Role of China and India as Development Partners in Africa: A Critique of Neo-Colonialism

By Pratyush | Review of Management, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Role of China and India as Development Partners in Africa: A Critique of Neo-Colonialism


Pratyush, Review of Management


Introduction

Africa, since a long time has been attributed to as the Dark Continent, not in reference to its colored inhabitants but in reference to how little knowledge the Westerners had of it. The audacity of the West was perplexing as it branded Africa dark, only because they were unaware of the vast continent. It initiated the patronizing and paternalistic view with which the Westerners have viewed Africa since then to this very day. Western countries since 1950s have disbursed a trillion US$ as aid money to Africa but its effects have been far from constructive. There is no dearth of empirical examples substantiating this point. Just a few in cases may be - With an average per capita income of roughly US$1 a day, sub-Saharan Africa remains the poorest region in the world.

Africa's real per capita income today is lower than in 1970s, leaving many African countries at least as poor as they were forty years ago, life expectancy has stagnated with Africa being the only continent where life expectancy is less than sixty years, and in some countries it has fallen back to what it was in the 1950s, adult literacy across Africa has plummeted below pre-1980 levels. (Dambisa Moyo, 2010) The conundrum and politics of aid by the Western nations, coupled along with China's and India's own economic rise has resulted in higher footprint of these countries in Africa which have provided an alternative growth pattern for many African countries. This paper will discuss as to what actually aid is and how it has been politicized to keep the growth of the continent in leash. The second part of the paper will discuss the rise of China and India in Africa and various controversies associated with it.

Aid -A Conceptual Framework

Aid can be classified in three distinct forms. First is the humanitarian or emergency based aid, which is mobilized and apportioned in wake of natural disasters and calamities, for example in Asian Tsunami of 2004 and for Myanmar cyclones of 2008. Second is the charity- based aid where the donation by rich people, for example, to Africa results in a girl child attaining education but it does not allow a meaningful growth to take place. It is a makeshift arrangement or a band aid solution to the graver underlying problem. Third is the systematic aid that is made directly to the governments either through government-to- government transfer (bilateral aid) or transferred via institutions such as World Bank (multilateral aid). Large systematic aid from Western nations to African governments has tended to be in form of concessional loans and grants. Concessional loan is the money that is lent at below market interest rates and often for much longer lending periods than ordinary commercial markets whereas grants is the money that is given for nothing in return.

The prospect of repayment of loans is seen as the source of funding various infrastructural projects by the governments which will mobilize tax collection and maintain the current levels of revenue collection. However, this has resulted in default in debt repayment and increase in burden of many African governments as most of the infrastructure projects have a large gestation period. Thus, the vicious cycle of loan and default continues to plague the nations. This problem has led many donors to push for a policy of grants, which are free resources and could perfectly substitute the government's domestic revenue. However, this has brought about the problems of transparency and accountability to the fore where leaders of grant recipient countries involve themselves in corruption, embezzlement and rent seeking habits. This choice between concession loans and grants has been termed as Samaritan's dilemma. (Gibson C.C, 2005) The donee country must be independent in order to reap the maximum benefits of these aid allocations. Economic autonomy of various African countries has always been dubious.

Africa: A Quasi-independent Space

African nations did achieve independence in 1950s and 1960s but it was pseudo- independence as the countries were never economically freed from the clutches of their colonial masters (George T. …

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