Author: Ana Christina Alves.
China’s impressive inroads into Africa’s resources sectors over the past decade are explained
largely by the timely match between a cash-loaded China in search of raw materials and
a continent with a vast pool of underdeveloped mineral deposits, exploration of which has
been hindered for decades by underinvestment and infrastructure bottlenecks.
Chinese ‘infrastructure-for-resources’ loans are ultimately a product of the convergence
of Chinese and African interests at the dawn of the 21
century. This loan formula, swapping
infrastructure for resources, came into being largely as a default strategy, inspired by
China’s own domestic experience, its competitive advantages and African receptiveness
to this kind of barter deal.
The paper explores how China has consistently used this approach over the past
decade as a positive economic statecraft tool to pursue mineral resources security goals in
Africa; and how the need to adjust its approach to challenges and new opportunities on
the ground has led to noticeable shifts in recent years. It argues that, although infrastructure
for resources remains an important tool to meet Beijing’s supply concerns, China’s strategies
to access resource assets have become more diversified and market oriented, with its state-
owned enterprises taking the lead and engaging increasingly in mergers and acquisitions.