Last week, China and the African Union (AU) agreed on a deal to develop transportation infrastructure across Africa. In an email interview, Ross Anthony, interim director of the Centre for Chinese Studies in Cape Town, discussed Chinese investment in Africa.
WPR: How ambitious is the recent memorandum of understanding between China and the African Union on infrastructure development, and how does it compare to previous Chinese investments on the continent?
Ross Anthony: The announcements of infrastructure projects involving China and Africa and the actual financing and execution of the projects themselves are very different things. While the deal sounds incredibly ambitious, at this formative stage, we do not know any specifics. Nevertheless, this is not to underestimate the ability for the Chinese to deliver. China has already carried out, or is in the process of carrying out, multibillion-dollar infrastructure deals in the Congo, Mali, Angola, Kenya, Nigeria and elsewhere. China has been increasingly engaged in transport deals, which link different countries within a given region of Africa. This can be seen, for instance, in the Lamu Port and South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project in East Africa, which links a number of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan, through the construction of roads, rail and ports.