Adu Amoah, a lecturer at the Ashesi University College in Ghana, said the impact of China’s relations with Africa is evident across the continent, and the choice for Africa would be to create conditions to enable this relationship to grow.
“Even among the African and Chinese peoples, there is a growing understanding, especially among the middle class, on the need to work together,” Amoah said. “This is not a forced realization, but an admission that the relations are having a positive consequence,” Amoah added.
He said the announcement of additional investments by China in Africa of 20 billion U.S. dollars during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is an indication that “Chinese interest in Africa is genuine.”
The bulk of this money is expected to be used to develop infrastructure in the continent, a major need for Africa whose development is largely hampered by a lack of better roads, hospitals, schools and water systems.