The Impact of China on African Economies

Convener: Winslow Robertson (Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network, Arlington, USA);

Much has been written about China’s effect on African economies. Whether as a responsible partner of the global south, buying African products at fair prices and supplying affordable products to African markets, or a rapacious superpower plundering the continent’s resources, China’s impacts on African economies is one of the most controversial topics in Sino-African relations. This subpanel will explore how Chinese policies and products impact African economies at both the state and local levels; based on new research the four papers examine different layers of impact. Alice Sindizngre’s paper centers on whether China’s macro involvement with Africa since 2000 holds any potential to change the parameters of African economies in moving from commodity exports to light manufacture and industrialization. She predicts that a long period of high growth rates combined with improved finances may

structurally transform African economies. Christina Wolf examines the rapidly growing economic flows between China and Sub-Saharan Africa and their effects on the region’s opportunities for structural change, moving toward activities with higher value-added such as industrial manufacturing. She argues that, rather than accusing China of potentially causing deindustrialization in Africa, we should be focusing on African policies that will lead to beneficial structural changes. Antoine Kernen points to a multiplicity of Chinese actors on the African continent that do not always act in concert or under the direction of Beijing, and explores what that means for future relations. He looks at the impact of Chinese products on African consumers and how traders interact with African products. Guive Khan’s paper looks at the emergence of Chinese motorcycles in Burkina Faso and what that means for existing trade networks in the country, backed by findings based on two years of extensive fieldwork. Through this subpanel, the participants demonstrate the complexity of Chinese-African interactions beyond the rhetoric of partner or predator, and instead emphasize existing and potential future African agency in negotiating the economic spaces various Chinese actors have created.