The majority of Africans are in favor of Chinese development on the continent, according to a new report titled “China’s Growing Presence in Africa Wins Largely Positive Popular Reviews” by the Afrobarometer Research Network. “Almost two-thirds or 63 percent of Africans say China’s influence in the continent is “somewhat” or “very” positive, while only 15 percent see it as somewhat or very negative,” the report states.
Trade between Africa and China has increased from $10 billion in 2000 to $220 billion in 2014. In 2000, China established the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation to drive its strategic engagement with sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, the communist nation has been the go-to global economic resource for African countries in need of products and services ranging from infrastructure and telecommunication development, to food outlets, retail shops, and textiles.
“When asked to state what makes China favorable, 32 percent of respondents singled out China’s infrastructure and other developments and 16 percent cited its business investments. 23 percent cited the country’s low cost of its products.
However, 35 percent of respondents disapproved of the low quality of its products, as well as political and social considerations,” reads the report.
According to the study, Africa is the main source of mineral imports for China, along with smaller amounts of oil and agriculture. In the past decade, Chinese laborers and traders have emigrated to Africa in large numbers in search of better opportunities. .
Twenty-four percent of respondents from 36 African countries surveyed concluded that China is the second-most-popular model for national development. Only 30 percent cited the United States, while 13 percent prefer their former colonial power, the United Kingdom. 11 percent of people pulled also listed South Africa as a model nation.
“China is the most popular model for development in Cameroon (48 percent), Sudan (36 percent), Mozambique (36 percent), Mali (36 percent), Tanzania (35 percent), and Zambia (32 percent),” notes the report.
Conversely, 67 percent of the citizens in Liberia and 52 percent in Cape Verde see the United States as the best model of development.
China Has A Positive Influence In Africa
The study asked African citizens to state their opinion about the quality of external assistance provided to their countries. 47 percent applauded the assistance they got from China. However, 54 percent conceded that their countries were helped “somewhat” or “ a lot” by the United States.
“Regionally, the influence of Chinese economic activities is considered mostly positive in West Africa (72 percent), Central Africa (70 percent) and East Africa (68 percent). In Southern Africa, positive views are 59 percent and 42 percent in Northern Africa,” the report observes.
The economic and political influence of China also varies across African demographics. For instance, 66 percent of men view the influence as positive than 60 percent of women. The positive perception is also seen more among educated Africans at 66 percent, compared to 61 percent of Africans without any formal education. 65 percent of the youth aged between 18 and 35 years old consider Chinese influence as positive, compared to 57 percent of those aged 56 years and above.
The report acknowledges the emergence of China, commonly referred to as the “red dragon,” as a global economic player alongside other economic blocs such as the the United States and the European Union. It notes that Africans do not believe that China is taking advantage of continent’s natural resources.
“For Africans, China rivals the United States in influence and popularity as a development model. Despite considerable criticism in the media of China’s interests and operations in Africa, Africans view China’s emergence as an addition to the economic playing field,” observes the report.
Research for the report was carried out between 2014 and 2015. Data was collected through face-to-face interviews from a sample of 54,000 African citizens in 36 countries.