Africa much better off with China’s help?

Published: 06 December 2010

Ironic but true. Coming in and out of the different sessions of the EDD what catches my attention the most is the piece of news I come across reading in The Guardian: according to US cables leaked by Wikileaks Africa would prefer Chinese aid to US-China cooperation. Chinese bilateral approach is deemed as effective and fast whereas US or EU is seen as an "interference" which can only slow down the assistance process. If true, this can only be a jug of cold water for EU high officials like Commissioner Piebalgs, who praised in his opening speech the EDD is a key factor for a real engagement in development cooperation.

Chinese economic influence in African countries is growing rapidly. In fact, last year it overtook the US as Africa´s main trade partner. Chinese cheap goods can now be bought from the biggest African capital to the tribal villages in the remotest areas. Not only the Chinese government is making great efforts to extent their economic reach, but also to export their culture. Therefore early this year China signed signed an agreement with the Ethiopian government to implement a cultural exchange programme from 2010 to 2013.

Can China´s assistance to Africa be regarded simply as a way of influencing the African continent or, as some already fear, as a new way of "neo-colonialism"? In the years to come we will find out how this will all play out.