Why is US falling behind in popularity among young Africans?
Published: Jun 13, 2022 10:31 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

China has overtaken the US as the "foreign power" having the biggest positive influence in Africa in the eyes of young Africans, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing a survey conducted by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation.

According to Bloomberg, the survey found that 76 percent of 4,507 young Africans named China as the "foreign power" with a positive influence on their lives, while the figure for the US was 72 percent. In 2020, 83 percent of the respondents saw the influence of the US as positive, compared with 79 percent for China.

How could China overtake the US in just two years? This was hard won given the non-stop malicious Western slandering against China. 

For an example, the survey showed the false reports about the COVID-19 origin-tracing caused 56 percent of the respondents to mistakenly believe that the coronavirus is a "man-made virus released by China." Such disinformation against China is malicious, but it becomes even more interesting to look at the favorable view of China against a background of vicious slanders concocted by the West.

In the past two years, despite some Western media outlets have been keen on playing up tensions by engaging in a China-bashing competition, more African youth still hold a favorable view of China.

Their favorable views could be attributed to several factors. First, China has been involved in a variety of infrastructure projects across the African continent and is keen to help build land passages such as railway lines, roads, ports, bridges, as well as dams, skyscrapers, and power stations that greatly helped African countries improve their economy and the people's living standards.

In recent years, China has increasingly invested in the continent through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The initiative has assisted many African nations improve their infrastructure that laid the foundation for achieving broader common prosperity in the continent. This could be easily felt by young Africans.

Second, vast inexpensive made-in-China products have emerged as popular items embraced by young Africans. China's exports to Africa rose an impressive 13.4 percent year-on-year in the first five months of this year. Young Africans are increasingly willing to spend more to buy Chinese-made products of good quality, such as electric bicycles, smartphones and game consoles.

Third, China's investments on the continent have no political strings attached. China succeeds because it offers developing countries what they actually want, and China respects the choices of the development paths and social systems of the African countries. In contrast, the US has overly focused on political intervention while providing investment or economic assistance there. It is often the case that investment is used as a tool to advertise American values to Africans.

The US government needs to rethink its economic relationship with Africa and give more respect to Africans. The survey conducted by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation has rung the alarm bell for the US. 

China is not interested in engaging in a geopolitical rivalry with the US in Africa. The young Africans' views of China's gaining "increased influence" in Africa suggested that we are moving in the right direction to constantly improve our brotherly relations with African countries. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic which weighed heavily on the global economy, China-Africa economic relations remain resilient and vital.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.