Afrobarometer: What do Africans think of China? (part 1)

Visualising perceptions of China in 30 African countries

Posted by Dani Madrid-Morales on October 31, 2016

Most social scientists are familiar with large-scale multi-country public opinion surveys like the World Values Survey or the Asian Barometer Survey. A less-known, yet equally rigorous survey is the Afrobarometer, which is coordinated by Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The Afrobarometer has been gathering incredibly useful data in dozens of African countries since 1999, when the first round of the survey was conducted. Just recently I came across data from round 6, which was collected in 37 countries between 2014 and 2015. To my (pleasant) surprise, the questionnaire of this latest round includes a whole section on attitudes towards China. Because similar continental data is so hard to come by, this dataset is incredibly precious to help us understand Africa-China encounters. Afrobarometer has put together an informative and descriptive report on the findings. I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the data and I have been exploring ways to visualize some of the results. This is the first in a series of posts using Afrobarometer data.

West African countries have a more positive image of China

The first interesting finding that comes out of the survey is that the vast majority of those surveyed think that China's influence in their country is either somewhat positive or very positive. These results are aligned with those of the yearly BBC/Globescan survey on global attitudes towards foreign countries. BBC's poll only includes three African countries (Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya), but the results are similar.

Very weak relationship between Chinese FDI and positive images of China

Data from the Afrobarometer is free to use, but it is protected by copyright. I do not own any of the data used for the visualisations above. If you want to know more about the excellent work done by the Afrobarometer, please visit their website: