NAIROBI. – The Nairobi Expressway winds through the metropolis like a giant river on stilts. It stretches over 27km through the heart of the Kenyan capital and connects the West African country’s most important airport with Nairobi’s central business district, the National Museum and the Presidential Palace.
Construction under the aegis of China took only two years. Now the toll road is helping to relieve the city’s congested traffic arteries.
China’s state-owned companies are increasingly ahead of their European competitors with swift decisions and speedy implementation of contracts in Africa. That’s according to a study published in June by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, a German organisation for liberal and libertarian politics. More than 1,600 decision-makers from 25 countries were surveyed, including top managers, employees of NGOs and civil servants.
Their answers paint a picture of a Europe that seeks above all to export its values to Africa, while loans, excavators and workers come from China.
“The Clash of Systems” is how the foundation describes the results of the online survey conducted by Kenya’s Inter Region Economic Network (IREC) think tank.
Chinese companies come out tops on making decisions more quickly, implementing projects faster and interfering less in internal affairs.
“Obviously, these are the most important factors; there is no other way to explain the success of the Chinese in Africa,” according to Stefan Schott, a project manager for East Africa and the Global Partnership Hub at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
Europeans would have to draw their conclusions from this. It also affects their reputation for imposing regulations, he said.
“The paternalistic behaviour of the Europeans is a problem; the Africans have difficulties with that,” Schott emphasized.
Kenyan economist and co-author of the study, James Shikwati, said Europeans were stuck in their outdated view of Africa.
They dictate to Africans what they need and are trapped in their own value system, which holds them back. Europe emphasizes governance, while the Chinese focus on “hardware,” the concrete infrastructure to touch.
“They ask: Which road should be built from where to where? But the Europeans first check how many insects walk over it,” said Shikwati, laughing. “It doesn’t work that way in Africa,” he added. – DW.com