As Chinese hegemony in Africa becomes even more apparent today, Sino-Guinean relations have become a priority for the Guinean government. Thanks to its resource-backed infrastructure investment approach in Africa, China has overshadowed both France and the United States as Guinea’s most important foreign partner. Although on paper, neither China, nor France or the United States are the top importers of Guinean goods, the strategic partnerships Guinea has established with those foreign actors over the years outweigh the country’s exports earnings when considering long-term implications. China’s win-win approach with most African countries has helped Guinea make important strides towards development.
While it took several decades before China could become a major trade partner for Guinea, the two countries have cooperated on various infrastructure projects since the 1960s. The first major project that would foreshadow this type of cooperation was the construction of “Le Palais du Peuple” (The Palace of the People) by the Chinese in 1969, which remains one of the most important venue in Conakry to date. Since then, China has built roads, schools, hospitals and more recently, financed and built the Kaleta dam, the biggest in the Guinea’s history. In addition to developing Guinea’s mineral industries, China has gradually become a major actor in the country’s tremendous hydropower potential. Lastly, China’s position as Guinea’s largest trading partner in 2015 further highlights the importance of this bilateral relationship, although Guinean reliance on Chinese imports has exacerbated the country’s trade deficit.
Unlike Sino-Guinean economic relations, U.S.-Guinea trade relations puts an emphasis on Guinea’s mining sector. Guinea is the second largest source of U.S. bauxite imports, which were valued at over $60 million in 2010. Another major difference between Guinea’s relations with the U.S. and its relations with China is that it is more elastic. During the cold war era, Guinea received more assistance from the U.S. because Soviet influence in Africa needed to be thwarted. Guinea’s progress toward democratization also affected its relationship with the U.S. while bilateral aid to Guinea was altered to respond the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Conversely, China’s approach in Guinea has remained pretty consistent, if not improved, throughout the past few decades regardless of the circumstances. Nevertheless, USAID and Peace Corps agendas in Guinea have proven to be very beneficial to the country’s health and agricultural sector.
France is another country that is helping Guinea develop its agricultural and health sectors through its aid agency, the AFD. Similarly, the trade statistics between Guinea and France have been very comparable to those of Guinea and the United States. However, Guinea has benefited more from their relations with France than with the U.S.–the only form of free trade agreement Guinea benefits from the U.S. is AGOA while France has multiple free trade arrangements with Guinea; France has been more generous towards Guinea in terms of debt relief programs; investment and aid figures from France surpass those from the United States.
Nevertheless, U.S. and French relations with Guinea pale in comparison with Sino-Guinean relations. Imbued with their western characteristics, assistance from the U.S. and France usually involves certain conditions while the Chinese uses a more “no-strings attached” approach. Moreover, China has been the go-to partner for many African countries, including Guinea, seeking to develop their domestic infrastructures; an aspect that underscores China’s significance to those countries.