China is not Africa's new 'coloniser' - political economist

The battle between the US and China will also play out in the African arena, but this need not be negative for the continent, according to political economist Ronak Gopaldas.

Foreign powers are actively looking at Africa again, in his view.

"In response to what Russia and China are doing in Africa, the US is now again actively engaging on the continent, especially in security and commerce," he said at the recent annual general meeting of the Airline Association of Southern Africa (AASA) hosted by Air Austral in Reunion.

He believes China’s approach to Africa has generally been one of "cash for resources".

'Prefer the Chinese model'

"African countries prefer the Chinese model as it is less transparent and requires less paperwork. It also does not create the patronising type of feeling perceived from the West," said Gopaldas.

"Although a lot of criticism is also being levelled against China – with accusations that it is acting like the new coloniser - I don’t buy that. China will do what is good for itself and the onus is on Africa to broker better deals."

Furthermore, Japan and India are also actively stepping up their efforts to engage in Africa, according to Gopaldas.

The argument of the Japanese and Indians is that their kind of investments – though they do not match the scale of those by the Chinese are more transparent, of a better quality and not just "government to government", according to Gopaldas.

"India, China and Japan currently have strong leaders with strong global visions on how to expand their visions. This does not need to be negative for Africa," said Gopaldas.

"It can be an opportunity for Africa if we play our cards right as the African continent."

In his view, among "policy puzzles" which will shape the continent’s future are political tensions, tensions between globalism and protectionism and the demographics on the continent, namely its large segment of young people, geo-politics.

* Fin24 was a guest of AASA at its AGM.

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