Chinese aid 'much less complicated'
Updated: 2012-12-14 08:43
By Andrew Moody (China Daily)
Deborah Brautigam says it is difficult to generalize as to how Africa will eventually develop. Sun Chenbei / China Daily
Academic predicts development story of Africa over next century will be more patchy than in Asia
Deborah Brautigam says Africa is unlikely to follow the same growth path as China and the Asian tiger economies.
The American academic, who is one of the world's leading experts on the China-Africa relationship, says many African leaders, despite some of their countries experiencing more than 20 percent growth in recent years, do not have the same focus on economic development.
"There isn't any country in Africa that has the same kind of leadership as China where there is such a focus on development.
"There might have been a few places that have come close such as Ethiopia under Meles Zenawi (prime minister until his death in August) and also currently Rwanda, but very few."
Brautigam was speaking at her home in Washington, where she took up the position in July as director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins University.
She is the author of one of the seminal works on the China-Africa relationship, The Dragon's Gift: the Real Story of China in Africa, which was first published in 2009 and in Chinese this year.
She also runs a blog, chinaafricarealstory.com, which often gets 1,000 page hits a day and has had a total of 461,000.
She says it is difficult to generalize as to how Africa will eventually develop but she does not believe it will be so manufacturing-led as in China and many parts of Asia.
"There are 54 countries in Africa so you can't really say there is one model for Africa," she says.
"But it is true there is more focus on manufacturing in Africa. There are a number of countries that have also concentrated on manufacturing such as Mauritius, South Africa, Kenya as well as Tunisia and Egypt and others that are not naturally resource-rich. For some parts of the continent, the manufacturing model is already working."
Some commentators seeing the growth rates in some African economies and witnessing the scale of business development have suggested that the 21st century might also be that of Africa as well as Asia.
Brautigam, however, predicts the development story of Africa over the next century will be more patchy than that.
"I think if you are talking about 100 years, you will get some parts of Africa looking like some (of the most modern) parts of Asia today," she says.
The academic says some countries in Africa will take a long time to recover from their tragic past both under colonial rule and since independence.
"There are some places that still have a certain way to go. You have only to think of a country like the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) that is still involved in a war.
"They were colonized by the Belgians who put nothing into the country. When they reached independence they had barely any college graduates or any infrastructure."
Brautigam, who is originally from Wisconsin, studied Chinese at the Yale-in-China Program in Hong Kong in the late 1970s and then at Taiwan Normal University in Taipei.
She then went to do a master's degree and a doctorate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, before pursuing an academic career.
In the early 1980s she was a visiting researcher both at the University of Liberia in Monrovia and at the University of Sierra Leone in Freetown.
She says it was then she first became interested in the China-Africa relationship.
"I was very interested in Chinese development... There was quite a bit of (Chinese) aid and they were starting to see how they could develop this aid more commercially."
Brautigam says the Chinese approach is still much less bogged down in bureaucracy than its Western form, which often comes with major conditions.
"It (Chinese aid) is much less complicated. The Chinese with their aid basically finance infrastructure, such as a road, bridge, a power plant, telecommunications or rail electrification. They also supply medical teams and operate small-scale agricultural projects.
"Some of this is aid but it might be financed in other ways. Aid, however, doesn't mean that it is a grant, it just means it is concessional loan."
Brautigam says much of China's involvement in Africa has been through its state-owned enterprises and large private companies such as telecommunications giant Huawei and electrical goods maker Haier.
"People find it very hard to understand just what the role of the Chinese state is. People think Beijing has a plan for Africa and also these companies are in there carrying it out," she says.
"The (Chinese) government did encourage Chinese companies to go there in the 1990s. The companies were initially reluctant. They would say, 'Oh Africa is Europe's backyard. We can't compete there', but they finally jumped in because that is what we see now," she says.
The China-Africa relationship is still viewed largely negatively in the West and even in some African countries, despite many of the win-win elements to it.
"I think this is partly because it has all happened so quickly and any kind of rapid change from a different racial group can cause concern," says Brautigam.
"I was in South Africa a couple of years ago and there were these xenophobic riots in townships in Johannesburg and Cape Town about foreigners coming in. These people weren't from China but from Somalia and Mozambique and people were being killed," she says.
"I think the West view the Chinese as entering a territory in which they have been dominant for so long and they wonder what it means for them."
Brautigam says many people did not realize that despite the recent scale of Chinese investment in Africa it remains dwarfed by what the West still has at stake in the continent.
"By a long shot. This is because the stock of (Western) investment is so large. We think Chinese investment is enormous because we read about a deal or memorandum of understanding but a lot of these things fall through," she says.
In terms of Africans themselves, it is often argued that they won't develop like the Chinese because they don't have the same work ethic of the Chinese, other Asians or German sociologist Max Weber's famous Protestant Europeans.
"I think there is something unusual in China about this ability to buckle down. Chinese people have had to work hard just to survive and they have also moved a long way from dependence on a subsistence economy. A lot of places in Africa are still just one generation away from that," she says.
Brautigam argues there are particular tribe or ethnic groups on Africa associated with hard work.
"Everybody talks about how hard the Igbos work in Nigeria or certain groups in Ethiopia."
She maintains, however, that many Africans are not so obsessed with working hard because growing food in Africa often takes less effort than elsewhere.
"They have more land available and less labor so they have developed labor-saving ways of doing agriculture. When you have a subsistence agricultural culture that you can fall back on, who wants to work in factory, really?"
(China Daily 12/14/2012 page6)