Africa and the rising powers

“The challenge for African nations is to draw relevant lessons from China, India and other rising economic powers,” states Sumit Roy, the latest researcher to join NAI’s African International Links cluster.

His research aims to use political economy to make a more balanced analysis of the challenges and the opportunities stemming from the growing ties between Africa and two key Rising Powers-China and India. This is underscored by interaction between several levels and its impact on sustainable development in Africa-global, regional, national, sectoral, and institutional (state versus market).

In this context the thrust is in the nature of the shift in emphasis in the strategic vision of China and India towards Africa from politics and ideology to economic development. This centers primarily on trade, investment, and increasingly on aid, and in turn on economic diversification and structural change. At the same time the exchange could stimulate political and cultural values through democracy, human rights, and the creative arts.  

Sumit Roy, who has written extensively on global and comparative Asian and African development states that “ it has to be emphasized that China and India function under different systems: the former pursues a ‘planned’ or state-driven ‘centralized democracy’ and the latter a ‘mixed’ or state and market based ‘multiparty democracy’.” This drives China’s reliance on its state and India’s on its private sector to execute policies in African nations with different political and economic norms. This underpins the coexistence of tension and cooperation in their relationship with the new powers.

Sumit Roy emphasises that “the Rising Powers and the ‘traditional’ powers (US, EU, Japan) as well others engage in relationships with Africa to pursue their own interests first and foremost. The challenge for African nations is to draw relevant lessons from the contrasting experiences of China and India and other ‘models’ while continuing their ties with the ‘traditional’ powers. Above all, they should devise strategies to bolster their bargaining prowess at several levels and meet their own developmental priorities. “

So in this world of new economic powers and ‘South-South’ partnership, is there still a role to play for old partners in foreign aid such as the Nordic countries?

“I see an excellent opportunity for a country like Sweden for example to interact with China, India and Africa – not separately but together – to promote values that Sweden is known to cherish: sustainable growth, economic and social equality, and justice. The Swedish government and the Swedish aid agency can say   “look, you need to open up the political system and promote civil society in order for us to support your investment and development; then Sweden could use its potential to play a critical role in enhancing African development.” says Sumit Roy.

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