How Much Land Does China Own in Africa?

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How Much Land Does China Own in Africa?

China’s economic and diplomatic clout is growing across the globe, and Africa is no exception. With a population of over 1.3 billion people and a rapidly growing middle-class, Africa has vast amounts of untapped potential.


China’s involvement in Africa has been growing steadily over the past few decades. The continent has become a key piece of China’s geographic and geopolitical puzzle. The scramble for Africa has become a key theme of debates at the United Nations, with European powers and other Asian nations all vying for a piece of the pie. With so many players and such a vast continent, it’s no surprise that the question of how much land China owns in Africa has arisen.

How Much Land Does China Own in Africa?


The total area of Africa is approximately 1.2 billion acres, of which 71% is covered by land and 29% is covered by water. The total area of land that China owns in Africa is approximately 186,000 square miles (465,000 square kilometers). This is around 7% of the total land area in Africa.


How China Got Involved in Africa


Since the famous opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, European nations have been the dominant players in Africa. However, in recent years, China has emerged as a major player in international trade, with total African imports and exports rising 30% and 27% respectively between 2011 and 2015. The increase in Chinese trade with Africa has been attributed to a number of factors, including lower transportation and insurance costs due to tighter Chinese regulation of these industries, faster expansion of trade routes due to improvements in the condition of roads, rail, and shipping networks, and large-scale investments by Chinese companies in Africa.


China and Africa: Partners in Development


Africa is attractive to China because of its vast potential as a market and its young and rapidly growing population. China’s economic development has focused on urban areas, and its per capita income is relatively low compared to many other countries. Thus, Africa has become an important source of new consumers for Chinese products, contributing to China’s growth and development.

Equally important, Africa provides China with raw materials that are essential for its economic development. China is the world’s largest copper producer and consumer, and many other minerals, including oil and gas, are found in significant quantities in Africa. China’s need for these materials has helped to spur significant levels of Chinese investment in African mining.


The scramble for Africa


The scramble for Africa has been in progress since the late 19th century, when European powers first began to explore and colonize the continent. Since then, many Asian and European nations have jockeyed for position on the African continent. The scramble is often presented as a zero-sum game, with one country’s gain being another nation’s loss. In reality, the benefits of increased trade and investment in Africa outweigh the losses that some nations may incur.

But the scramble has a darker side as well. Since the end of colonialism, several African nations have been subjected to brutal dictatorships and civil wars, and millions have died as a result of these conflicts. Many African nations have also been unable to escape poverty and now face growing levels of income inequality and poor governance.


China-Africa cooperation


China’s growing presence in Africa has also bred resentment among some regions of the African population. In many countries, the Chinese are seen as competitors for jobs, resources, and investment. Some Africans have also expressed concern that China’s growing ties with African nations are primarily motivated by economic concerns and do not consider political, social, or human rights issues.

In recent years, some African nations have attempted to increase their diplomatic leverage by forming strategic partnerships with both China and other major powers. For example, in 2015, a majority of African nations voted in favor of becoming the first continental bloc to formally recognize Chinese sovereignty overACA-whose members at the time included Egypt, Sudan, and Kenya-despite strong objections from the United States and other Western nations.


China-Africa cooperation


Despite these issues, there is significant cooperation between China and many African nations. For example, in April 2017, the Chinese and Kenyan armies launched a military exercise in southern Ethiopia, known as Gemobile, that involved more than 12,000 troops. The stated aim of the exercise was to promote stability and economic development in the region.

More generally, China and Africa have a number of shared interests. Both China and Africa face increasing levels of income inequality and social unrest, which have the potential to negatively impact both domestic stability and economic growth.

China and Africa also face common challenges, including pressure from the United States and other Western nations, climate change caused by global warming, and an energy crisis caused by a crisis in the supply of hydrocarbon fuels.

In order to address these issues, China and African nations have focused on building mutually beneficial partnerships. For example, in 2014, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative was welcomed by many African nations as a possible way to boost trade and investment along traditional trade routes while promoting economic development and lasting peace.


The Bottom Line


China’s growing presence in Africa is drawing increasing attention, both positive and negative, and there is no clear consensus on the amount of land that China owns in Africa. Some nations express concern that China is seeking to increase its influence in the region while others welcome the presence as an opportunity to increase trade and investment.

What is clear is that China and Africa have a number of shared interests and challenges that will require international cooperation to address.


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