In 2008, China replaced the US as Africa’s largest trading partner, with the volume of trade reaching $107bn, representing a tenfold increase since 2000.
With foreign direct investment rising from $491m in 2003 to $100bn in 2009, a twentyfold increase during the past decade alone, China is now not only Africa’s single largest source of low-interest capital, but also–given tariff reduction–its most equitable trading partner.
Over the past few decades, China has managed to move hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty by combining state intervention with economic incentives to attract private investment — the kind of experimentation that the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once described as “crossing the river by feeling the stones.”
Today, China is feeling the stones again but this time in its economic engagement across Africa. Its current experiment in Africa mixes a hard-nosed but clear-eyed self-interest with the lessons of China’s own successful development and of decades of its failed aid projects in Africa.
If you’re interested in China in Africa, Nic van de Walle recommends a new volume.