Sub-Saharan countries, struggling with a looming debt crisis has been dealt a fresh blow with the pandemic. China seems to be willing to give flexible loans to these countries at a low interest and few strings attached, since it doesn’t seem to care about any ESG issues. Lending and investing in these countries in the very early stages of economic development is part of a large scale CCP long-term strategy to keep growing at a significant rate.
As Chinese labor costs have soared dramatically in recent years, making the most of the younger and cheaper Sub-Saharan labor force could give a renewed competitive edge. Also, China expects to leverage its position as main loaner to be able to develop the industrial sector in the continent with all the possible advantages. Additionally, since the early 2000s, China and Sub-Saharan countries have enjoyed fruitful relationship with some African countries managing to reduce poverty levels significantly in exchange for granting extraction rights of raw materials employed in electronics to Chinese companies.
Africa will hold a prevalent role in the transcontinental land and maritime network that China aims to develop a to improve trade between Europe, Asia and Africa, known as Belt and Road Initiative. Further infrastructure development to interconnect Sub-Saharan countries is key for the region to move forward, since the colonial infrastructure planning was only intended to connect the periphery, where the resources are being extracted, to the capital. Also, the implementation of tech is another pending subject in the region economic development, so these countries may try to make the most of the Sino-African cooperation to get reliable cheap tech from the leading manufacturing economy.
These series of substantial investments made by China in Sub-Saharan countries have raised some eyebrows among Western leaders and press, claiming that this is a modern example of neocolonialism. However, while the western economies have approached their economic relationships with Africa from a paternalistic perspective, China has focused on developing infrastructure and promoted commercial ties with these countries while taking special care of their diplomatic relationships. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that Sub-Saharan countries are much more likely to side with China in any trade dispute or diplomatic scuffle.