Asia-Africa Relations: Stronghold of Culture and Business

Feb 24, 2019 | Biz, China, Gov

East Asia DeskKari.Amarnani author

by Kari Amarnani
"Lover of words and politics. Aspiring novelist."

This connection packs a punch far stronger and better than what meets the eye

All countries are their own states, but a continent is an overhead indication of overall progress and development. Continents are not only about the physical attributes of territory and space. They are about culture and roots.

Trade, business, investments and loans— these elements make an economic tie. It can get a little lost in the shuffle and cause complications, especially when two strong political lands are involved. With big states come big systematic operations, and both Asia and Africa are classic examples of this.

Africa and Asia are lands with pillars of cultivation and strength. Here are brief summaries of each continent:

Asia, the earth’s vast haven of tradition and culture:

Asia is the largest continent in the world with a combined population of 4.4 billion people. That makes up for almost 60% of the total human population of the world. Asia is home to roughly more than 40 countries in its peninsula; home to the world’s top two most populated countries— China and India, the economic giants of the continent. Inhabiting its area are many islands that are established as countries, such as Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. Due to its excellent climatic conditions and abundance of water sources, the land is known for its fertile soil and earth, contributing to the collection and distribution of valuable natural resources and high-quality crops.

Africa, the earth’s sanctuary of diversity and beauty:

Africa is the second largest continent in the world, almost topping the charts with a whopping combined population of 1.2 billion. The land is connected to Asia by Egypt’s Isthmus of Suez, a bridge of land that separates the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Its resources, such as soil and water, are linked to rich and prosperous growth as proven by its history. The continent is home to the longest river in the world, the Nile River. This river of nourishment played a huge and fundamental role to Africa’s history as it supplied the people with food and water.

African land is inhabitable by many animals. The northern area, which mostly comprises of desert, is where most of the wild animals reside, such as lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes and hyenas. The central and southern area are mostly rainforests. Because Africa is establishing a strong and booming economy, these rainforests are subjected to violence with trees getting cut down and animals losing their homes— all for the development of industrial institutions in the business sector.

What’s on the Business Front: Political and Economic Relations

Economic ties between Africa and Asia have been in continuous growth in recent years. Both continents have shown interest in being more invested in the other’s inner-economic operations. For almost twenty years, Asia has been vocal about getting involved with Africa and improving relations, specifically regarding investments and financial instigations. This is particularly true for a certain country in Asia that which holds the largest amount of investments in Africa by a long shot. China’s relationship with Africa is by far the most substantial when compared to other Asian countries.

China is the most distinguished entity among Asia when it comes to economic bonds with Africa. The East Asian country has invested over $120 billion in the continent between the years of 2015 to 2018. It would be impossible not to gather worldwide attention when it comes to numbers like that, so much so, that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called out a warning to both China and Africa regarding caution when it comes to risks with debt in that caliber.

AfricaTopTradePartner

The decision to invest this amount of financial aid to Africa has been discussed as a wise strategic ploy in China’s part. Initially, it was apparent that China decided to aid Africa mainly for the benefit of the former’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a project that involves developing infrastructure in Europe, Asia, and most importantly, Africa. China eventually started investing in other sectors, specifically trade relations. This is regarded as yet another strategic maneuver given Africa’s abundance of resources.

All in all, China’s absorption with the continent can be summed up with only a couple of words: political influence. China is already the prominent political and economic power in Asia. Contributing to the underdeveloped states in Africa and aiding with the development of the systems and infrastructures of the continent brings forward an investment deal that could continuously support and establish China’s place as the world’s up-and-coming political superpower. Not to mention, China has been put on the map as it exerted its global influence by leading another nation to prosperity. To put it in perspective: what does it say about China’s financial stability if it has the means to support and develop Africa, an entire continent? Without mincing words, China has established good standing and reputational intimidation with this agenda.

China’s ties with the whole of Africa is a perfect representation of Asia’s relationship with the former continent. China embodies the way Asia regards Africa, and that is, a land full of potential and growth— enough potential to reach unimaginable heights in the economic sector given all its natural and innate beauty, resources and intelligence.

Africa’s states will reach new lengths with the contribution and belief it has gained, and in time, who knows, it may reach heights that would potentially put China, its sponsor, to shame. Over the next two years, studies have shown current and ongoing massive developments in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire— most of these countries are known to be historically poor and undeveloped. With the speed and levels of growth being achieved, there are dramatic transformations soon in the works. It’s safe to say that both entities have plenty to learn and attain from each other.

What are the Similarities: Cultural Exchanges

Some cultural practices are so ingrained into one’s mind that it usually just becomes the norm, and when it is so customary, it can get a little difficult to detach and see that these habits and traditions didn’t pop out of anywhere— they come from a profound and diverse place. Africa and Asia share similar cultural customs, seeing as both continents have immense diversity and deep roots with taking part in colonial legacies, particularly when it comes to ancestry and origins.

Here are some of the many cultural trademarks these two continents have in common:

 

They strongly imprint in the belief of respecting one’s elders and predecessors.

This belief originated from the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese teacher and philosopher that imparted knowledge on personal and institutional morality and social relationships. With regards to respecting elders, he was a firm advocate for filial piety. The term essentially describes the recognition offsprings must possess towards their parents and deems it an act of gratitude for the care and support they receive. In other words, to respect means to be grateful. Similar to Africa, the practice is deeply rooted in their strong sense of community and reverence. On many occasions, elders have been described as fountains of wisdom and knowledge. In Africa, it has been said that when an elder passes away, it is reminiscent of a library going down in flames.

They mostly consume rice as it is regarded as a staple food.

Rice is the element of food that feels half of the entire world population, Asia and Africa. Both continents rely on this wheat crop for nutrition, and well, because it has been a part of the food culture for a long time. Asian rice is Oryza Sativa, while African rice is Oryza Glaberrima. Both kinds of rice have different varieties and preparation methods. Rice is influential in Asia and Africa due to one important factor: climate. Rice is easily grown in Asia because of its tropical climate, helping wheat flourish in the environment. The same goes for Africa— wheat is a fundamental crop grown the humid, rainfed ecosystem of the land. Not only is it easily accessible, but rice is also packed with calories and nutrients that fuel the people and your everyday working-man. With all the hard labor in some undeveloped sectors of both continents, rice can make all the difference.

They speak in tonal languages.

Tonal languages are defined by the impact a certain tone has on the words being spoken. The difference in tone can completely alter the meaning and implication of the words. Africa and Asia are continents with 54 and 48 countries, respectively. Most of these states in both continents have established languages that inspire tonemes, an addition of sound patterns when they speak. Ironically speaking, though it is called tonal, it is not so much the tone of the words that depict other meanings— it is considered to be the pitch that does the job. As an example, in Mandarin, a single syllable can be pronounced in four different ways and all four of those syllables would entail various meanings depending on the pitch used.

Continental Impact: Asia and Africa’s Influences

Archaeologists and researchers have found that there lies evidence of undeniable communication between Africa and Asia during early periods of the first millennium, specifically with the Middle East and East Africa. Once trade had begun between states, East Africa was in business with most of the Middle East, India and China, distributing and selling items of remarkable quality. These items ranged from animal products to hearty harvests, two of Africa’s main assets undoubtedly rivaled throughout the world. This, of course, left an impression with most of the states that engaged in trade with the continent. It did not take long for Africa to leave an imprint on the world, inspiring influence that may not always be matched.

This is especially true when it comes to art and pottery. China has exported ceramics for centuries with Africa as one of its popular trade connections. Many cutleries and tableware between China and Africa have proven to depict indisputable similarities. These two entities are so intertwined through time that there has been speculation that some Chinese people are from African descent.

In many Chinese and North Korean art, there are many graphics and portrayals of dark-skinned individuals with afros, the natural hairstyle of natives from Africa. Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, connects deeply with Africa using the medium of art. In other cases, these imageries are used as propaganda in an effort to depict unity and opposition towards the United States, a tie that Africa does not exactly particularly favor given the history of slave labor.

Some countries in Southeast Asia engage in the practice of batik, a process making use of wax to create designs on fabric. This tradition is very prevalent in West Africa with regards to the art of making the apparel, as well as contributing to the influence of their culture using these designs as an active theme. Furthermore, it does not have to take a close inspection to notice that the designs concocted by both continents have major similarities in design and patterns. This goes to show that these shared inspirations exhibit clear commonalities and apparent flows of influence between both parties.

Allies and Friendships: Do Asia and Africa get Along?

Many countries in Asia and Africa respectively have great economic and political relationships which mean that both continents have high regards for each other, and a lot to do with this is Africa’s strong relationship with China. Though the country has invested billions into the continent, it is not the only believer of Africa. India has invested millions in Egypt alone— imagine its contributions to the rest of the land. Both India and China are spreading Africa’s market while instilling exposure, and this has been regarded as the most helpful act to do towards Africa. Specifically, aiding the land in the mission to finding places for their products.

Japan and North Korea seek to assist in further financial aid and investment and progressive diplomatic relations. Though there are competitive streaks between China and Japan, the latter regards the process as a huge economic development on both parties. This is rivaled by China who sports the same views, adding tension between the two strong economies. Bigger picture— both countries have good intentions for Africa and themselves. The conflict resides mainly in the boundaries of Asia.

North Korea desires to build stronger diplomatic relations with Africa in an effort to gain leverage over South Korea’s relationship with Africa which has been very fruitful and friendly. Once again, competition has taken hold of Asian countries when it comes to prospering ties with Africa.

The Verdict:

It is safe to say that most of Asia is putting in great lengths of effort when it comes to building a bond with Africa, reaching points that entail overpowering fellow states in their given continent. But the prospect of competition is nothing new, nor is it a stranger to the rest of the world. Putting the squabbles aside, Asia and Africa have plenty to gain and learn from each other— more than they have already had. This is a relationship that has continued to prove throughout time that flourishment can easily be attained with common ground.