From international marginalization to center stage: The new Afro-optimism.
China’s rulers, foreign ministry and state-controlled newspapers all say that Africa is ripe for take-off. This optimistic slogan is refreshing after so many decades of “Afro-pessimism,” which focused on the tragedies of the resource curse, war, disease and incompetent governance. The siren song is performed with enthusiasm by China’s Communist Party leaders, stock markets and fund managers alike. To a large extent the new optimism is the result of the search by Chinese state-owned companies and other Asian multinationals for raw materials in Africa. It is arguable that China’s financing and implementation of Africa’s construction boom contributes to better development prospects for the world’s poorest continent. New South-South cooperation, and particularly Asian-African partnerships in various forms, is clearly deepening economic and political relations with African countries, leading to a redrawing of geo-economic boundaries and the geopolitical map of Africa.
The dynamics of Asian-African economic cooperation
The presence in Africa is meant to provide two-way benefits: South-South Cooperation is not unidirectional. Several Asian nations have organized forums and summits together with African countries to enhance mutual goals. These new Asian-African architectures and frameworks are fundamental to the building of consistent bilateral and multilateral relations. China, Japan and India, but also South Korea, are all putting considerable efforts into vying for influence. Japan’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) process began this type of cooperation in 1993. Although China’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) started later, in 2000, it has been the most successful. The First Korea-Africa Forum was held to strengthen cooperation with African countries in November 2006.
Purpose and questions
The purpose of this paper is to critically investigate the new challenges that foreign aid, an investor presence and investment from East Asian countries present to Western governments, and local civil societies and politics in Africa as seen through the prism of Zambia, Mozambique and Uganda.
The three questions that this paper seeks to answer are:
- How does the increasing presence of Chinese, Japanese and South Korean private and state-owned companies and state interests affect local politics and civil society? Is good governance as a policy goal in any way undermined?
- Do the company investment, and government credits and aid from these Asian countries work against or in accordance with decisions taken in international forums, such as the Paris Declaration of 2005 and the post-Accra agreement of 2008? In particular, this paper focuses on the new multi-facility exporting zones (MFEZ) established by China in Zambia.
- Does the expansion of East Asian countries’ interests in Africa contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction in Africa? In particular, this paper focuses on issues concerning the prospects for job creation and land use rights.
… to read more about the findings, policy implications, download the full text at this web address: http://www.ui.se/upl/files/54056.pdf.