Why The Paradigm Shift In China’s Security Relations With Africa

Credit: Amisom via Iwaria

By Orire Agbaje

There have been some established arrangements to tackle security and terrorism in Africa. On a larger scale, the Africa-China relationship is centered on the economic and industrial sectors. Now, there seems to be a paradigm shift to security and development. Is there more to this development that is not reflected? What is in it for both parties?

Africa-China security relations is a symbolic political partnership that demonstrates double priorities. China stands to benefit from a secure and peaceful Africa. While Africa strives to eradicate insecurity and instability for its own growth and development. With growing Chinese security engagements in Africa, it is in this regard that peace and security have increasingly gained prominence in Africa-China engagements. Ranging from growing multilateral cooperation on security challenges facing Africa to nascent (sub)regional initiatives to long-held bilateral partnerships with many African countries.

Non-interference policy & security relations in Africa

China’s intervention in foreign territory mainly focuses on its security policy on developmental peace, capacity-building programmes, plus peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. A non – interference policy model does not mean that China never engages with other actors in international peace. China has supported peace through its belief that economic development is essential in maintaining internal peace. 

With China’s engagement in Africa, in order to develop and maintain a long-lasting and profitable relationship, it has to take action in Africa’s unstable security environment. In 2013, China deployed combat troops for the first time in history in Mali. China provided weapons in Nigeria for the fight for insurgency in the oil region. In April 2016, China began constructing its first-ever overseas military base on the coast of Djibouti. This was done to enable China to reach and protect its growing investment in Africa. The recent activity shows the non – interference policy is being exposed to new realities: China maintaining their status quo about the non-interference policy is becoming harder to keep up within Africa.

China’s incentive for the relations

No single factor fully explains the paradigm shift in China’s security relations with Africa, but the shift helps to protect and promote Beijing’s national interests in the continent. Africa-China security engagements often focus more on Beijing’s plans for the continent and less on Africa’s plans for itself. What are some of the benefits China stands to gain in this new relationship?

First, safeguarding access to the continent’s vast resources. Africa is richly blessed with natural resources, that’s our attracting force externally. With China’s development of companies, dependent on natural resources, need to protect Africa against attacks that can affect the supply of the materials and prevent wild exploitation.

The initial drive behind the Africa – China relationship is the economic benefit. That is the foundation on which other relationships are built. Securing the foundation is key to the development and attainment of goals for both parties.

Secondly, access to the growing African market. For example, Nigeria is emerging as the home of domestic goods and Rwanda is growing in its production of agricultural products as well as open opportunities for business. The population and variety of products make the African market colourful and sells itself immediately, especially with our unique goods that others abroad find amazing. 

Africa has an established trading relationship with China that had so far benefitted both parties. Security threats might hamper the supply, thereby causing disruption to the connection and goals.

Moving forward, the protection of economic investment, as well as the safety of Chinese in Africa, is important. China sees itself as the voice of developing countries, this relation is in order of China’s hard interest for its nation. Chinese are also migrating to Africa, because of the Africa – China relationship. Some of these people are responsible for the construction of companies in various African countries, thereby promoting China’s interest.

Side-attraction in the relation for Africa

With China interfering in the security matters of Africa, it will lead to a firmer hand on the matter and better results in the long run. 

For Africa, it ensures capacity building towards the end of violence. Some of these internal issues – including poverty and economic instability –  faced by Africa is seen as the main hindrance to development. Collaborating with China on this matter is a great step, protecting Africans and its inhabitants as well as achieving economic goals. 

This would also ensure the safety of its resources, creation of employment opportunities in defaulting areas, prevention of humanitarian crisis, and others.


Africa – China security relations raised some doubts about the non – inference policy adopted by China. It is further reflected that this relationship doesn’t conflict with the policy. China is protecting its economic interest and development made to that prospects. The Africa – China cooperative partnership for peace and security established in 2012 by the FOCAC will channel more effort to the interest of both parties. China stands to benefit from a stable, secure, and peaceful Africa while the continent strives to eradicate insecurity and instability for its own development.

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