Chinese private sector engagement in Africa is going to be much more important in 2021

Business & Technology

African governments are becoming more interested in public-private partnerships with Chinese companies.

The 2020 China-Africa Private Sector Cooperation Forum. Image via the 2020 China-Africa Private Sector Cooperation Forum.

Over the past several weeks, Chinese officials have convened a series of high profile forums with key African stakeholders in what appears to be an effort to lay the groundwork for next year’s triennial Forum on China Africa Cooperation Summit (FOCAC) that’s scheduled to take place in Dakar, Senegal.

Greater participation by Chinese private companies and some state-owned enterprises is expected to be a key theme at the upcoming FOCAC — partially in response to the current financial crisis where African access to large amounts of Chinese development finance remains an open question. “For Chinese financiers, more joint financing partners will help in…lowering the lending risk,  said Zhōu Yùyuān 周玉渊, a senior fellow at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. “For the companies [different forms of public-private partnerships] will make the companies more serious and responsible for their operations in Africa and other countries,” he added.

This is a particularly important issue in infrastructure development given Africa’s enormous deficit in building sufficient power, transportation, and telecommunications networks. So, it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on developments in Nairobi, where a groundbreaking public-private partnership (PPP) between the Kenyan government and the China Road and Bridge Corporation is underway to build a 27km, $600 million expressway.

Similar Chinese-led PPP deals are also underway in UgandaMozambique, and Nigeria among other places.