The Spanish analyst and expert on African affairs Sebastián Ruiz-Cabrera analyzes the growing influence of the Asian country on the African continent. By Paul Antonopoulos




Amid China’s growing influence in Africa, Beijing opened its embassy in Burkina Faso on July 12, shortly after it broke relations with Taiwan in May. Today, only Swaziland diplomatically recognizes Taiwan. Burkina Faso is one of the 14 countries that have adopted the yuan as the main currency for trade, making competition against the dollar and the African franc.
« Indeed, China, as a great power, needs resources to maintain its current wave of growth, and these resources are mainly found in the African continent, » said Sebastián Ruiz-Cabrera.
The expert added that China is active in Africa based on the policy of non-interference, which makes European ministries very nervous, arriving with a letter of human rights or the environment. China, it seems, has other priorities when it comes to doing business.
At first glance it may seem that nothing differentiates China from other countries that have been present in Africa for centuries. But for Ruiz-Cabrera, these differences exist and are decisive.
« Above all in the 1960s Mao [Tsé-Tung]’s cultural policy led to the massive sending of teachers, doctors and cultural agents, » said the interviewee, which he defined as « a South-South cooperation relationship. That is to say, more of equal to equal, and not only in economic terms, and that this policy still lasts », he reinforced.
On the other hand, after the period of African independence (1957-1965) from European colonialism, the powers that dominated the region in colonial times and those that emerged after the end of World War II, such as the USA, always cultivated a « superiority » complex on these countries.
« In the 1960s and to this day, in every coup [in Africa] we had big powers such as England, France or the USA trying to maneuver in some way to put presidents in power to play the game of their policies, » he added.
In this context, China’s alternative seems much more attractive than the Western one, since « a few years ago, Africa could only do business with Europe and now it has a choice », he explained.
Since Emmanuel Macron’s victory in May 2017 in France, the former colonial power has regained interest in the continent, at the same time that the United States has also begun to give such signs.
According to the analyst, « Macron and Trump move because they know that China, with this other kind of diplomacy, has moved very quietly, but the silence is over and we see that China is already the main economic partner of the continent, » he summarized Sebastián Ruiz-Cabrera.
To read more about China’s engagement in Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, please follow the link to read an academic journal authored by Fort Russ’ Paul Antonopoulos.