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From Aid Recipient to Investor: Poland Seeks Partnerships in Africa Amid Chinese Dominance

POLITICSFrom Aid Recipient to Investor: Poland Seeks Partnerships in Africa Amid Chinese Dominance

Today, President Andrzej Duda concluded a multi-day visit to East Africa, where he promoted Polish business and strengthened economic relations in countries like Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania. He also spoke about developmental aid and the situation related to Russian aggression in Ukraine, which also affected Africa, causing a food crisis. Experts indicate that despite enormous economic, political, and social challenges, the continent represents a potential market of 1.3 billion consumers, boasting the youngest and fastest-growing middle class in the world along with vast human and natural resources. This presents untapped potential for business, mainly exploited by China so far.

In the past two decades, Chinese foreign direct investments have been pouring into Africa at an exponential rate, rising from $75 million annually in 2003 to $5 billion in 2021. The European Commission reports that their cumulative value in 2019 reached nearly €40 billion. China remains one of Africa’s biggest investors and trading partners, and aside from that, they generously provide funding for various African projects and investments.

“Although Africa has attracted interest from other countries, the continent is largely dominated by Chinese influence. Western countries have largely overlooked the potential to invest in these people and places,” says Mateusz Gasiński, president of the Good Factory Foundation.

Indeed, countries like the United States and the European Union have recently announced intentions to increase their investments in Africa. Meanwhile, Poland also seeks prospective partners in Africa. This week, President Duda and his wife visited Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania, primarily to promote Polish business and prepare ground for investments while strengthening economic relations. With participation from representatives of Polish firms, he took part in economic forums, signed nine bilateral agreements and visited various locations, including the LuNa Smelter in Kigali.

Apart from promoting economic cooperation and Polish firms, President Duda also spoke about security and the situation in Europe caused by Russian aggression in Ukraine, which has also caused a food crisis in Africa. One of the discussed topics was also developmental aid for Africa.

Africa largely still remains a continent with substantial economic, political, and social issues. Experts suggest that Africa’s future relies not only on aid funds but also, or even primarily, on integrating this region into the global economy through trade, investment, and scientific-technical cooperation, also with Central and Eastern European countries.

Poland, until 2004, was among the recipients of developmental aid and this only changed upon accession to the EU. Currently, Poland allocates about PLN 2.9 billion annually for developmental aid, which is about 0.14% of the gross national income. By 2030, this share is expected to increase to a level of 0.33%. These funds go to several countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa region, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, and Tanzania. One of the biggest Polish projects in the region is a program for training Kenyan firefighters by Polish instructors.

The Good Factory Foundation has utilized the funds allocated for Polish developmental aid several times for projects with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “This aid consisted of renovating and equipping a vocational school in Dakar for girls and young women, and expanding its educational offer. We opened a sewing room there, for instance, and train young women for precise, specific jobs”, says Mateusz Gasiński.

The foundation also conducts an agricultural project in Burkina Faso, giving people jobs, teaching them entrepreneurship, and new farming techniques. It’s also present on the Greek island of Lesbos, in the largest refugee camp in Europe, providing meals. It also operates in Ukraine, in the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh, for the Rohingyas from Burma.

“Our operations are very wide, but what needs to be said – we try to act very precisely. We strive to use technologies, social media but also build our projects in a way that they are, first of all, attractive for people who want to support us. We want to simplify them as much as possible, reduce the distance between the beneficiary and the person who could help, show these people, show their needs,” emphasizes Mateusz Gasiński, president of the Good Factory Foundation.

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