This Is Why China’s Reputation In Africa Remains Resilient

Chinese roof architecture
Credit: Leon Liu

A recent ‘sneak peek from 18 countries’ by Afrobarometer has revealed that the perception of China among Africans remains durably positive.  

This was revealed in the pan-African survey research network‘s latest round 8 (2019/2020) findings. In assessing Africa’s perception of China the research covered major areas such as: “China as the best model for development,” “Perceived positive influence of China,” “Views on loans/development assistance from China,” among others. 

In the category of China as the best model for development, the survey found that in the 18 countries, an average of 23% of respondents believed that China would be the best model for the future development of their countries. Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Botswana, Guinea, and Gabon were the countries with a higher perception index in this area. In a similar 2014/2015 survey, China scored 22% in the same category.

Findings in the ‘Perceived positive influence of China category’ showed that across the 18 countries, 59% of respondents think that China’s economic and political influence in Africa is mostly positive, with only 15% believing that China has a ‘somewhat negative’ influence. The United States was rated 58% in this category. Eric Olander of the China-Africa Project believes that China’s 59% “is a remarkable figure, especially in this day and age when China is such a polarizing actor in many other parts of the world.”

Eric further remarked that “there’s an important lesson here for the United States government and other China hawks about the efficacy of the debt trap critique that they’ve employed for the better part of a decade: research clearly demonstrates that it simply isn’t working and they’d be well advised to find a new messaging strategy.”

The survey again showed that in the 18 countries, 77% of those who knew about Chinese loans in their countries also think that their governments are required to repay China for the loans and development assistance it provides to their countries. 58% of them expressed that their governments have borrowed too much money from China. 

What is your perception of China’s presence on the African continent? Let’s continue the conversation.

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