Investment plan

EU Africa Investment Plan should focus on Africa, not China

Illustration: Xia Qing/Global Times

Ahead of the European Union-African Union summit due to start on Thursday, the EU is reportedly working on a 20 billion euro ($22.7 billion) financing package to support Africa’s development.

Like other plans that the EU has been actively developing recently, such as the Global Gateway, which was seen as Europe’s replica of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the latest African funding was again seen as a move trying to “counter China’s reach on the continent”, according to some media.

The seemingly rosy plan covers a wide range of areas, from transport networks, energy, digital and education to health projects; however, EU member states “have yet to commit to funding infrastructure plans,” Bloomberg reported, citing officials familiar with the discussions.

Obviously, it is not easy for the bloc to find real money to support the projects, as it faces growing economic challenges at home; but the real problem here is that behind the so-called support plans for Africa of the EU or other western countries hide their geopolitical motivations. What they need to keep in mind is Africa, not China.

The truth is that many European countries and the United States all have a long history on the African continent, but not a positive one. For example, France and the UK, which recently left the EU bloc, were once the continent’s two largest colonial empires, plundering resources and ruthlessly exploiting Africans.

Even today, colonialism is still deeply embedded in the Western mentality towards Africa, with eyes fixed on the continent’s resources and materials. The growth of African countries and the livelihoods of Africans are never on the priority list of hypocritical Western powers. The evil intention of the former settlers to collect interest on the mainland has never gone away, even as they try hard to present their attempts as development aid.

It is indisputable that while some European countries have launched so-called aid programs to African countries for decades, they have not generated substantial growth for the continent and the majority of the world’s least developed countries are still in Africa.

Meanwhile, Western countries and their companies have enjoyed particular advantages in various crucial sectors, including mining and government procurement. Yet trade and investment between some European countries and Africa has declined in recent years. For example, France accounted for around 11% of the continent’s total imports in 2000, but that figure fell to 5.6% in 2017, according to a report by China Foreign Affairs University.

Meanwhile, China has become a major partner for African countries in both trade and investment. Their cooperation in many areas, especially on infrastructure projects, has brought enormous benefits to local residents; and more importantly, this cooperation has shaped an efficient and mutually beneficial model between China and other developing countries.

As a growing number of developing countries choose to join the BRI and seek common development with China on an equal footing, many Westerners unsurprisingly fear losing their hegemonic position in countries and regions.

After their relentless propaganda campaign to promote ‘debt trap’ theories failed to dissuade countries and regions from joining the BRI, some Western powers have now begun to come up with new plans to undermine cooperation. between China and developing countries, including those in Africa.

Apart from such a bad attempt, Western countries also fail to understand and support the real needs of African countries. For example, as the Bloomberg report pointed out, “African leaders have prioritized roads, railways and bridges. But some EU governments face domestic budget constraints that prevent them from pledging significant funding before the meeting”.

As a true partner of Africa, China should not only welcome but also encourage genuine support for Africa’s development from developed countries. However, it is hoped that plans like the EU’s €20 billion initiative will bring concrete benefits to Africans, not just catchy headlines and will focus on spurring development on the continent, not the Sino-African cooperation.

The author is an editor at the Global Times. [email protected]