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The China in Africa Podcast


A weekly discussion on China's engagement across Africa hosted by veteran journalist Eric Olander in Asia and Dr. Cobus van Staden in Johannesburg.

A weekly discussion on China's engagement across Africa hosted by veteran journalist Eric Olander in Asia and Dr. Cobus van Staden in Johannesburg.


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A weekly discussion on China's engagement across Africa hosted by veteran journalist Eric Olander in Asia and Dr. Cobus van Staden in Johannesburg.








How a Chinese Journalist Covers Africa: A Discussion with CGTN's Shen Shiwei

China's media influence in Africa is rapidly expanding. Traditional media like CGTN, China Radio International and the China Daily newspaper all have a robust presence on the continent while news content from Xinhua is now increasingly common on African news sites. There's been a lot of analysis by both journalists and scholars over the past year about the implications of Beijing's increasingly ambitious media strategy on the continent. Although experts including Aubrey Hruby, Merriden...


China's Growing Influence in the Mideast, Persian Gulf & Mediterranean

China's crude imports from Saudi Arabia surged last year by 47% highlighting the Kingdom's growing importance to Beijing as a key oil supplier. This should also be concerning for Africa because the Chinese no longer feel as dependent on the continent for strategic raw materials as they did even just a few years ago. And as the Chinese expand their economic and political influence deeper into the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean regions, they're being welcomed in every...


Africa Not Prepared to Deal With the Consequences of Economic Disruption in China

The Chinese economy is undergoing unprecedented economic disruption due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and African countries are largely unprepared for the impact that it's going to have on their economies. The prices of most major commodities oil, timber, copper that sustain many African economies are all down significantly as Chinese demand has plummeted in recent weeks. And with the outbreak still not under control, there's no indication things are going to improve any time soon. While...


Nigeria Doesn't Want to Have to Choose Between the U.S. and China

Tensions between the United States and China have deteriorated significantly in recent years amid bitter disputes over trade, technology, and geopolitical competition around the world. Other countries are increasingly being drawn into this rivalry and either directly or indirectly forced to choose a side. But in Africa, there's growing resistance to the idea that countries have to be aligned with either the U.S. or China. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the issue during a recent...


View From Beijing: How the COVID-19 Crisis is Impacting China-Africa Trade

So far, Africa has not seen an outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 that has killed more than a thousand people in China and infected tens of thousands across the country. But now, more and more, the impact from a contagion half a world away is causing economic distress in a growing number of African countries. With most Chinese factories idled, demand for raw materials used for industrial production has plummeted. Similarly, with most flights between the two regions canceled, African farmers...


U.S. Tries to Persuade Africa It's a Credible Alternative to China

The United States regards Africa as a key arena to confront China's rising influence in the developing world. With its new $60 billion International Development Finance Corporation and its Prosper Africa policy framework unveiled last year, the Trump administration is working hard to present African governments with an alternative development model. The problem is, U.S. officials, at least so far, don't have a lot to show for their efforts. This week, Eric & Cobus explore the complex...


Coronavirus & Africa: Why We All Need to Worry About Kenya

While the deadly Novel Coronavirus rips through China devouring hundreds of victims and infecting tens of thousands, Africa, so far, has had the good fortune to not have a single confirmed case. Experts, though, are not confident that Africa will remain immune for much longer as the virus moves steadily around the world. African countries across the continent, with support from the World Health Organization, have rapidly mobilized frontline defenses at major ports of entry and in hospitals...


China's Growing Media Influence in Africa

The Chinese government is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its use of media in Africa to get its message out to a wide variety of audiences across the continent. The most visible examples of this trend are the growing availability of Beijing's legacy propaganda outlets that includes the Nairobi-based TV network CGTN, the China Daily newspaper, and China Radio International. But it's online where China has dramatically expanded its reach by giving away its state-owned Xinhua news...


Are African Governments Naive to Take on so Much Infrastructure Debt?

China, according to the prevailing "debt trap" narrative, is preying on vulnerable developing countries by loading them up with unsustainable amounts of debt that jeopardizes their sovereignty. When these countries inevitably default on the loans, according to the theory, China will then seize strategic assets as collateral. Although the Chinese predatory lending idea is widely-held in U.S. and European policymaking circles, it has been thoroughly debunked by scholars and analysts around...


2020 Will be a Big Year in the China-Africa Tech Sector

China's role in the African tech market is rapidly evolving away from just being a source of low-cost electronics to becoming the indispensable player in the continent's rapidly developing market for digital services, networking equipment and venture capital financing. But the good also comes with the bad. Although Chinese companies like Transsion, Boomplay, Huawei and many others are launching one exciting product after another, these same firms are also taking advantage of Africa's weak...


China Takes on a More Prominent Role in Mideast & Gulf Politics

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi kicked off his annual tour of Africa in Cairo this week where he met with senior Egyptian leaders to discuss the growing instability in North Africa, the Mideast, and the Persian Gulf. Wang also found a receptive audience in Egypt for China's controversial policies in its far western province of Xinjiang where hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of Chinese, are being "re-educated" (the Chinese version of events) or forcibly interned (the Western...


China-Africa Relations in 2020: Key Trends to Watch

This week Eric & Cobus discuss what's ahead in 2020 for China-Africa relations. Each shares their views on three key trends to watch out for in the year ahead. Join us for a wide-ranging discussion that covers everything surging Chinese tech investment in Africa, sustainable energy development to the question over whether African countries will be able to repay their debts to China. JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Facebook: Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque SUPPORT...


The Rapidly Growing Market for Chinese Private Security Contractors in Africa

The recent kidnapping of three Chinese miners in the southwestern Nigerian state of Osun highlights the vulnerability that confronts the Chinese in many parts of Africa. Chinese companies are well-known for being willing to work in highly volatile regions, even amid civil wars in places like the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Mali among others. Until recently, Chinese companies opted to not invest in security measures or contracted with international firms like...


The Rare News Interview with a Chinese Ambassador in Africa

Chinese ambassadors in Africa rarely grant one-on-one interviews with international journalists. But that's starting to change now, particularly as a few Chinese envoys are making themselves more accessible to the press and on social media platforms like Twitter. Two ambassadors are especially noteworthy in this area: Lin Songtian in South Africa and Wu Peng in Kenya. Ambassador Wu recently sat down with BBC journalist Dickens Olewe for an interview at the embassy in Nairobi. During the...


Why Ghana's $2b Resource Deal With China Is Not as Risky as Critics Charge

News coverage and social media commentary about the recent deal signed between the Ghanian government and the Chinese state-owned construction conglomerate Sinohydro is almost universally negative. According to deal, Ghana would exchange 5% of its bauxite reserves for $2 billion of infrastructure. But critics in Ghana and internationally contend the deal doesn't make sense and is just too risky both financially and environmentally. If bauxite prices fall then Accra would be on the hook to...


Chinese and African Agriculture Have a Lot More in Common Than Most People Think

It's counterintuitive to a lot of people, but Chinese and African agriculture has a lot more in common with one another than many first expect. For the most part, both are dominated by small family farms that have to battle mightily with the twin effects of climate change and industrialization. On the climate change front, drought haunts many parts of both China and Africa as deserts expand and rainfall becomes increasingly intermittent in some areas. Similarly, both China and Africa do not...


The Rise of Chinese Private Sector Investment in Africa

Chinese investors have been wary of the African market. For a long time, China's cash-rich venture capital, private equity, and corporate investors have preferred the stability in the U.S. or the cultural familiarity in Southeast Asia's markets. Africa, in their view, just didn't have the profile they were looking for as an investment destination. Many felt the risk was just too high in fragmented markets where consumers lacked sufficient wealth to generate the kind of returns their...


Ghana's Risky $2 Billion 'Roads for Resources' Gamble with China

Ghana is moving forward with an environmentally-risky resources-for-infrastructure deal with the Chinese state-owned construction conglomerate Sinohydro. According to the agreement, Ghana will provide 5% of its bauxite reserves to Sinohydro in exchange for a $2 billion package of infrastructure that includes roads, bridges, power plants and oil refineries. While Ghana's need for infrastructure is understandable, critics contend that this deal is too just dangerous as it threatens the water...


Africa's Donkey Population Risks Collapse Due to Surging Chinese Demand for Hides

Persistent Chinese demand for donkey hides is now pushing the animal's population in many countries, including a number in Africa, to the brink of collapse according to a new report by the Donkey Sanctuary. The skins are used to make gelatin that used in a Chinese medicine known as ejiao. But given the popularity of ejiao and the enormous demand in a market as large as China's, there simply aren't enough donkeys available to supply the ejiao's production requirements. With the market unable...


China's Role in Africa's Rapidly Growing Space Market

African countries are not traditionally known for having strong space programs but now as the cost of launching satellites into orbit falls, that's starting to change and Africa is becoming one of the fastest-growing space markets in the world. In contrast to programs in the U.S., Europe or Russia where space initiatives are often research-driven, African policymakers tend to view the deployment of new satellites as infrastructure, just as it is to build roads, bridges and ports on the...