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New Partners in Africa: How Can African Countries Even the Playing Field?

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (R) is introduced to the Chinese delegation by China's President Xi Jinping (C) during a working visit to South Africa, in Pretoria.

Africa has seen a dramatic rise in engagement with emerging market economies. In 2012, China’s value of African trade topped $220 billion.  African exports to and from India grew by 32.2 and 26.3 percent per year, respectively, from 2001-2011. Russia supplies many African countries with military aid.  Brazil, Turkey, Malaysia and Iran have dramatically increased their investments on the continent.  Clearly, Africa is increasingly relying on new partners—especially other emerging markets—for aid, trade and other types of support.  These partnerships are attractive for Africa because many of these new partners offer “no strings attached” aid. For example, China recently gave Nigeria a $1 billion dollar no-interest loan for infrastructure development in four major Nigerian cities. The loan has no conditional requirements attached.

However, these partnerships are not always equal, and Brookings Africa Growth Initiative Director Mwangi S. Kimenyi argues that African countries may be getting the raw end of the deal.  Many of these new and growing relationships may be more about exploiting Africa’s natural resources than advancing the region’s growth and development.  In addition, these partnerships are often entered into with a lack of transparency and accountability.  Potential “land grabs” and irresponsible natural resource extraction practices threaten Africa’s already troubling food security situation.

Read the related paper »

In his Foresight Africa paper, Kimenyi argues that, while these new partnerships offer the region new opportunities for economic growth, African policymakers need to be vigilant, focused and proactive when negotiating these partnerships to ensure that they are inclusive and benefit all those in the region.   

Read Foresight Africa 2014, which details the top priorities for Africa in the coming year, to learn more about Africa’s new partnerships as well as other critical issues for the region.

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