China has invested $683million (£524million) into Africa between 2000 and 2018 but is set for competition following the UK’s moves to create investment projects on the continent. The UK has announced a £100million road project in the state of Benin in order to boost trade post-Brexit – sparking warnings China “won’t be happy”. Sophie Gaston, director of the British Foreign Policy Group, told Politico: “It was inevitable that western and Chinese competition with Africa would escalate over the coming decades, as Africa finds itself at a crossroads in its pathway to development.
“It is certain that China will not be happy at the prospect of Britain undercutting its efforts to solidify its position in Africa, however, these tensions are inevitable and should be anticipated and prepared for.”
China has also pledged a further $148billion (£113billion) in infrastructure projects in Africa within its Belt and Road initiative.
The project stretches to 70 countries and is widely seen as an attempt by the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, to increase China’s influence across the world.
While China has funded projects on the continent, there is concern over the nature of Beijing’s investment.
Certain projects such as a rail line in Kenya, have come with huge debt repayments.
The rail line began operation in 2017 and is heavily used but has also cost the country $3.2billion (£2.4billion) in debt repayment to China.
Tom Tugendhat, Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling and head of the China Research Group, said countries were now learning the true cost of infrastructure projects.
He said: “You thought the investment was free but it turns out it’s not free.
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Chinese embassy spokesperson, Zeng Rong, claimed any project comes with mutual benefits for both.
He also insisted there are no political conditions to infrastructure projects and deals.
He added: “It is a common responsibility for the international community to support peace and development in Africa.
“We are glad to see Africa developing diversified cooperative partnerships, and we welcome the international community, including the UK, to help Africa achieve development and prosperity by attaching greater importance to and increasing input in the continent while respecting its own will.”
UK officials have also insisted the latest project in Benin was not designed to be in competition with China.
Benin has strong relations with China and has signed deals to create road and rail projects in the state.
Romuald Wadagni, Benin minister of economy and finance said: “Having the attention of key foreign investors and official partners — such as Britain and China — highlights our credibility and attractiveness, and more broadly the improvement in the business climate in Benin.
“The U.K. and China are and will be two important partners, among others, for the development of Benin.”