In this Quartz members conference call, Nairobi-based reporter Abdi Latif Dahir and Quartz Africa editor Yinka Adegoke discuss this week’s popular field guide about China’s interest, and investment, in Africa.
After the call, Yinka and Abdi wrote out short answers to some questions that members raised. Here they are:
Victoria: What are your views on Chinese VCs in African tech?
Abdi & Yinka: Chinese venture capitalists and angel investors are indeed starting to take notice of Africa. Last year Alibaba founder Jack Ma launched a $10 million Netpreneur Prize to support digital early stage African entrepreneurs. Chinese fund Shaka has specifically backed African tech startups, including Ugandan logistics company Pinktie and Nigerian mobile payments solutions Gona. Both early and late stage firms like Gobi Partners and Crystal Stream Capital have expressed interest in the region, and have dispatched teams to look into investment opportunities.
Andy: I would like to hear Abdi’s personal view about whether China in Africa is definitely a net negative.
Abdi: I don’t think so. China has built much-needed infrastructure projects— including roads, bridges, airports, and railways—all across Africa that have eased bottlenecks, created jobs, and boosted economic growth. Beijing has also provided a platform for African states to engage with it on an equal platform without patronizingly preaching about governance like Western nations do. Many African countries also hope that they could replicate China’s own developmental model that has seen over 800 million people lifted from poverty since instituting reforms in 1978. Yes, there are challenges and shortcomings with Sino-Africa relations, but it’s for sure not a net negative one.
Michel: Besides China-driven growth in employment and infrastructure, are any of the economic benefits reflected in better/new schools and hospitals?
Abdi & Yinka: Cooperation in science and education are among the key issues that China has supported as part of its so-called “win-win” partnership with Africa. For instance, Ethiopia is building a China-backed $30 million hospitalwhile a Chinese firm is building what is dubbed Africa’s largest medical equipment manufacturing facility in Tanzania. Even with their proliferation, president Xi Jinping has also supported the building of more Confucius Institutes teaching Chinese culture and language. Tanzania last November opened its biggest library yet, which was backed by China to the tune of over $40 million.
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