Author: Brennan E. Wells
In 1899 Rudyard Kipling coined the term, “The White Man’s Burden” when referring to developing nations more commonly known as Third World countries. Expressing the need for The West to take up the mantle and help Third World nations in need. For centuries, the West has viewed Africa in the paradigm, as a monolith of desperate nations either ripe for the plunder of human beings and natural resources or a dream land for missionaries to fulfill the need to re-civilize other persons. China, a nation that has felt the imperialist force of the United States has gone through the most massive mode of industrialization known to man and reached out to another victim of Western imperialism to form African-Chinese political and economic relations.
Despite the West’s view of Africa as a land of death and famine, China in 2014 invested $56 billion dollars in infrastructure aid to Ethiopia, building roads, hospitals, stadiums, highways, and airports. In Ethiopia alone, there sits a booming population of at least 100 million people of which, 90% do not own bank accounts. China sees this as a vast untapped resource along with other African nations to spur on the Chinese economic engine while developing a long-term trading and political partner in the African bloc.
Another prime example of China’s belief in a resurgent Africa is the rail system built between Zambia and Tanzania. This massive transportation system which decreased in value and operational efficiency since its inaugural ride paved the way for the diplomatic cover China needed, as it was enduring its Cultural Revolution. This same practice is used by China with other African nations as well. China sends off cheap or low-interest loans, infrastructure aid and goods to African nations in return for access to African markets, political support on the world stage and natural resources to drive China’s economy.
Some coin this as neocolonialism on China’s part, but China asserts, that it reaches out to African nations amorally, leaving various African nations to solve their internal political disputes within their own confines. Africa sees this a dignified way of doing business as opposed to being the United States’s burden, so much so, that even during high commodities prices for oil African nations like Angola or Nigeria exported oil to China at reduced rates
The Forum on China-African Cooperation is only but one example of the commitment on behalf of the Chinese to secure a cemented partnership. For by 2034 Africa as a whole will have the largest and youngest workforce in the world amounting to 1.1 billion persons driving the economic engine which is Africa. Even taking into consideration the economic downturn the global economy in the latter parts of 2010, Africa continued and still surges as urbanization takes hold. Along with an uptick in the service and manufacturing industries, Africa is on the path to being a major global power.
Shifting investments in Africa brought a rise of venture capitalism that once beseeched America is emerging in Africa, not for humanitarian causes, but for pure business means. The vast rural landscape that of which is 63%, Africa still holds massive opportunity for growth and private investors now see this as well as China.
In 2015 alone, China invested $160 billion dollars into African nations and now surpasses the World Bank as the largest contributor of loans into the continent. If America is to remain a world power, the relationship between America and Africa must be revisited, rethought and reimagined. Africa and China alone by the year 2034 will account for a third of the world’s population and those are numbers no nation can ignore. But in addition to the push to develop mega-cities, urban areas and infrastructure in disremembered African nations, comes too the social and cultural considerations.
The massive land grab and the mad dash for Africa ensuing from the Berlin Conference in the late 1800s sowed strife into African nations by drawing borders and countries without any consideration for the persons already living there. Hence, we must remember, that since Africa is by in large a rural continent, the populations who live outside of the confines of urbanization must be brought to the table and involved in development. Disregarding these societies can only lead to violence in response to expansionism.
America’s view of Africa as a burden has allowed China to gain a strategic long-term partner and amounts to blessing falling into their laps. As China devalues their currency, manufacturers a significant amount of goods and pads its economy, Africa will act as a sponge to grow and find a home for the goods China produces. America is watching a super power grow right under its nose and that will truly be a burden to America’s idea of a unipolar world.