It’s been 20 years since the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was first held. Another summit is planned for September 2021 in Dakar, Senegal. Meanwhile, Chinese and African officials are reviewing and reflecting on their two-decade relationship.
China-Africa relations are mostly organised via government to government relations. But the perceptions and wellbeing of ordinary people also need to be better considered.
In 2016 the pan-African research institute Afrobarometer published its first study on what Africans think of their governments’ engagement with China.
The study found that 63% of citizens surveyed from 36 countries generally had positive feelings towards China’s assistance. Some things that stood out were China’s infrastructure, development, and investment projects in Africa. On the flip side, perceptions of the quality of Chinese products tarnished the country’s image.
In 2019/20, Afrobarometer conducted another wave of surveys. Data from 18 countries – gathered face-to-face from a randomly selected sample of people in the language of the respondent’s choice – was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey questions covered how Africans perceive Chinese loans, debt repayments, and Africa’s reliance on China for its development.
Preliminary findings show that the majority of Africans still prefer the US over China as a development model, that China’s influence is still largely considered as positive for Africa, and that Africans who are aware of Chinese loans feel that their countries have borrowed too much.
This is important because – as both African and Chinese leaders reflect on their engagement – these findings should allow them to build a forward-looking relationship that better reflects African citizens’ opinions and needs.
US vs China
The surveys found that Africans still prefer the American development model over the Chinese one. The Chinese development model hinges on state-led policy planning while the American model emphasises the importance of the free market.
Across the 18 countries surveyed, 32% preferred the American development model, while 23% preferred the Chinese model. Overall, this hasn’t changed much since 2014/15, but a few country-level shifts emerge.
In Lesotho and Namibia, the US has surpassed China as a preferred development partner. In Burkina Faso and Botswana, China is preferred. Angolans and Ethiopians, who were not included in the 2014/15 survey, are partial to the American model. However, 57% of Ethiopians and 43% of Angolans believe that China’s influence is having a positive impact on their countries.
Analysts have argued that the Chinese development model is dynamic and multifaceted. It has changed over time depending on the context and period. African governments need to decide what aspects of the Chinese model are best for their countries.
A closer look at responses from the 2014/15 and 2019/20 surveys shows that in countries where China has invested mainly in infrastructure, perceptions have held steady or become more positive. This includes Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.
China’s popularity rises in the Sahel
Strategically, China has been deeply involved in security and development activities, infrastructure projects connected to the Belt and Road Initiative, and peace and security operations in the region.
In Burkina Faso, for example, the popularity of China’s development model has almost doubled, from 20% to 39%, in the five years since the previous survey.
In Guinea, where Chinese companies are mainly involved in mining projects, 80% of citizens perceive China’s economic and political influence as positive – four percentage points up from five years ago. Overall, China’s growing involvement in the Sahel region seems to have had a strong impact on citizens’ views.
Economic fortunes and debt repayment
A majority of African citizens say China’s economic activities have “some” or “a lot” of influence on their countries’ economies. But the perceived influence has declined from 71% in 2014/15 to 56% in 2019/20 across the 16 countries surveyed in both rounds.
And while six in 10 Africans see China’s influence on their country as positive, this perception has declined from 65% to 60% across 16 countries. Instead, regional African powers, regional and United Nations organisations, and Russia scored well in perceived positive influence. Russia was perceived well by 38%.
This could be a reflection of Russia’s growing political, economic, and security engagement with Africa, as well as the role of Russian media such as Russia Today and Sputnik. A recent study on digital media content in francophone West Africa revealed how the digital content these media houses produce quickly seeps into African media spaces.
The Afrobarometer survey revealed that less than half (48%) of African citizens are aware of Chinese loans or financial assistance to their country.
Among those who said they were aware of Chinese assistance, more than 77% were concerned about loan repayment. A majority (58%) thought their governments had borrowed too much money from China.
In countries which received the most Chinese loans, citizens expressed worry about indebtedness. This included Kenya, Angola and Ethiopia. In those countries, 87%, 75%, and 60% of citizens respectively were concerned about the debt burden.
The latest Afrobarometer data provides lessons both for analysts of Sino-African relations and African leaders.
First, there is no monopoly or duopoly of influence in Africa. Beyond the United States and China, there is a mosaic of actors, both African and non-African, that citizens consider to have political and economic influence on their countries and their futures. These actors include the United Nations, African regional powers and Russia.
Survey findings show that although Chinese influence remains strong and positive in citizens’ eyes, it is less than it was five years ago. This decline might also be linked to perceptions of loans and financial assistance, framed by the ‘debt-trap’ narrative and allegations of Chinese asset seizures.
Once fieldwork resumes, future Afrobarometer surveys in additional countries may shed light on ways in which the pandemic and China’s ‘corona diplomacy’, and media reports on the mistreatment of African citizens in Guangzhou, have affected the hearts and minds of African populations.
The latest Top 25 Movers & Shakers Watch List released earlier this week by the African Energy Chamber highlights how important 2021 will be for the Angolan oil & gas industry.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest oil producing nation has been surfing on a wave of ambitious reforms since 2018 which could prove very beneficial to put the country back on a path to recovery in 2021.
H.E. João Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, made it to the list for the first time after several years of reforming the industry and making it one of the most competitive on the continent. Via several presidential decrees signed in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the President has truly revived Angola’s hydrocarbons sector and its attractiveness for investors. As Angola recovers from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and yet another economic crisis, President Lourenço’s leadership is more important than ever to further support sector recovery and boost local content development.
The country’s industry will also be marked by key offshore projects expected to move forward in 2021 and notably led by international majors Total and Eni. Nicolas Terraz, President for Africa at Total Exploration & Production, is another executive who made it to the Chamber’s TOP 25 for 2021. His piloting of key projects across the continent, especially in Eastern and Southern Africa, will be closely watched next year. This notably includes several brownfield expansions in deep water acreages in Angola, and the planned drilling of the world’s deepest well in Block 48.
Guido Brusco, listed for the second year in a row, will be another key figure able to impact the future of Angola’s oil sector. Recently promoted Director of Eni’s global upstream portfolio, Guido has a long experience in Africa and strong understanding of the continent’s dynamics and opportunities. As he makes strategic decisions to rationalize Eni’s upstream spend, the future of major Angolan assets like Block 15/06 is on the line.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is on his way to topping NBA’s all-time point scoring list. Based on LeBron’s past performance, he might achieve the milestone in the next few years.
Data presented by Safe betting Sites shows that LeBron is only 4,147 points away from becoming NBA’s all-time points scorer in history. As of November 2020, LeBron was ranked third with 34,241 points. He is behind the retired Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the all-time highest scorer in history with 38,387 points. In the second spot, there is Karl Malone with 36,928 points.
The research considers LeBron’s past performance and the possible remaining years of professional basketball to determine estimated points, games, and seasons the star needs to potentially become the all-time leading scorer.
At the age of 35 years old, LeBron has an average of 25.3 points per game. With LeBron indicating he has no intentions of retiring soon, the player might score 4,147 points required to emerge top in the next three seasons.
Assuming that LeBron does not lower his average points per game, our research maintains a conservative projection that he needs at least 20 points per game in the 82 plays for the regular season to hit the milestone. Since he started his career at 18-years old, LeBron has not lowered his 20.9 average points per game. If the player maintains the 20 average points per game, he will hit 4,920 points from the 246 cumulative regular season plays in the next three seasons.
Why LeBron is likely to surpass Kareem’s career points
It is worth mentioning that the projected 20 points per game might be higher. Additionally, the player may not play all the 246 regular-season games due to injuries and illness factors. As highlighted, based on LeBron’s past performance, he might score 4,920 points which is more than the 4,147 needed to emerge top. In this case, the projection is more realistic since there is a possibility of missing out on some games. Furthermore, the research has not put into account possible points from playoff games.
LeBron also stands a good chance of retiring as the NBA all-time leading scorer, having indicated that he will play long as he feels good and will be able to deliver high quality results. Some sports analysts believe the player still has about five more years of active playing.
Notably, as James gets closer to 40 years, the player might not transition smoothly into his secondary career; he remains unstoppable in terms of scoring. Over the recent seasons, LeBron has been improving his 3 point scores, giving him more room to hit the top spot. The player has in the past averaged about 2,000 points per season, meaning it’s only a couple of seasons before he unseats Kareem.
Obstacles standing in LeBron’s way towards NBA history
At this stage in his career, health remains the main reason to slow down LeBron. During the 2018/19 season, LeBron was sidelined by a groin injury and he only played among the least games in a season. However, LeBron is known to take good care of his body to remain a top athlete. He allocates a big chunk of his money to maintain his body to extend his longevity.
LeBron has still had a lot of mileage on his body, with no signs of regression. Although his scoring average is a bit lower than seasons past, he’s still finding ways to help his team win. Currently, LeBron is a top facilitator in NBA history. His versatility has elevated him to one of the dominant scorers in NBA history.
Despite the mouth-watering statistics, LeBron is on record stating that scoring is not on his mind. His goal is to facilitate, rebounding, defending, and to get the blocks. However, at the end of his career, LeBron will have high chances of holding the NBA’s all-time leading scorer in history. James will hold it for long if he achieves the milestone, considering that most players trailing him on the list have retired.