BERLIN: Chinese land grabs in Africa are a media myth, the country's involvement across the continent is nowhere near as dominant as reports suggest, according to regional expert Professor Deborah Brautigam.
Speaking at Citywire Berlin 2012 Professor Brautigam, director of the international development programme at John Hopkins University/SAIS and author of 'The Dragon's Gift:The Real Story of China in Africa', said there is a belief that China's investment in Africa is purely to procure land and natural resources for its' own ends.
'I think these myths persist because people are not looking very closely at the evidence and, in fact, they are not interested in looking closely at the evidence,' she said.
'There is so much data out there now about what China is really doing in Africa and it is not hard to put it all together. In the west, we are comforted by thinking that China is a threat, this behemoth, this big bad investor, and that is a comfortable place for the west to be.'
'If you look at the evidence it is much more nuanced.'
Fundamentally there is a difference between what western investors and Chinese investors look for from the African continent, Brautigam said.
'In the west, the belief is our aid is about altruism,' she said. 'We want to save Africa and doing what is right for them by controlling them through governance. The Chinese views it very differently, they believe it is about mutual benefit, diplomacy and soft power.'
Brautigam said this land hungry view permeated western media but was also being propagated by leading economists and advisors. However, she said evidence is strongly to the contrary.
'We took the top 25 main reports of Chinese agricultural investment in Africa and looked at each one of these and whether they were actually significant. Out of all these reports there were four that were direct investments and only two of these were of any significant size.'