China WatchCompetition Between U.S., China Continues in Africa

By Kang-Chun Cheng

Published 8 December 2021

Annual U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) flows have been declining since 2010. Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) flow to Africa grew significantly, exceeding that of the United States since 2013.

Tyson Nuthu works in the outdoors industry in Nairobi and sees the presence of China everywhere.

Just look at all the construction projects, from Ngong Road to the western bypass. Everywhere you look, China is active here in Kenya,” he said.

Kenya is along the path of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is financing infrastructure projects and developing trade routes linking China to the world.

Africa is increasingly being seen as a technology hub that is getting the attention of the world’s superpowers, including China and the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his inaugural visit to the African continent in mid-November. He started his tour in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, an American ally deeply indebted to China. His four-day tour also included visits to Senegal and Nigeria.

U.S.-China Competition
A study by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, described the trade relationship between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa as “underdeveloped,” despite the U.S. prioritization of sub-Saharan African exports under the Generalized System of Preferences.

According to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, annual U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) flows have been declining since 2010.

The first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which was held in Beijing in November of 2006, welcomed the adoption of a declaration and action plan for a “new type of strategic partnership.” Since then, Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) flow to Africa grew significantly, exceeding that of the United States since 2013.

African Views of China’s Presence
But how do those on the African continent view this inflow of Chinese investment?

In an interview with VOA, John Calabrese, the director of American University’s Middle East-Asia Project, said discernment between government and society is critical.

African perceptions of Chinese investment vary greatly,” he said. Chinese companies have imported laborers and inundated markets with cheap items, which has “bred some resentment at the societal level,” especially among small and local African businesses.

Wide reporting –– and to some extent, the exaggeration of cases –– of Chinese ‘debt trap diplomacy’ have created something of a backlash,” Calabrese said in an email. “To repair the reputational damage as well as to protect and further advance its economic penetration on the continent, Beijing has attempted to ‘revise’ its lending practices.”

African Views of U.S. Presence
Josh Maiyo, a lecturer at United States International University specializing in China-Africa political ecology, said in