Chinese trade in Africa
If you ever holiday in Africa you will notice a curious phenomenon. In many countries, when state television has concluded its daily broadcasts, the channels do not shut down for the night. Neither do they switch to wall-to-wall CNN news
reports as if often the case in other countries across the globe. What the casual viewer is far more likely to be treated to are reports about domestic affairs in China.
In Malawi, President Bingu wa Mutharika had a visionary moment that has had a long-term impact on his country's economic fortunes. Five years ago he made a decision to abandon Malawi's longstanding business partner, Taiwan, and go for the potential of the distinctly larger of the Chinese markets, establishing diplomatic and economic ties with the People's Republic.
For anyone jetting into Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, the results of this new collusion are plain to see. Chinese contractors have been responsible for some distinctive alterations to the city skyline. The new parliament building was constructed in under a year, and a brand new conference centre took a mere couple of weeks longer. Both of these major construction projects are estimated to have created jobs for a total of 1400 Malawian workers; split into 500 and 900 respectively.
China is also responsible for the delivery of the luxurious five-star Golden Peacock hotel
, offering hundreds more permanent jobs for African locals. The Asian superpower is also behind numerous other initiatives, such as presidential accommodation, schools, universities and roads, not to mention over 600 drilling holes for water. In the near future Malawians can expect a national sports stadium and an agriculture technology centre.
While these are all obvious and highly visible examples of Chinese investment in Africa, there are also a great deal of projects at grass-roots level. Chinese expertise has helped to equip farmers for the vagaries of the continent's climatic conditions, as well as training up doctors with the latest in medical and pharmaceutical facilities. Many Africans have taken up Chinese scholarships.
China has long surpassed the USA as Africa's leading trading partner, with bilateral trade growing to $160 billion from $10.6 billion in the last couple of years. This phenomenal leap in the figures is symptomatic of China's devotion to the potential markets Africa has to offer, such as its untold riches in minerals, oil and gas.