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Myths About China and India's Africa Race

By Julia Murphy,2014-10-03 15:33
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Myths About China and India's Africa Race

    More countries in Africa are joining the global economy. Over the last decade, the continent??s GDP expanded at an average annual rate of 5.1 percent, low compared with emerging giants like China and India but still well above the global growth rate of 2.9 percent. During this period, Africa also became far more globally integrated and saw its merchandise trade grow at an annual rate of 12.9 percent, vs. a global growth rate of 8.9 percent.

    Africa??s economic ties with China and India have grown at a particularly rapid pace. This development?ªwhen put in the context of Asia??s ongoing march toward becoming the world??s economic center?ªhas led many to believe that China and India have taken over from the West as the new economic powers in Africa. That conclusion, however, hinges on some common misconceptions about China and India??s engagement with Africa.

    Myth No. 1: China and India dominate the race for Africa.

    During 2000-2010, Africa??s merchandise trade with China grew at an annual rate of 29 percent (from $9 billion to $119 billion) and with India at an annual rate of 18 percent (from $7 billion to $35 billion). While these growth rates are very robust, they are building on a very low base. So far, Africa??s economic partnership with Europe dominates that with China or India. In 2010, Europe received 36 percent of Africa??s exports, compared with 13 percent for China and 4 percent for India. Over 37 percent of Africa??s total imports came from Europe, vs. 12 percent from China and 3 percent from India. In 2010, even the U.S. was ahead of China in terms of total merchandise trade with Africa.

    To date, China and India also have played only a small, albeit growing, role in terms of capital investment in Africa. Each accounts for less than 5 percent of the total inbound foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in Africa, a tiny fraction of that from Europe and the U.S.

    In short, as newly active players, China and India are making rapid headway in Africa. However, appearances notwithstanding, they are still far behind the developed economies?ªespecially Europe?ªin terms of economic engagement with Africa.

    Myth No. 2: China and India??s engagement with Africa is all about natural resources.

    Many Indian companies are looking at opportunities to sell in African markets. In 2010, Indian mobile operator Bharti Airtel paid $9 billion for the African telecom operations of Kuwait-headquartered Zain. Tata

    Motors (TTM), India??s largest automaker, has opened an assembly operation in South Africa. Mumbai-based Essar Group is investing in the African steel sector and Godrej, another Indian conglomerate from Mumbai, is very active in Africa??s consumer goods market. Karuturi Global, the Bangalore company that is the world??s largest rose producer, has become one of Africa??s largest players in commercial agriculture and leases 1,200 square miles of land in Ethiopia. Indian companies are also very active in Africa??s emerging IT services market.

    Chinese companies are also not just focused on Africa??s natural resources. China has taken a growing interest in helping build Africa??s infrastructure such as roads, railways, bridges, ports, and power stations. At the 2009 China-Africa Summit, China pledged to build 100 clean energy projects in Africa covering solar, biogas, and hydropower. It also announced the phasing in of zero import tariffs for 95 percent of products from the least developed African countries.

    Both China and India are beginning to see Africa not just as a resource supplier but also as a market and as a target for capital investment in many sectors of the economy.

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