If this is a battle of hearts and minds and money, then, in the eyes of young Africans, China has performed better than the United States in recent years. A survey this week by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a Johannesburg think tank, found that a majority of young Africans see China as the most influential foreign actor on the continent. 

U.S. influence has fallen 12 percent since 2020, according to a survey of more than 4,500 young people in 15 African countries. Seventy-seven percent of young Africans say China is the most influential "foreign actor" on the continent, compared with only 67 percent of the US. In a follow-up question about whether the influence is positive or negative, 76 percent of respondents thought China's influence was positive, and 72 percent thought the U.S. was positive. 

China's influence is positive:

Respondents cited the main reasons for China's influence as positive: affordable Chinese products, Beijing's investment in infrastructure development on the African continent, and the job creation in China in African countries. "In the first edition of the Pan-African Young People's Survey, we asked young Africans which countries on the continent they thought had The biggest influence, at that time, was undoubtedly the United States." "This year, two years from now, in the post-COVID-19 era, the situation is completely different. . . . The most influential country in Africa right now is China.” 

Ichkowitz told VOA there were several reasons for the change. He made sense of: "(Former President) Donald Trump resounded with youthful Africans. He was seen as a strong, charismatic leader, ... so at the time the United States was top of the list of the most influential countries," he said, but the bottom line is an investment.

"Young Africans are telling us that they see tangible and very influential signs of China's role in Africa's development," Ichkowitz said. "Despite a lot of criticism of Chinese investment in Africa, it is hard for African governments not to take China seriously because China provides capital, provides expertise, provides markets, while Europe and the United States do not," he added

In the next decade, 40% of the world's young population is expected to live on the African continent, according to a report. By helping Africa build a middle class, China means they are also helping to create one of the largest consumer populations in the world, Ichkowitz said.

But the survey also found that some young Africans are concerned about whether they are reaping enough benefits from China's capture of Africa's mineral wealth and natural resources.

Twenty-four percent of respondents said Chinese investment in their countries was a form of "economic colonialism", and 36 percent said China was exporting resources from Africa without fair compensation. Another 21 percent said China lacked respect for African values ​​and traditions.

South Africa is one of the countries involved in the investigation.

Woniso, a 23-year-old medical student, told VOA at a busy street cafe in Johannesburg that she understood why China was at the top of the list. She pointed out that China has significant investments in Africa.

However, she expressed concern about China's human rights abuses in Xinjiang and said she preferred Western-style democracy. "Socially speaking, because of all the social injustice that the Muslim community suffers, I would probably put (China) last," said the student, who did not want to give her last name.

Young South Africans, she said, also are "some kind of a very liberal generation" who like "the liberal American way of doing things."

However, when it comes to Western-style democracy, only 39 percent of young Africans surveyed said this should be followed. Although the survey found that young Africans favor democracy, more than half of the respondents believe that Western-style democracy is "inappropriate" and the continent needs a governance model that suits itself.

Thandazani Nyathi, a businessman in his 30s, was chatting with friends not far away. He said he didn't like the U.S. and China better. "They're all about making a profit. I think I would prefer the country that wants to make a profit but does so in the fairest way," he said. "

Which one would I particularly prefer? The one that doesn't blackmail us. ," he added, laughing.

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