HUFFINGTON POST
11/29/2016 03:17 pm ET

Rwanda Is Becoming A Magnet For Chinese Money And Migrants

This small, landlocked country is aiming to position itself as a hub for Chinese investment in Africa.

Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden are the duo behind the China Africa Project and hosts of the popular China in Africa Podcast. We’re here to answer your most pressing, puzzling, even politically incorrect questions, about all things related to the Chinese in Africa and Africans in China.

It is a widely-held perception that Chinese investment in Africa is guided by a strategic foreign policy agenda focused on securing vast amounts of natural resources. This narrative fits nicely with an outdated Western colonial stereotype of how foreign countries engage Africa. However, in the case of the Chinese, this narrative is only partially correct.

Earlier this year, the China-Africa Research Initiative, or CARI, published its findings from an in-depth survey on what African countries received the most Chinese loans over the past 15 years. Not surprisingly, Angola with its huge oil reserves topped the list at $21.2 billion. Interestingly, Ethiopia ($12.3 billion) and Kenya ($5.2 billion) were second and fourth respectively in the top five list and, for the most part, neither of these countries is considered extremely rich in natural resources.

The pattern and flow of Chinese loans in Africa, according to CARI, suggests that the Chinese have a much broader strategic agenda on the continent than is often presumed by outsiders. While natural resources are no doubt important, they are clearly not the only priority as the Chinese seek to open new markets, build manufacturing operations, deploy aid and development initiatives and so on.

China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang (center) joins Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Paul Kagame of Rwanda (right) dur
Pacific Press via Getty Images
China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang (center) joins Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Paul Kagame of Rwanda (right) during a visit in which he signed an African railway construction deal in 2014. 

Rwanda is another example of a country that at first glance would have little to offer Chinese investors. After all, this is a landlocked country with barely any natural resources and unlike Kenya or Ethiopia, Rwanda is so small that its domestic market isn’t very enticing. However, after emerging from the horrors of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has become an island of stability in the Great Lakes region with its strong infrastructure, stable government and close proximity to vital markets in east and southern Africa.

In a recent reporting assignment to Rwanda, Nairobi-based Quartz Africa correspondent Lily Kuo traveled there to investigate why the country is increasingly becoming a magnet for Chinese money and migrants. Lily joins Eric & Cobus  ― in the podcast above ― to discuss what kind of Chinese investor is attracted to Rwanda and how people from both countries are sometimes struggling to adapt to one another.

Join the discussion. What do you think about the growing Chinese presence in countries like Rwanda? Do you think it brings badly-need investment or new problems to countries that are already struggling? Let us know.

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