Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered African nations a generous hand by promising them a boost in infrastructure connectivity and trade, agricultural aid, and US$60 billion (S$83 billion) in financing, even as these nations seek more transfer of Chinese technology and know-how. Clearly, the Asian economic powerhouse and its African partners enjoy a win-win relationship both bilaterally - with China having extended about US$125 billion in loans to the continent since 2000 - and in their mutual benefits from China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Africa is integral to the success of the BRI, which could transform the economic destinies of Asia, Oceania, Europe and Africa through the creation of trans-continental infrastructure links, such as roads, railways, ports and industrial hubs, along both land and sea trade routes.
In the case of Africa, China's interest reveals the potential of a vast continent. Civil wars, famines, terror and corruption might dominate how the world sees much of Africa. But what this obscures are the riches of the land and the inventiveness of its people. Placing the continent's economic profile in historical perspective, the African Development Bank notes that in at least two-thirds of the African countries with data, per capita income rose for eight consecutive years at a rate of 3.5 per cent or more between 1950 and 2016. Growth was underpinned by improvements in economic fundamentals in some of the countries. Looking ahead, a McKinsey report says that the sources of the continent's future growth will include the world's most rapid urbanisation rate and, by 2034, a working-age population that is larger than either China's or India's. "Accelerating technological change is helping to unlock new opportunities for consumers and businesses, and Africa still has abundant resources," the report adds.