Numerous analysts argue that China has taken over as the new face of neocolonialists in Africa after loaning tens of billions of dollars to various governments knowing very well that a huge chunk of these loans can’t be repaid by the governments.
China acted on the notion that access to the continents markets, enhanced influence and its ability to exploit the continent`s huge deposits of resources would help offset the debts owed by the governments.
Chinese investment in the continent has been going on for quite some decades going back as far as the Ming Dynasty, but it was during the late 20th century it pursued what analysts generally refer to as the “debt-trap diplomacy” in order for them to have a say in the affairs of the continent.
In 2000, Chinese official loans to the continent was just a little millions of dollars, John Hopkins University estimated that the Chinese government, contractors, and banks loaned $94bn to state-owned enterprises and African governments.
Most African countries accepted the loans because they were string free and did not include requirements such as gender equality, free and fair elections, government accountability or anti-corruption programs. Numerous African leaders willingness to accept Chinese funding for infrastructure building, commercial purposes or resource extraction has come at a cost to them.
A lot of people in Africa have generally complained of poor treatment of workers by the Chinese, environmental conditions not taken into consideration and shoddy construction of numerous Chinese roads and buildings.
Whether the buildings are shoddy or not, the loans must be repaid to the Chinese governments which gradually adds to the government`s burden. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia which are two Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) have high levels of debt which has raised questions about how these countries would pay back these loans and the sacrifices these governments will have to make to pay back the loans.
This phenomenon has led to a number of analysts suggesting the toxic relationship between China and Africa.
Numerous debts of the HIPCs were written off by the countries which gave the loans just after the inception of the millennium. Due to China`s aggressive lending strategy throughout the developing world, mostly in Africa, countries like Zambia have accumulated almost the same debt they had before their previous debt was written off.
Between 2003-2018, Zambia`s debt became triple that of their national income and most of this debt was owed to the Chinese.
NGOs consider the accumulation of debt by African countries unnecessary and reckless which they say surely has a share in the continent`s current difficult situation. After all, the countries are not forced to accept any loans.
Due to the world`s natural resources becoming increasingly scarce, African countries have finally realized the cards they hold and have decided to challenge China.
Should African countries become successful in managing the transition to manufacturing giants that can stand toe to toe with China, the relationship status with China will change further.