The Growing Importance of Africa to China
Currently Africa, and primarily the countries of Angola, Nigeria, and the Sudan, provides 25% of China’s petroleum imports.
According to Dot Keet, a fellow at the Transnational Institute, China also conducts a number of other activities within Africa designed to enhance its access to natural resources.
But nowhere is China’s influence more dominant than in its ability to provide capital where it acts as a banker to a number of African countries by providing large low-interest loans, many times at zero or near-zero interest rates, and exacting repayment through the escrow of oil or other natural resources. This is one of the primary reasons that China has fared so well in securing natural resources in Africa.
For example, according to Dot Keet, in Angola, China offered $2 billion in aid for infrastructure projects and, in turn, secured a former Shell oil block that was also being sought after by India. In Nigeria, China promised $7 billion in investments and the rehabilitation of power stations and, in return, received oil rights to areas sought by a number of multinational companies. In Gabon, China pledged to build a rail line, dam, and deep-water port and, in return, received the rights to a $3 billion iron ore project that was also sought by Brazilian and French firms. And the list goes on. This is referred to in Africa as the Chinese model in which trade and investment play prominent roles. In fact, the United Nations Development Program feels that this model eases China’s dependency on the West and consequently underwrites a China-Africa Business Council that promotes China’s investment in Africa.