During the last decade, Africa, with its investment opportunities, has become an arena for economic conflict, especially between the two largest economies in the world, the United States of America and China. It has come to the point that Washington has increased its investment and agreements with Africa recently after Beijing made it lose more than 40% of its investment over the past 20 years.
China succeeded in removing its archenemy America with its economic policy that relies on investment in infrastructure, services, agriculture, and land reclamation in Africa. Therefore, it was not surprising that Beijing quickly became Africa’s number one trading partner over the last 12 years. China was not affected by the economic crises that the continent witnessed, especially the most recent one due to the spread of the Coronavirus, but rather benefited from this crisis and became Africa’s first creditor. It also tightened its grip on countries that suffer from the repercussions of diverting financial resources, vaccination campaigns, and health services. This is in addition to the growth of bilateral trade and the volume of investments. All this prompted the European Union to motivate its institutions to return to the brown continent invaded by the Asian giant, but it was unable to achieve any desired results from that step.
The value of bilateral trade between China and Africa amounted to $187bn in 2020, then recorded strong growth, as the trade volume increased by 40.5% to reach $139.1bn in the first seven months of 2021, which is a high record for an annual basis. The expansion of Chinese investment in Africa has increased despite the downturn in the global economy and trade caused by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Chinese investment in Africa reached $2.96bn in 2020, up 9.5% annually, and direct non-financial investment reached $2.66bn. In addition to this, investment in services within sub-sectors such as scientific research, technology services, transportation, warehousing, and postal services has doubled.
In the first seven months of 2021, Chinese direct investment in Africa reached $2.07bn. Twenty-five Chinese economic and trade cooperation zones have been established in 16 African countries, and these zones have attracted 623 companies with a total investment of $7.35bn, creating more than 46,000 jobs for African countries. The contractual value of Chinese infrastructure projects reached $67.9bn along the eastern coast of the continent, which is the maritime part of the Silk Road, and investments in infrastructure there have become a top priority to serve the idea of the Silk Road.
Now, China has become the largest economic partner of the African continent, by possessing its oil resources and mineral wealth for the sake of increasing its economic growth. This declared interest is what Chinese President Xi Jinping previously pledged in September 2018 regarding the construction and development of industrial zones, working to raise the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two sides to a high level, and providing financial support through loans through the China-Africa Industrial Cooperation Fund.
This fund, besides its stated goal, is a clear threat to America’s interests in Africa because it will undermine its policy in many areas, whether in export or even in counter-terrorism efforts, as African countries may prefer to reduce cooperation with America militarily in the future as well. This is in addition to the Western countries’ fear of China’s economic domination of Africa after it was previously the most important trading partner in the brown continent. That is why the US agency McKinsey predicted that the value of financial profits that could be reaped by China from Africa by 2025 would reach $440bn.
Through these large investment figures announced in favor of China on behalf of poor African countries, observers and analysts expect the People’s State of China to tighten control over the African continent during the next few decades due to the size of its large investments and the volume of loans granted to a growing number of African countries, including sub-Saharan African countries with their rich natural resources.
The African continent is full of important raw materials such as uranium, iron, zinc, cobalt, copper, gold, and others, as China was one of the first countries that sought to plan to obtain its share of these natural resources and monopolize it to supply its factories, thus monopolizing the industries in the world. This disturbed America and Europe, which led to the outbreak of a cold war between China on the one hand and the United States of America and European countries on the other hand, due to its economic brutality in Africa and other continents.
What is happening on the continent of conflicts is caused by the absence of Arab power, which occurred as a result of the absence of real coordination between the countries of the continent. It was assumed that the Arab countries, geographically and historically, are worthy of this investment due to its importance and to avoid in the future the risks and repercussions of the intervention of any other power and its negative effects. This certainly requires the creation of Arab-African cooperation in an effective and real way, and the existence of a strong Arab economic organization to compete with the major economic powers to achieve Arab-African integration, at least economically, taking advantage of changing global events and the tendency to create a multipolar world.