France : When Ivory Coast put out a tender to build a bridge over the lagoon in its commercial hub of Abidjan, 10 out of the 18 companies that expressed interest were either Chinese firms or in partnership with them. China State Construction Engineering won the contract in May.
The 109 billion CFA francs (US$191 million) deal highlighted China’s growing muscle in a part of Africa that until recently its businesspeople showed little interest in: the French-speaking west.
The area’s fast-growing economies have seen a spectacular rise in loans from China, with its companies competing with firms from France for big infrastructure projects.
“They used to think that the French controlled everything,” said Dominique Banny, director of corporate and investment banking at Stanbic Bank, a subsidiary of Standard Bank, Africa’s biggest lender by assets.
“Now, we see more and more Chinese companies scouting for projects in French-speaking Africa, with delegations arriving every two months.”