african nations one billion coronavirus vaccines and has pledged to continue economic investment in the region. he made the comments as part of the annual fordham on the china -africa cooperation as the summit in senegal closes. china emphasize how crucial the partnership is. china is africa's largest trading partner with $190 billion in trade. let's take a closer look at china's long-term investment plans in africa. chinese foreign direct investment in the continent was almost $3 billion in 2020, totaling $50 billion. almost one third of that investment has gone into the construction. that has made china africa's biggest trading partner and given china premier access to much-needed raw materials to fuel its economy, as the largest importer of copper and cobalt from africa. this investment has also come with a heavy debt burden.
it comes with an average 4.2% interest rate, higher than other international options. ♪ anchor: let's bring in our guest joining me from nairobi. the director of horn international institute for strategic studies. in london, antony goldman, the head of pro-media consulting, which advises companies on business and political risk in africa. from beijing, we have andy, a research fellow for china and globalization. thank you for being the first questioner. to understand china's contact with africa, we have to go back to its origin at first contact between the two back in the 15th century. early trade, was that an initial contact, it was very important and remains that today. >> it is indeed true the
interruption between china and the african continent happened years ago. the time that preceded colonialism. this is something that has been established based on the evidence along the african coast and east african coast. the transactions were significantly modified following the second world war in which the communist party wanted to work with the continent and especially on the left-wing side of african politics for much of the cold war, that is paying dividends in this period in which china has entrenched farther by establishing robust
economic -- anchor: you have uniquely brought me to that post second world war period in the cold war period that obviously saw china come in under the radar into africa to deal with those governmental -- governments that are more left-leaning and sympathetic. china, and i quote from mao zedong where he described himself and china as being part of the third world --they recognize and had an affiliation with africa. it was important to build that relationship. >> i think that part of that, there were projects that china began to engage with countries in southern africa, building an infrastructure railway between tanzania and zambia that was
seen as a landmark achievement in terms of infrastructure. most of it in that period was the tensions between china and taiwan, that you could give to african capitals and see the competition if you like between taiwanese-built palaces or chinese-built national stadium. there assorted -- there is sort of an echo of that competition with china anxious countries in africa don't look too far to taiwan for support. on the whole, i think the tilt since the end of the cold war has been in favor of china building up economic ties based less around strategy and diplomacy and more for the ever-increasing demands of chinese industry. anchor: i know you wanted to come in hearing our previous
speakers, giving us a history lesson. china's influence on the continent has been long-standing and continues to be. certainly after this conversational, virtual conversation they had this year. >> indeed. i would very briefly start in 1849 with the founding of the people's republic of china. you quoted mao zedong. from the establishment of new china, the ferocity has been to treat africa with the spirit of sincerity, of genuine cooperation, and mutual respect. i think that has been a common thread, breaking the decades since 1949 to today in terms of understanding the relationship between china and the continent. anchor: would you say -- you say they treat all those countries with equal respect but there was
also russia and the united states and the west. they wanted to gain influence in africa as well. do you think china itself at the time was also very mindful of what its position could be or should be in the future if and when the cold war ended? >> certainly. the world has changed tremendously since the early 1950's. geopolitically, of course, we have seen the cold war between the soviet union and united states and tried to play an important part of that geo strategically. from that perspective, certainly africa has been seen as a battleground may be even a playground for colonial powers. it today as well, we have seen in the news all of the united states wanting to contest chinese influence in africa.
i think one of the things to point out that you touched on is china has always seen itself as part of the developing world, and i think rightly so. to say --today, the president says china will never forget it is a developing nation. if you go back to what deng xiaoping said, i think what china has very clearly enunciated in the last few years is that it has found its way across the river and it is willing to show that path but without imposing any type of political or economic mechanism. and letting africa and other parts of the world develop on their own terms. anchor: china may see itself in whatever turns it wants to but it is viewed by the u.s.'s influence across africa as a
bogeyman. they knew an enemy, and economic animate, and that is china. >> certainly, at the beginning of china's new economic beginning with africa 20 years ago, perhaps some of that rhetoric about china being a partner and having a neocolonial agenda, with its own spirits of rapid growth and taking people out of poverty, that might have had currency. i don't think anybody in africa really thinks like that. china is just another potential source of developing. i was speaking earlier this week with a senior official in an african country. he said if people worry less about what china thought were africa or what africa needed from its partners, the
competition, if you would like, between the powers does not do the great deal for the people who benefited in terms of providing projects on their own merits and that are commercially viable. anchor: we will talk about economics and a moment but let me come back to you. africa, itself and at some current -- subsequent nations, i have had to deal with military coups, climate change, famine, ethnic rivalries. each country has its own facet problems. how has china been able to maintain a good relationship with all of those different sorts of regimes and governments, when they have had this range of problems across the continent? correspondent: china has learned
from the mistakes that were done by previous powers, especially europe and the united states. in part because it does not choose government for africans. sometimes it is not accountable and sometimes authoritarian. african countries -- it is a country that has previously been -- increasingly, it is moving into the highest -- thirdly, i think because china looks at africa --and does not seek to involve an internal affairs, it has allowed friends and enemies within the continent to be able to work with china irrespective of the government in power. i think because of the relations it sought to deal with, and th y
perception of the partnership it is seeking to build at the cost of debt increasing, china has been able to be successful in areas where the west has failed, in part because it does not have the baggage and is not viewed as negatively as some of the western metropolis. there is an increasing sense a number of countries are sinking farther and it will prove unsustainable. anchor: there is this debate going on at the moment about africa's resources, what china wants and what it needs with the manufacturing and product base. when you look at the statistics, countries make up 68% of exports. angola accounted for one third. angola and libya import oil.
a series of reports we have had on al jazeera news, congo extracts cobalt and copper. there is a lot of natural resources china requires and the balance is lopsided. what africa is able to buy off china is far less than what china takes from africa you might say. >> you make a good point. africa is not a country. they are the most favored trading partners and some of those countries where china has less of a relationship. angola and south africa are particularly important. china has tried to crack nigeria with different degrees of success. on top of the products that --the raw materials, typically,
that china seeks to secure, it needs the support and growth. it is very familiar to the economic engagement resources that other industrialized countries seek with africa. one of the differences is china, as a manufacturer of cheap products, is there is a lot of informal trade that is not captured in the data between china and africa. until that, there were regular flights from china to parts of africa where small traders were picking up things you sell at markets. the picture is not always captured by the new data, if you might. there has been a deep relationship from the top as well as the bottom that africa,
even where chinese interests focus on particular and small set of countries. anchor: xi jinping announced the fact that there would be less money invested in africa as a continent. that could be interpreted in many ways. one way it has been interpreted is china is listening to what africa needs and adapting its finances accordingly. others suggest china is walking away from africa. what is your interpretation? >> i think the reality is much more complex and nuanced than has been portrayed in black and white, minor terms. i want to back up to what the earlier speaker said about china learning lessons from the european and american's in dealing with africa. it is much more profound than that. china brings a true sense of empathy in working with the continent, because china has
struggled with the same issues not that long ago. high mortality rates, malnutrition, etc., etc. . it is coming from a different place. the governing principles are noninterference and respect for each countries choices. i think that allows it to deal much more effectively with the countries of africa. that leads us to the current question. what is china doing now are going forward? i think it is important to recognize china does not look at africa as a patron-client relationship, but if you think about it as mutual respect, there will always be adjustments. we look at trade with africa. it has been 200 billion dollars a year over the past five years. it goes up and down based on exhaustion as factors and
domestic considerations. i think the longer term direction is much, much greater interaction and integration with africa. we have to see how that unfolds in terms of investments, trade details, all kinds of other things. technical assistance. trying to provide 45% of its foreign aid to africa. anchor: you were nodding your head in agreement i think with the points made. can i also add to whatever you might want to say? xi jinping had said he wants to open green lanes so that agricultural exports, he wants to speed quality and procedures to speed the scope of products to achieve the goal of trade equality. is that how you see it? >> the balance of payments --
therefore, china is trying to look for ways to appease african partners. it is important that they increase the appeal of china, wile economically, it is taking too often to remake african economies in its own image by following its own path. he does not seek to remake africa in its own image in terms of violence. those are what connected the continents. however, it is looked as public diplomacy. generally, the local population that has complained about increased chinese influence. anchor: i will come back for this question. earlier in the week, we showed
on al jazeera a report where chinese officials sanctioned the beating of a local man in the democratic republic of congo for stealing cobalt rock. this was videos and shown widely. when he says chinese thoughts have been understanding the needs of africa, when you see video like this, it undermines what china really wants. this is, you might say, the tag, the western governments grabbing hold and saying this is what china is about. >> it does, and there may be a difference between policy from -- and what actually happens on the ground. certianly, i think that is not the only instance. there have been a couple of instances from west africa as well. relations deteriorated sharply.
that is what we do with lots of foreign countries. the idea that china is doing much better is -- we have events captured a lot on the ground in the way you described, and that is true that in certain -- in some of those countries where china has had its most active engagement, it has become a domestic political issue in the populist mind that political parties are making a political issue out of chinese investments and other elements of chinese policy. china was never a colonial power. there has been a lot of immigration from china as part of its growth of economic ties with africa and i think, you know, upwards of one million people have moved from china. sometimes, not always, with
positive results. these are difficult changes and not changes that have happened overnight. anchor: can i get a brief comment from you on that as well? >> no, i would agree. it is intellectually dishonest to attribute the actions or misdeeds of an individual to a government policy. we all know --all of us have interacted with large organizations or governments or for-profit. one of the big challenges, and especially for chinese enterprises, working far from home with a different language and culture and different customs, that these are very difficult circumstances. i think it would be surprising that some mistakes or abuses did not happen. these are unfortunate and i think they should not happen in an ideal world, but as far as i
know, there is no policy on the chinese side to condone these actions. anchor: can i come back to you? xi jinping has promised one billion doses of the covid-19 chinese made vaccine to the continent. obviously, a welcome donation, but it comes in the context of the world health organization promising covax, that africa would be looked after, yet western countries did nothing, did very little. we have reported for 18 months they have done something but not enough for mutations to appear. china, again, helping out as much as it can. where do you stand on this? do you see this as a medical bribery of any waste, shape, or form? >> it is an extension of geopolitics. tthe russian alliance and the transatlantic alliance. i think there was a little bit
from the united states to blame china as a source of covid-19. it has worked sit -- worked its way into the hearts and minds of the developing world. this means to pay attention to the soft power aspects of china. he has done excellently, despite the propaganda shared in the human rights violations. it will go a very long way, the west has largely not been as grateful and especially europe. the united states has been trying, but first, it is grappling with its own issues and there is a lot of vaccine that has limited the ability of west to operate in a way that will be a tree shaded -- appre ciated. anchor: soft power, how important is that in terms of chinese policy? is in a word or phrase that it is used? do you see the vaccine donation
in that same sort of area? >> absolutely. soft power sometimes refers to the chinese context as dix course power -- discourse power. in a world where will -- with global challenges and responses, the ability to take seriously and have one's views and opinions seen as legitimate is vital. one of the big issues we are seeing is in places with market-driven economies like the u.s., they are not able to overcome structural limitations of for-profit companies wanting to protect, whereas china is able to act in the interest of its country and the world. this is an important factor. anchor: we will come back to the subject. sadly, we have to leave it. gentlemen, thank you for joining me here, and iq for watching.