Who is Africa’s Most Important Economic Partner?

By Sam Edem
Africa's Market
Africa's Market

The rapidly growing level of business activity between China and various African countries has aroused intense interest within the continent amounting to the question: who is Africa’s most important economic partner?

Many across the continent now presumably believe that the Asian economic leader is perhaps more relevant to African economic development than any foreign country or regional block, particularly the United States and European Union.

The claim also largely undermines the relevance of international institutions or cliques like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund or the Paris Club’s Creditors, etc., who have had extended interest or relationships with various African countries as well as directly with the entire continent via AU(formerly OAU), ECOWAS, among others.

Now on a more prominent scale, Ghana’s Vice President – Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia was recently quoted as saying that “China is Africa’s most important economic partner”.

The Vice President further disclosed some areas he believed the Chinese involvement was more pronounced as a basis for his claim.

The areas included: trade, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock, growth of FDI, Infrastructure financing and provision of Aid.

While this assertion should neither be dismissed nor accepted, it’s important to take a closer look at the realities.

Over 80% of China’s estimated $23billion investment or Aid in Africa has been received by barely five African countries with huge economic potential for the Asian leader.

These countries include commodity or natural resource rich countries like Nigeria, South Africa and of course, Ghana as well as commodity poor countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

While our focus on this  will not be on what exactly the perspective of economic or development  partnership might be here – on the basis that China is probably issuing aids in exchange for natural resources, or permission to flood these huge consumer markets with its cheap goods and services at the expense of local industries (just typical of the United States - the probable highest Foreign Direct investor or Aid provider to Africa who has prominently turned the continent into a ‘dumping ground’ for its used goods), it is noteworthy that economic involvement with five countries in a continent of 54 recognized nations, 9 territories (source: Wikipedia) does not in any way reflect a broad influence of any one foreign investment channel on the entire continent.

Furthermore, let Africans both those in leadership, business and the populace know that no particular country, organization or group, institution, etc., can be the most important partner or critical factor to the continent’s economic development – for history has so often proven that increased Aids, debt payment discounts, FDI stocks (which rather increase the returns abroad), among other measures or initiatives from any non-African country or foreign trade partner can salvage the economic woes of the vast majority of its people.

Africans, are indeed Africa’s most important economic or development partner: which is why reduced investment by any of the continent’s government in education, research and technology, strong institutions to guarantee the rule of law across all sectors of economies as well as the society at large is simply inexcusable.