Poll: China most influential power in Africa as US influence wanes
China is by far the most influential foreign power in Africa, according to a recent poll of African youth from the Ichikowitz Family Foundation. The survey also found that China’s influence is widely viewed as a good thing, with 76 percent of respondents saying Beijing has a positive effect on the region.
Perceptions of U.S. influence in Africa were lower at 67 percent — 10 points fewer than China and seven points fewer than Washington earned in 2020. And 72 percent of respondents said the United States has a positive influence in Africa, a steep drop from the previous score of 83 percent.
Alden Young, a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute, blames Washington’s security-focused approach to Africa for its reduced influence in the region. “Right now, the U.S. is mainly seen as a provider of security equipment,” Young said. “It doesn’t have much to offer in terms of economic development.”
“The Chinese in particular are seen primarily to invest in infrastructure,” he continued. “It’s hard for the U.S. to take a leadership role if it’s not going to compete on a commercial, cultural, or financial economic playing field.”
Echoing Young, respondents with a positive view of China highlighted the country’s concrete impact on their lives, citing the importance of cheap Chinese goods as well as Beijing’s investment in infrastructure, job creation, and bilateral loans for African states.
The poll, known as the African Youth Survey, involved interviews with more than 4,500 people aged 18-24 across 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s survey is its second edition, while the first came out in 2020.
Besides the United States and China, respondents also cited the African Union (64 percent), the European Union (62 percent), and the United Kingdom (55 percent) as influential players on the continent. France saw the biggest drop in influence since 2020, going from 62 to 46 percent in just two years.
On an individual level, American leaders have a significant edge over any other international personalities. When asked who would have the biggest impact in Africa over the next five years, a plurality of respondents (37 percent) pointed to President Joe Biden, with American billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg taking second and third place. Chinese President Xi Jinping came in fourth with only 13 percent. Other leaders who earned some support included Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Respondents predicted that Biden would have a much more positive impact than his predecessor Donald Trump, with 63 percent saying he would improve U.S.-Africa trade relations and 61 percent forecasting that he would help boost foreign investment.