China has spent an estimated $400 billion on foreign aid and development since 2000, making it one of the largest donor countries in the world. Much of that money has been directed at Africa, home to seven of the top ten recipient countries of Chinese financial assistance. Until this year, China’s aid programs were handled by the Ministry of Commerce, but that will soon change when Beijing launches a new international development cooperation agency similar to donor agencies in the United States, France, and Britain.
The launch of China’s new aid agency coincides with the rollout of Beijing’s ambitious global trade agenda known as the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Although only a handful of African countries are currently part of the BRI, it is widely expected that Chinese president Xi Jinping will include the entire continent in the BRI plan when he meets with African leaders in September at the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit in Beijing. If this does happen, then it’s likely that even more Chinese aid and development funds will be available in Africa.
The politics of aid in Africa are rapidly changing. The United States and Europe are under considerable political and budgetary pressure to curtail their assistance programs, while China is now emerging as a big player in the development sector on the continent. But don’t expect China to play by the same rules as legacy donors warns longtime aid expert Shantha Bloemen who spent more than 20 years working at UNICEF in Africa and Asia.
- Washington Post: China treats its foreign aid like a state secret. New research aims to reveal it by Adam Taylor
- Washington Post: China sets up new foreign aid agency to better project influence abroad by Simon Denyer
- The Economist: Despite its reputation, Chinese aid is quite effective
About Shantha Bloemen:
Shantha has spent the last two decades working in international humanitarian and development assistance In Africa & Asia. She now eager to put her experience into this venture that she believes will make a difference in rural women’s lives. She has worked on a variety of communication initiatives and has been actively involved in getting media attention to child rights, global health and poverty. She has travelled extensively across the continent to provide communication support in Sub Saharan Africa.
Most recently, based in China, in addition to managing UNICEF’s external relations, she helped to initiate an innovation partnership between UNICEF and Tsinghua University and contributed to strengthening collaboration between China and African countries on global health. She has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and an honors’ degree in History from University of Western Australia.