by Christine Lagat and Njoroge Kaburo
NAIROBI, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The growing relationship between China and Africa is based on mutual economic partnership, respect for domestic political systems and promotion of peace and stability, Kenyan experts said.
They stressed that Sino-African relations are set for the long haul regardless of cynical viewpoints from some quarters alleging that China's presence in Africa represents a new form of neocolonialism.
"The African governments are legitimate and they represent their people. That is why it is valid to say that our cooperation with China has citizens' blessings," said Patrick Maluki, a diplomacy lecturer at the University of Nairobi, told Xinhua in Nairobi in a recent interview.
Africa has evolved dramatically and that any allegations of neocolonialism against emerging powers like China are groundless, Maluki said in the interview.
"Our concern for now should be why do African governments choose China instead of the West? There seems to be some preference for China whose terms are better," Maluki said.
Analysts say that Beijing's entry into the global trade has tilted the imbalance in favor of African countries that produce minerals, including oil and copper, rejuvenating the industry.
They say that when East Africa was hit by the world worst drought and famine in 2011, the Chinese government donated rice, flour, cooking oil and other basic necessities worth 21 million U.S. dollars to Kenya.
Maluki stressed that the Sino-Africa relations have blossomed for the last decade and are redefining global diplomacy.
China will play a significant role in transformation of Africa's economies now and in future, said Kwame Owino, chief executive officer of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a Kenya-based think tank.
"The African countries require Chinese investments, technologies and expertise to leapfrog their economies. This kind of partnership has worked without hitches," Owino said.
He regretted that rival powers have projected China's presence in Africa as a case of economic domination.
"What should be clear to everyone is that there are enough safeguards to deter unfair trade practices between Africa and China. In any case, it is a win-win situation where each party gets the best of what it bargained for," Owino told Xinhua.
Expressing similar sentiments, Boniface Gitau, a young entrepreneur stressed that China's presence in Kenya has benefitted ordinary citizens.
"People can now buy a phone or laptop made in China due to affordability. Previously, these modern gadgets were such a luxury and too expensive," Gitau said.
He noted that Kenyans are enjoying an infrastructure bonanza as Chinese firms construct highways, ports and railway lines across the country.
Beijing is seeking to open up more to Africans and open its intentions to the continent to repel sentiments in Western countries that China is out to exploit Africa.
The Sino-Africa relations have peaked in the last 10 years, resulting in tremendous growth of trade, which soared from 10 billion U.S. dollars in the year 2000 to 166.3 billion dollars in 2011. Meanwhile, China's investment in Africa currently hit 15.3 billion dollars, 30 times more than 10 years ago.
"I think China has portrayed a very brotherly image, the one that is less confrontational and devoid of conditions," Maluki said.
He said forging partnership with China has also brought benefits to Africa and it does not just benefit the Asian giant as unfairly alleged by certain critics.
"China is just like any other country like France or Belgium. Saying China is colonizing Africa is untenable. In any case, the U.S. and the European Union are China's biggest trading partners," said Maluki.
China has been the prominent emerging partner for most of Africa and new China-Africa relations have been heatedly debated.
"China's growing presence reflects this country's growing economic and political power in the world and its appetite for natural resources of some African countries aims to fuel its economic expansion," said Mthuli Ncube, vice president and chief economist of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
On the one hand, China needs natural resources. On the other hand, it plays an important role in providing necessary financing and expertise for the continent's development. Trade between Africa and China is quite substantial.
Maluki noted that trade partnership between China and Africa is high and has transformed local economies.
Maluki said that trade relations between China and Africa are set to improve as China becomes an economic giant and Africa emerge as a frontier market.
"BRICS are competing for Africa's market as the continent becomes a favorite destination for foreign direct investments," Maluki said.
He stressed that China's foreign policy that emphasizes development and non interference is ideal for Africa as the continent positions itself to play a significant role in global affairs.
"Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa can point at tangible projects that have been initiated through Chinese partnership," said Maluki. He cited Thika Superhighway and Kasarani sports complex as some of landmark projects built by Chinese companies.
In Uganda, Senegal,Sudan and Zambia, among others, there are so many projects that have been initiated after these countries forged partnership with China, noted Maluki.
He reiterated that China is a huge country that has exportable income critical to Africa's development.
He termed criticism from the West that China does not demand higher democratic ideals from African countries as subjective and cynical.
"Democracy is contestable, look at the World Trade Organization (WTO), every state pursues its interests. Democracy does not necessarily apply at international relations," Maluki said.
No country should have monopoly over global affairs in a multi-polar and highly networked world. "The global power balance is going to be multi-polar and China, Russia, India and Brazil will be key players," said Maluki.
He emphasized that involvement of the emerging powers in world affairs is good for stability and economic take-off in Africa.
Maluki hailed China's economic mode that combines free market and greater state involvement.
He told Xinhua that the strong hand of state is relevant in Africa where economies are fragile and citizens must be protected from rapacious free markets.
He also said China's approach to international relations is different from the West and has triggered a paradigm shift in global diplomacy.