Africa View

This is what Africans really think of the Chinese

Story highlights

China is Africa's largest investor

It has been criticized for working with undemocratic African regimes

Despite this, an overwhelming majority like the Chinese

CNN  — 

Increasing Chinese investment in everything from small food enterprises to massive railway projects across Africa has drawn criticism and warnings of a future dependency on Asia’s superpower.

But what do Africans themselves think about Chinese investors? Turns out, they love them.

According to a recent report by Afrobarometer, almost two-thirds (63%) of Africans say China’s influence is somewhat positive or very positive, while only 15% see it as somewhat or very negative.

“There is a negative narrative of China in Africa,” says Anyway Chingwete, co-author of the study and project manager at Afrobarometer and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa.

“But I believe ordinary citizens have a positive sentiment because of the contribution China has made to Africa.”

The attitudes vary from country to country, with people in Mali (92%), Niger (84%), and Liberia (81%) being particularly glad to have them around.

“This shows that African citizens are welcoming China’s involvement,” Chingwete adds.

Show me the money

It appears it’s not the Chinese culture or language Africans like best. It’s the potential financial investment China brings.

When asked which factors contributed most to China’s positive image, it was investment in infrastructure that came out on top.

China invests more in Africa than any other country, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Angola among the biggest recipients of Chinese funds.

Infrastructure development, for example highways and railways, is the main area of business for the Chinese in Africa, Chingwete says. They also invest in smaller enterprises and food outlets, according to the report.

Africans also like the Chinese for bringing affordable cars and mobile phones to the continent, says lead author Mogopodi Lekorwe, a professor of Politics at the University of Botswana.

“They used to be very expensive, but because these are now flooding the market, the prices have dropped.

“People can now pick and choose among things that they didn’t have access to in the past,” he adds.