Riding a “Friendly Elephant”? How African Nations Can Make the Best of Economic Partnership with China
Modern China is a major trading partner with and investor in Africa. This Note examines its relationships with Nigeria and South Africa to evaluate whether the benefits they receive from Chinese involvement, like infrastructure or access to consumer goods, are outweighed by costs such as worsened corruption. It next discusses legal measures these countries have taken to mitigate any costs of Chinese involvement. At least in Nigeria and South Africa, the concrete benefits of Chinese trade and investment appear to outweigh the uncertain costs. However, legal protections adopted to reduce these costs are likely still inadequate. Given significant barriers to effective governance, especially in Nigeria, it is in the interests of all parties to renegotiate their bilateral investment treaties to promote host government rule of law. This would allow both African nations to better manage any costs associated with Chinese activities, while also assuring China of more stable economic relationships.