China has become the new face of neocolonialism in Africa, having loaned tens of billions of dollars to the continent’s governments while knowing that in all likelihood, many of those debts will never be repaid. China works with the presumption that its access to Africa’s markets, enhanced influence, and ability to exploit the continent’s rich deposits of natural resources would compensate it for any unpaid loans. Chinese investment in Africa should be seen as the use of “debt trap diplomacy” in order to have its way with Africa.
Many countries welcomed Chinese investment because it did not come with strings attached, such as a requirement for free elections, gender equality, anti-corruption programs, or government accountability. Many African leaders’ willingness to agree to Chinese funding–whether for natural resource extraction, infrastructure building, or for commercial purposes-has come at a cost.
Many people in Africa have complained that workers are not treated fairly, the environment has not been well considered, and regardless of the quality of the construction, the loans must, at least in theory, be repaid to China, adding to governments’ debt burden; raising the question about how those loans may ultimately be repaid, at what cost, and what sacrifices the governments may have to make to repay those loans. This has led to the suggestion that the relationship between China and Africa has become toxic.
The loans are used to pay for various projects and sometimes a variety of “roads to nowhere,” while the countries still lack so many basic needs.
While it takes two to tango (a lender and a borrower), development loans are often difficult to obtain and responsible long-term lending has often taken a back seat to near-term objectives, such as resource extraction which is very dangerous for a limbing economy like in most African countries. The challenge will be to find the right balance between China’s wealth, power, and money and African countries’ resources and vast potential.WE HAD BETTER BE WISER, at least for posterity.