CHINA'S INVESTMENT FOR AFRICA: $35 BLN
FT - Africa attracted more Chinese state lending for energy infrastructure than any other region last year, highlighting Beijing's view of the continent's growing economic and strategic importance.
A study by Boston University academics shows that nearly one-third, or $6.8bn, of the $25.6bn that China's state-owned development banks lent last year to energy projects worldwide went to African countries. This was ahead of south Asia, with $5.84bn.
The loans bring total Chinese energy finance in Africa since 2000 to $34.8bn. While this is well behind the $69bn lent in Europe and Central Asia, the $62bn in Latin America and the $60bn in Asia over the same period, the 2017 data illustrate Africa's growing importance.
"China is trying to replicate its model of development in Africa to show the world that the Chinese economic model really works," said Yu Jie of LSE Ideas, a think-tank based at London School of Economics.
The strong lending follows a 2015 promise by Xi Jinping, China's leader, for a total of $60bn in Chinese investments to Africa by the end of this year to demonstrate what he called a "common future". Statistics on how close Beijing is to realising the overall $60bn target are not yet available, analysts said.
Some soundings, though, suggest a growing affinity. An 2016 Afrobarometer survey of 36 African countries found that 63 per cent of Africans found China's influence "somewhat" or "very" positive. Asked which countries provided the best development model for Africa, China placed second only to the US with 24 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.
Financing energy projects is one of the main strands in China's push to win market share and diplomatic friends in developing counties by building much-needed infrastructure.
Power generation and transmission were the largest lending segment, accounting for $22.3bn of the total, with the remainder being going to oil and gas exploration and extraction, according to data from Boston University's Global Development Policy Centre. All the $6.8bn in 2017 lending to Africa was for power projects.
Geographically, the lending has been concentrated into six countries, with Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa and Sudan getting $23.8bn of the total $34.8bn since 2000. The Boston University data tracks loans from the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China, the world's two largest development banks.
The door to Chinese lenders has been left open by a comparative lack of action from the western-backed multilateral lenders. "Traditional multilateral development banks have not been forthcoming in big energy and China has been more than willing to fill the void," said Kevin Gallagher, professor of global development policy at Boston University.
In addition, Prof Gallagher said, Africa's demographic explosion, which is likely to lead to an additional 1.3bn people on the continent by 2050, underscored the demand for power generation and transmission for decades to come.
Further momentum behind China's engagement with Africa has come from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a signature programme of Mr Xi to finance and build infrastructure in more than 80 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
In Asia and Europe, Beijing has experienced some resistance to the BRI, largely because of the size of debt burdens being incurred by some recipient countries and criticism over a perceived lack of contracts being awarded to local contractors. In Africa, so far, the BRI roll-out has been comparatively smooth, analysts said.
However, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state who is on a five-nation tour of Africa, warned on Thursday that the continent should be careful when accepting Chinese investment, saying countries should "not forfeit any elements of your sovereignty as you enter into such arrangements with China".
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