The China and Africa Story

    by Ory Okolloh
    November 9, 2006

    Mark Glaser is away on vacation this week, but we’re happy to have Ory Okolloh filling in as a guest blogger. Ory writes the Kenyan Pundit blog and graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2005. She is currently based in South Africa working as the Legal and Corporate Affairs Manager for Enablis and as a consultant on telecommunications policy and citizen journalism in Africa. She is also the co-founder of an online parliament watch project in Kenya — Mzalendo. Glaser will return to the blog next Monday, Nov. 13.

    Over the last year or two, mainstream media outlets have started paying much more attention to China’s increasingly strong presence in Africa. This interest was recently amplified by the China-Africa summit, which was recently held in Beijing.

    The storylines from Western media outlets generally slant towards claiming China’s interest is spurred by greed and the desire for natural resources and Africa should beware make a point to note that China’s interest is a threat to the West that should not be ignored. There’s also a lot of focus on China’s no-strings attached approach , which arguably supports governments that violate human rights.


    African media outlets focus on the fact China’s interest is economically beneficial for Africa, especially in terms of infrastructure investment — something that the West has been reluctant to support. There is a sense of caution, however, with some noting that the partnership must not tilt heavily in favor of China.

    Finally, the general storylines from Chinese media outlets reflect the government’s view.

    As I read through the stories, I’m struck by how superficial they are. The themes are recurring, and there’s very little attempt to present a much more textured view. For instance, how is this new relationship viewed by the average person in Africa and in China? Are African leaders working to make sure that the relationship is more balanced? Are the projects the Chinese are financing having an actual impact on the ground or are they exploitative?


    I’ve found blogs to be much more informative in this regard. Here are a few of my favorite recent links:

    > Jen Brea’s Africa Beat (great overall resource)

    > A great post from Chippla, a Nigerian blogger, explaining his shift from skepticism to cautious accommodation about China’s role in Africa.

    > Global Voices provides a great roundup of the views from Chinese bloggers.

    In the meantime I hope the interest in the Africa-China story will continue to grow and hopefully get more textured.

    Tagged: africa china guests

    2 responses to “The China and Africa Story”

    1. Darren says:

      The links to “Enablis” and “Mzalendo” in the introduction are both broken (they are missing the “http://”).

    2. phonetics says:

      I haven’t actually read up on the china africa summit and all that, but it’s quite interesting how this has become quite an issue. I am also interested in the contents of the africabeat blog which has an article on how China is an election issue in Zambia, stating “Many Zambians are angry about Chinese petty merchants who are outcompeting local retailers and the poor or unsafe working conditions of Chinese-owned mines.
      “. Social-economic interactions are always a big problem where they are seen as new and foreign, but even after a while without the right counteractions from the existing community the boundaries of being foreign will always be there. Some parts of South East Asia still have a kind of social-economic restraint when dealing with their chinese and I wonder how things will go with Africa. So I am definitely staying tuned for more on this.

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