The July issue of The China Monitor - a publication of the Centre for Chinese Studies at the University of Stellenbosch - is focused exclusively on the relationship between China and Francophone Africa. I find the focus most interesting, as it seems to suggest that the colonial history of African nations in some way affects the nature of China's engagement with them. Is China's engagement with Francophone Africa different, then, from its engagement with English Africa? Or Portuguese Africa? I admittedly hadn't given such a possibility much previous thought, but it is a hypothesis worth exploring.
Page 7 of this issue also features a piece by a colleague of mine, Dunia P. Zongwe, in which he interestingly writes on China's ore-for-infrastructure contracts, and the economic complementarities between China and Africa. The crux of Dunia's argument suggests that:
[...] the terms of economic exchanges in the mining sector between China and resource-rich African countries should assume, whenever possible, a R4I [resource for infrastructure] form.
In their essence, R4I contracts mirror contrat d'echange (exchange contracts), which do not involve any direct transfer of money to host governments, thereby reducing the risk that governments will mishandle investments. According to Dunia, such contracts carry further positive distributive outcomes, as African countries are able to retain and spread more widely the benefits of FDI than under traditional investment contracts. Such positive externalities are visible in Angola, which was recently lauded for its effectiveness in managing Chinese investment.
The Angolan case indeed seems to suggest that R4I contracts may be a valuable tool by which to optimize China's FDI in Africa if managed accordingly. The case further does well to bring African governance back into the equation; ultimately it is up to African governments to devise appropriate investment policies which optimize Chinese FDI and assist in developing the state and economy. The Chinese are making their moves, and African leaders must make theirs.