According to a new survey released recently by the Johannesburg-based think tank, Ichikowitz Family Foundation, the majority of African youth regard China as the continent's most influential foreign player.
According to a poll of more than 4,500 Africans aged 18 to 24 years old residing in 15 nations across Africa, US influence has decreased since 2020.
Seventy-seven percent of young Africans thought China was the "foreign actor" with the most influence on the continent. In a follow-up question about whether China's impact was positive or negative, 76 percent said it was favorable.
Affordable Chinese products, Beijing's investments in infrastructure development on the continent, and China's provision of job opportunities in Africa are the top reasons those polled believe China's influence is favorable.
According to Ivor Ichikowitz, the chairman of the foundation that conducted the research, previous editions of the polls showed that the United States had unquestionably the most influence among young Africans. However, two years later, post-COVID, the scenario is entirely different: China is now Africa's most powerful ally.
Reasons for this change.
The United States topped the list of the most influential countries among young Africans pre-pandemic because of Donald Trump, its former president. His image as a strong, charismatic leader endeared him to African youths. However, since his loss in the 2020 elections, American influence has waned.
According to the survey, China has surpassed the United States, mostly due to investment. Young Africans are seeing tangible, obvious, and extremely significant indicators of China's role in Africa's development.
Despite widespread criticism of Chinese investment in Africa, African governments find it difficult not to respect China since it provides finance, expertise, and markets at a time when Europe and the United States do not.
According to Ichikowtiz, the African Union Commission estimates that over 40% of the world's youth will live in Africa during the next ten years. China is assisting in the development of one of the world's largest consumer populations by developing the continent's middle class.
However, several young Africans were concerned that they were not gaining enough benefits from China's exploitation of their mineral wealth and natural resources.
Twenty-four percent of those polled felt Chinese investments in their countries amounted to "economic colonialism," while 36% claimed the Chinese were extracting African resources without adequate remuneration. Another 21% of interviewees believed the Chinese were disrespectful of African beliefs and traditions.
Some expressed worry about Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang and stated that they preferred Western-style democracy. China has been criticized for the social injustices perpetrated against the country's Muslim population.
Some young people stated that they do not have a preference between the United States and China because both governments seek profit.
Only 39% of the young people polled believe that a Western-style democracy should be copied. More than half of those polled said that Western-style democracy is not suitable and that African countries need a governing model that is tailored to their needs.