Over the last two decades, China has gradually invested in Africa, gaining ownership of more and more resources and growing industries. Recently, China has sharply increased these investments, taking on a much larger role in Africa’s future. China’s increasing investment in Africa may signal that the U.S. needs to similarly increase their investment in the region.

Africa’s biggest creditor is the China Import-Export Bank. Officials are in the process of creating the China-Africa Development Fund, which will pump over $2 billion into the developing continent over the next three years. China has replaced the United Sates as Africa’s largest trading partner, as its trade levels with Africa have shot up from $10 billion to $200 billion, over just thirteen years.

There are mixed feelings over China’s growing presence in Africa. To its credit, China has provided much-needed support, providing funding for expensive infrastructure projects and other developmental plans. Such projects have included building schools and roads, creating opportunities for many people in Africa. Similarly, China’s huge economic growth rates have helped boost Africa’s pace of growth as well. China also aids Africa’s growing consumerism by providing cheap products that improve quality of life for many people across the continent.

Conversely, many critics criticize China for overreaching in regards to Africa and taking advantage of their disorganization and lack of regulations. Others emphasize China’s exploitation of Africa’s natural resources. This has left Africa with very little profit compared with what China has made off of these resources, causing many to draw an eerie comparison to the days of European imperialism and exploitation of the continent. China’s mass manufacturing and distribution network, which makes cheap consumer products available, also has a huge advantage over Africa’s smaller upcoming production facilities. China’s ability to distribute cheap products on a wide scale discourages competition and drives many local start-ups out of business.

More alarming still is China’s focus on acquiring Africa’s natural resources. Raw materials comprise approximately 85 percent of Africa’s exports to China, largely consisting of oil and various minerals. The African Development Bank has voiced complaints over this mass export of natural resources, calling for the resources to be processed and developed within Africa in order to create jobs and profit.

Many African governments have started demanding China offer up a greater number of jobs to the African population. As Africa’s population continues to grow, the need for more jobs simultaneously increases. However, China’s established investment patterns tend to bring in their own Chinese workforce, leading to an influx of an estimated one million Chinese migrants to Africa throughout the last twenty years.

China’s soft power investment in Africa will surely lead to greatly increased Chinese influence throughout the developing continent. The question remains whether this will propel Africa to new levels or simply act as a crutch for Africa’s struggle for healthy development and economic growth.

Allison Meade

Sources: Forbes, Reuters, International Business Times
Photo: USC Dornsife