A Benevolent Dragon in Africa?

Deborah Bräutigam Discusses China's Role in Africa's Development
May 20, 2010
by Peter Shelton

In her book The Dragon' Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, author Deborah Bräutigam paints an alternative picture of China's involvement in Africa's development that stands in sharp contrast to the commonly-held Western belief that such investment primarily stems from China's short-term commercial and strategic interests in the region.

During a recent visit to IFPRI's headquarters in Washington, DC, Ms. Bräutigam met with Klaus von Grebmer, IFPRI's Head of Communications. In a short video interview, Ms. Bräutigam reveals that she now sees three unique "gifts" China can offer its African counterparts toward their path to development.

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The Dragon’s Gift: the Real Story of China in Africa

"The first gift," she says, "is really China's own experience (in development) and that can be a beacon of hope, I think, for Africa." Not only was China able to lift a large number of its citizens out of poverty in recent decades, but it was able to do so in such a way that aid did not play a central role and where experimentation and not following the "standard development practices" were key to its success. In following China's example, Bräutigam is optimistic that African nations can chart a country-driven path toward development in lifting their own citizens out of poverty. Second, she views China's investment in African infrastructure- from road construction to telecommunications to hydroelectric power- as laying the foundation for future growth and economic development. Third, Bräutigam says that China sees a different image of Africa- one that characterized by mutually beneficial business opportunities rather than only seeing images of widespread poverty, war and desperation that many Westerners are so quick to conjure up when discussing African development.

Deborah Bräutigam discusses China's role in African development: