The most persistent claims by some media organizations regarding China's investment in Africa run contrary to ground realities and such reports should only be consumed "with a grain of salt," a renowned U.S. expert on Africa said in a newly-published article on the website of Foreign Policy.
Professor Deborah Brautigam, who is leading the China Africa Research Initiative team at Johns Hopkins University, cited facts and figures as well as first-hand investigation to bust the five most frequently recycled myths about Chinese investment in Africa.
Western media outlets tend to portray China as a resource-hungry monster making forays on the African continent. "The first and most damaging myth is that China is in Africa only to extract natural resources," said Brautigam.
While admitting Africa's vast natural resource endowments are a big draw for Chinese firms, just as they are for Western oil and mineral giants, she said China has helped improve the infrastructure network in Africa, provide jobs and train local workforce.
The second myth is the overstatement of the scope of Chinese official finance pledged to Africa and other developing countries, she said, adding that the staggering aggregate figures were always results of flawed methodology.
"A third persistent myth is that Chinese companies employ mainly their own nationals," Brautigam wrote in the article.
As a matter of fact, except in a few countries where labor cost is expensive so the Chinese firms tend to bring their own workers, the vast majority of employees at Chinese firms are local hires.
The U.S. professor also presented convincing evidence to argue against the notion that Chinese aid and financing is itself a vehicle for securing oil concessions and mining rights, as well as exaggerated descriptions of China's moves in Africa regarding land and farms.
"Distracted by imaginary problems like the ones outlined above, China-U.S. cooperation in Africa has moved at a glacial pace. Moving beyond mythology might make for a slower news day as (Chinese President) Xi (Jinping) wraps up his visit to South Africa, but it will help create a better informed basis for Western engagement with China -- in Africa and elsewhere," the article concludes.