If China was expecting praise and adulation for the $60 billion financial package that it announced at the recent FOCAC summit in Beijing, then Chinese officials must have been severely disappointed by the reaction in places like Kenya.
Kenyan media, like those in other African countries, generally covered the FOCAC financial announcement with high levels of skepticism, suggesting that more Chinese loans will only worsen the country’s increasingly dire financial situation. One after another, headlines screamed across Kenyan media to portray China as a predator. “How China is feeding off poor Africa ” and “China a threat to Kenya’s economy” represent the negative tone of the coverage and the widely-held belief that Kenya was handing over its economic destiny to China.
“The [West’s] debt-trap narrative really infantilizes African governments. It gives a perspective that China is pushing debt on Africa and completes negates the agency and decision making power of African governments.” — Development Economist Anzetse Were
Unfortunately, this narrative is all wrong, according to Nairobi-based development economist and Business Daily columnist Anzetse Were. “The [West’s] Sinophobic narrative has worked,” she explained about how U.S. and European leaders’ suggestions that China is using predatory lending practices to extend its political power on the continent. “This narrative really infantilizes African governments,” she added, “it gives a perspective that China is pushing debt on Africa and completely negates the agency and decision making power of African governments.”
Instead, Were suggests in a new paper for the South African Institute of International Affairsthat Kenya’s leaders, and other African policymakers, should be the ones held accountable for their country’s rising debt. “The debt problem in Kenya is NOT China’s problem, it’s Kenya’s.”
- Africa Check: China owns 21.3% of Kenya’s external debt – not 70% as reported by Carlos Mureithi
- Standard Kenya: China says its funding helps Africa develop, not stack up debt by news agencies
- South African Institute of International Affairs: Debt trap? Chinese loans and Africa’s development options by Anzetse Were
About Anzetse Were:
Anzetse Were is an economist, researcher, and analyst with over 10 years of experience working in Africa on development economics, economic analysis and research, impact investment and enterprise development. Were is a weekly columnist for the Business Daily Africa whose work has also appeared in both local and international publications and websites. Her expertise in development economics has been sought out by local and international media houses such as BBC, CNBC Africa, The Economist, The Financial Times and local media houses.