Despite the difficulties associated with facing the economic consequences of the current health crisis, the European Union announced on April 7 that it will provide 15 billion euros in financial support to the weakest African countries. China had preceded the union by providing medical equipment and supplies as a gift to help fight the Corona pandemic in Africa, and also offered direct financial assistance. Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the China-Africa Summit held in September 2018 in Beijing, promised $ 15 billion in support, including free aid and interest-free loans. And if medical and technical assistance is an important part of China-Africa cooperation, observers believe that China is benefiting from the current health and economic crisis to strengthen its strategic position in Africa. Based on the aforementioned conclusion, they believe that “European generosity” is the result of a decision to confront the expansion of Chinese influence in the continent. But the French economist and director of research at the Institute of Higher Studies in Social Sciences, Jacques Sapir, believes that the first driver of European aid is security considerations, because “what is required is to avoid the collapse of local health services systems and the massive migration of the population that will follow towards European countries.” We can also add the desire to counter Chinese influence to motivation, but it is not the first among them. ” Europe, which recently launched its comprehensive strategy aimed at developing cooperation in all areas of the partnership between the European Union and Africa which includes long-term investments amounting to 60 billion euros in the countries of the continent, is clearly seeking to reduce the attractiveness of Chinese soft power. The large European financial investment in these countries, in the previous period, did not prevent the loss of many sites in the interest of China. Beijing is among the first infrastructure investors in Africa, and it creates jobs on a large scale. The McKinsey report for the year 2017, entitled “The Chinese Economic Presence in Africa,” indicated that 10,000 Chinese companies operate in their countries and have created about 300,000 jobs for their citizens, and that 89 percent of their employees are African. China has increased its cultural influence by establishing many study centers and providing tens of thousands of scholarships to African students.
Jacques Sapir: Colonial legacy still rules European officials’ view of Africa
Jacques Sapir, for his part, is convinced that countries like France and Germany can compete with the effectiveness of Chinese influence if they succeed in providing two main conditions: “The first is the qualitative development of their investments. Second, it is partnering with a third power, probably Russia. This presupposes the beginning of a change in the position of Paris and Berlin towards Moscow. ” The French economist considers that the weight of the historical colonial legacy still governs European officials’ view of Africa despite the significant changes that have taken place in the past decades. “A new generation arrives at decision-making positions, for which the colonial experience is nothing but a narrative from the past. This is very positive, but it calls for a review of all development support policies, ”Sapir said. European aid to Africa is still basically below the desired level, due to the widespread corruption that leads to the embezzlement of a large part of it. In addition, “the bureaucratic, bureaucratic procedures of the European Union do not facilitate the most effective use of aid. The best thing, for example, is to allocate the 60 billion dollars to invest in sectors such as education, water, health and energy, but in many cases this is not done, ”Sapir says. With the current decline in the prices of most raw materials and the decline in global demand as a result of declining production rates in the pandemic, Africa will face new challenges, such as popular uprisings and political tensions in many of its countries. “These facts do not mean that the repercussions of the current crisis on these countries will be similar to those faced by the countries of the North. Basic crops will not be affected much, and the raw materials sector will regain its vitality when the global economy begins to recover. African countries will suffer from difficulties in their public finances because the raw materials represent a central source of income for them. It will often require, at the end of this year and during 2021, special assistance to ensure the budgets of some African countries are balanced, ”Sapir concludes.