It is a widely-held perception that Chinese investment in Africa is guided by a strategic foreign policy agenda focused on securing vast amount of natural resources. This narrative fits nicely with an outdated Western colonial stereotype of how foreign countries engage Africa. However, in the case of the Chinese, this narrative is only partially correct.
Earlier this year, the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) published their findings from an in-depth survey
on what countries receive the most Chinese loans over the past 15 years. Not surprisingly, Angola with its huge oil reserves topped the list at $21.2 billion. Interestingly, Ethiopia ($12.3 billion) and Kenya ($5.2 billion) were second and fourth respectively in the top five list and neither of these countries is rich in natural resources.
The pattern and flow of Chinese loans in Africa, according to CARI, suggests that the Chinese have a much broader strategic agenda on the continent than is often presumed by outsiders. While natural resources are no doubt important, they are clearly not the only priority as the Chinese seek to open new markets, build manufacturing operations, deploy aid/development initiatives and so on.
Rwanda is another example of a country that at first glance would have little to offer Chinese investors. After all, this is a landlocked country with barely any natural resources
and unlike Kenya or Ethiopia, Rwanda is so small that its domestic market isn’t very enticing. However, after emerging from the horrors of the mid-90s genocide
, Rwanda has become an island stability in the Great Lakes region
with its strong infrastructure, stable government and close proximity to vital markets in East and Southern Africa.
In a recent reporting assignment to Rwanda, Nairobi-based Quartz Africa correspondent Lily Kuo
traveled there to investigate why the country is increasingly becoming a magnet for Chinese money and migrants. Lily joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what kind of Chinese investor is attracted to Rwanda and how people from both countries are sometimes struggling to adapt to one another.
About Lily Kuo
Lily Kuo covers East Africa and China in Africa from Nairobi for Quartz. She previously reported for Quartz from Hong Kong. Before that she covered general news for Reuters in New York and the Los Angeles Times in Beijing. She holds a dual master’s degree in International Affairs from the London School of Economics and Peking University, as well as degrees in English and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kuo won the 2014 SABEW award for best international feature for a series on China’s water crisis.