• Anwar Zibaoui
  • President, ASCAME

By Anwar Zibaoui, General Coordinator of ASCAME. Translated from Catalan to English. Originally posted in L’Econòmic del Punt Avui.

In just a few years, China has achieved spectacular progress in Africa and, although it is a neighbouring region of Europe, it is trying to strengthen mutual interests and diplomatic ties. It thus assures its needs and reinforces its strategy of creating an economic space from China to Africa through India and the Middle East.

There is a competition between the US, the EU and China, which want to extend their reach to Africa and now also express themselves through narratives that require new discourses, instruments and actions. Trust cannot be imposed, it is built slowly. China’s narrative in Africa is simple and very powerful: Europeans have exploited you? They did the same to us. Do you want to change the order of the world? So do we… This discourse is understandable by the elites and business sector, but also by the African citizens.

In this context of struggle for world leadership between China and the US, the example of the war in Ukraine, with sanctions against Russia, and the possible risk of conflict in Taiwan, with a repetition of the sanctions against China, raises concern. Globalisation and the reduction of international trade are at stake, which is why it is so important to seize the opportunities that are opening up for Africa.

These moves should alert Europeans to the risk of a geo-economic collapse in the Mediterranean, as it is a gateway to Europe for Xinjiang products. Beijing has already acquired or is managing some important ports in the region and, in addition, has a large terminal at the port of Barcelona.

The value of African foreign trade is 1.016.000 million dollars. The European Union, with 298.000 million dollars, is the continent’s leading trading partner, followed closely by China, with 261.000 million dollars. This is almost five times more than the US, which for many years dominated trade with Africa. Moreover, European companies spend only 3% of their investments in Africa, while China has increased its investment efforts in the continent by 20%.

The EU does not have a coherent geo-economic plan for Africa, but the US is trying to conquer the continent again. However, China has built four silk routes: one to Central Asia, one through the Indian Ocean and the third through the Arctic. The fourth is an extension from the Iberian Peninsula to Atlantic Africa and the Gulf of Guinea.

Economic and investment issues need to be introduced into the wider European debate, which is too often dominated by security and immigration issues with Africa that ignore its potential and the great opportunity represented by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA). It is essential to launch bold new proposals. The EU must prioritise a strategy and a response to avoid collapse and to see the Mediterranean and its connections controlled by Chinese state-owned companies. If it fails to do so, it is very likely that the EU will be trapped in the silk road network.