China’s competitive advantage in Africa


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To many outside observers, Chinese engagement in Africa is often evaluated on hard metrics like the amount of trade, number of immigrants, and investment figures. While those data points are no doubt important, Wake Forest University assistant professor Lina Benabdallah argues in her new book that such statistics don’t tell the whole story about this complex geopolitical relationship. Instead, she contends that “it is important to start looking at less visible and less material types of investment” to really understand the depth of China’s ties on the continent.

Specifically, Benabdallah focuses on how the Chinese spend a lot of time and resources to foster social relations with African counterparts through professional training, skills transfer, and personal networking. While these factors are all difficult to quantify, there’s nonetheless a growing body of evidence that indicates this investment in knowledge sharing is providing Beijing with a distinct competitive advantage in Africa.

Benabdallah joins Eric and Cobus to talk about the findings in her new book, Shaping the Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations, and why it’s so important for stakeholders on all sides “to see beyond what meets the eye” with regards to Chinese engagement on the continent.