The cost of Chinese aid to Africa


THE adage that one cannot bite the hand that feeds him/her cannot be truer and more applicable than on the issue pertaining to the relations between China and Africa. There is a truism that a benefactor and a beneficiary can never be perceived to be equal no matter how much the benefactor tries to depersonalise his/her status as a giver to the receiver. The giver will always inertly look down upon the receiver.

China has given billions of US dollars to Africa in aid. In fact, aid from China is the most accessible by African governments compared to other loans provided by the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. That as it may be, Chinese aid is proving to be too costly for Africa. There has always been fear by onlookers of the Chinese economic colonisation of Africa resulting from the massive loans granted to Africa.

However, something worse than what people have been afraid of from the China-Africa aid relations is taking place — the dehumanisation of Africans by the Chinese. Africa, by seeking aid from China has proverbially sowed the wind and is reaping the whirlwind. Indeed, African countries, in their quest for aid from China have gotten more than they have bargained for.

China has funded many developmental projects in Sub-Saharan Africa consisting of among other projects, airports in Kenya, electricity projects, roads and shopping malls in Zambia, upgrading of the Victoria Falls Airport and construction of the new Parliament building in Zimbabwe and the railway system in Ethiopia.

All these are grand projects of infrastructural improvement. These developments are, however, costing African nationals more than the monetary repayments required for the loans. They cost the entire dignity of the African. As a result of this aid to Africa, the Chinese do not perceive Africans as equal human beings, but they see them as monkeys. A case in point is that of a Chinese national who was running a bicycle manufacturing company in Kenya. He was deported from Kenya for insulting a Kenyan worker by calling him a monkey and further saying that even the President of Kenya was a monkey.

The Kenyan incident is not an isolated one. In China, as I write now, the Chinese are attacking African nationals and throwing them out of hostels. They do not accept them at restaurants and are accusing them of having brought COVID-19 to China.

What could be the cause of all this dehumanisation of Africans by the Chinese nationals in particular, in this instance? The answer lies in the following analysis: It is a known fact that African countries are inherently richer than China. African countries are endowed with natural resources that far exceed those of China. The Chinese are aware of that. That is the reason the Chinese are eager to trade with Africa.

However, that as it may be, the Chinese wonder why Africans do not exploit their resources, whereas, the Chinese end up getting more wealth from African resources than the Africans themselves. Naturally, the Chinese, as anybody else, see a gap in that and obviously see stupidity in an African.

It has always been a human phenomenon to measure oneself against another. Superiority has always been measured by points scored over another. Quantities are a measure of success. If, therefore, one can get the most out of someone through outsmarting them, the outsmarter perceives himself superior. The outsmarter will inevitably, in most cases, look down upon the outsmarted.

Africa does not need to be treated this way. Africa’s denigration by China is a self-made problem. African countries can trade among themselves and process their resources without China. China is aware of this African potential, but sees no action from among the Africans to improve themselves. China sees Africans as candidates for exploitation.

Africa needs to wake up. One wonders what the Africa Union plans when it meets if it does not make decisions about such key and crucial issues to do with its total economic independence and dignity.

Reinford Khumalo is a professor of leadership and organisational behaviour. He is a research and business consultant. He can be contacted at +263 779544208 / + 263 71638 3944. email: