Instigator / Con

The benefits of China’s infrastructure loans to countries in sub-Saharan Africa outweigh the harms


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After 3 votes and with 9 points ahead, the winner is...

Tejretics's avatar
7 debates / 22 votes
Barney's avatar
50 debates / 1,277 votes
whiteflame's avatar
27 debates / 193 votes
Publication date
Last updated date
Number of rounds
Time for argument
Three days
Max argument characters
Voting period
One week
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Contender / Pro

Benefits: an advantage or profit gained from something.
Infrastructure: the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.
Loans: a thing that is borrowed, especially a sum of money that is expected to be paid back with interest.
Outweigh: be greater or more significant than.
Harms: a disadvantage or loss received from something.

1 round forfeit is permitted, but any more than that will be counted as a forfeiture for the entire debate, and the person who forfeits more than once, looses the debate.
Pretty simple rules, nothing too complicated.

Round 1
I. Preamble 

In this opening argument, I will prove the resolution with a two-sided approach. First, I will show how China’s infrastructure loans in sub-Saharan Africa bring significant benefits. Second, I will demonstrate how the so-called “harms” of these loans are in fact minimal. 

Also (just for the sake of formality), I agree to the resolution, definitions, shared BoP, etc. 

II. Constructives  

Economic Effects of Improved Infrastructure (on individuals) 

1. China’s contribution to infrastructure 

China’s infrastructure loans to countries in sub-Saharan Africa have led to the development of numerous critical infrastructure projects. The scale of these loans are immense – according to the CEIP, China has committed over $153 billion in loans to these countries to fund development. [1] 

Improved infrastructure brings significant benefits, as basic utilities such as transportation, water, and power all contribute to better standards of living. In this section, I will demonstrate just how significant these benefits are. 

2. The effects of clean energy 

According to AFDB, over 700 million people in Africa do not have access to clean cooking facilities, forcing them to burn wood or coal. [2] This is associated with numerous health hazards, such as “heart diseases, stroke, cancers, chronic lung diseases and pneumonia” [3]. According to the IEA, these hazards accounted for over 500,000 premature deaths in Africa in a single year (2018) alone. [4] 

Access to clean energy sources would allow people to avoid reliance on these dangerous fuel sources. According to the GDPC, China has invested almost $49 billion in renewable energy sources. [5] These investments are directly correlated with decreased household air pollution, and therefore save lives. 

3. The effects of access to Internet 

Reliable Internet access brings significant benefits. For example, during the pandemic, many schools in developing countries closed down. Those living in places with reliable Internet were able to continue their classes with only minimal disruption through remote learning – in contrast, those living in less developed areas lost up to a full year of education. [6] Furthermore, Internet access also allows those who are unable to receive a formal education (such as women living in certain countries) to obtain education online. Better education is associated with lifelong increases in income, showing how significant its impact is. 

China has funded over $17 billion to its “Digital Silk Road” project, which aims to improve Internet access through establishing local infrastructure. Construction of these projects continues to be funded by China today. As shown earlier, these investments improve the outcomes of individuals in these countries. [7] In addition, increased access to Internet makes business and trade easier, another point I will touch on later.

4. The effects of clean water 

Having access to clean water is considered a fundamental human right, but in many sub-Saharan countries, this is not a reality. By some estimates, only 28% of people living in Africa’s less developed economies have access to safe drinking water. According to one study, this results in several hundred thousand premature deaths each year, mostly due to water-borne diseases. [8] In addition, many people must make long journeys each day to collect water, which significantly harms productivity. 

China’s infrastructure loans have been used to fund projects aimed at bringing clean water and sanitation. [9] These include drilling boreholes and wells, as well as funding local sanitation plants.  Clearly, if these loans save lives, then they are a net benefit, no matter how you look at it. 

5. Job creation 

According to Statista, infrastructure projects funded by China create over 18,000 jobs for African workers each year. Furthermore, over 95% of these jobs are taken by local workers. [10] As a result, China’s loans bring positive long-term effects to employment markets in developing countries. 

Economic Effects of Improved Infrastructure (on countries) 

1. Improved productivity 

Lack of adequate infrastructure significantly hampers productivity in most developing African countries. For example, inadequate water sanitation “costs Africa 5% of its GDP,” handling costs in African ports are “50% higher than other parts of the world,” and lack of paved roads “leads to isolation... from basic economic facilities.” According to an estimate by the UN, this reduces economic growth of African countries by two percentage points each year, on average. [11] 

It follows logically that lack of infrastructure causes enormous economic loss, and that implementing infrastructure would mitigate that loss. Using the “5% of GDP” estimate from earlier, having improved infrastructure would pay for itself in only a few years, and far outweigh any increased debt from interest repayments. 

2. More efficient trade 

Trade between neighboring countries is important for economic development, as it stimulates growth and promotes regional economic activity. However, the high costs of doing business in Africa (due to infrastructure problems) make this far more difficult. According to the UN, “poor road, rail and port facilities add 30% to 40% to the costs of goods traded among African countries.” This is a stunning amount, and certainly discourages local trade. [11] 

Much of China’s infrastructure investment is focused on transportation (such as airports, bridges, paved roads, ports, etc). Over 30% of its loans directly fund these projects. As such, the development of local trade is yet another benefit of China’s loans. 

The Myth of Debt Trap Diplomacy 

China has often been criticized for so-called “debt trap diplomacy” - that is, the idea that China is deliberately offering loans that they know developing countries cannot pay back, in order to gain diplomatic leverage. However, this is nothing but a myth, as I will soon show. 

First of all, China has never attempted to seize assets, nor force repayments of loans. The truth, in fact, is quite the opposite. For example, it forgave 23 interest-free loans, amounting to over $1 billion in total, due to “difficult economic conditions” for African countries. [12] 

Second of all, China has contributed significantly to Africa’s infrastructure, as proven earlier. Although it is true that it offers many loans at commercial rates, a significant portion are concessional (below market-average) as well. In addition, its loan agreements are no stricter than those of Western donors. 

III. Conclusion 

In my opening argument, I have: 
  • Shown how China has made significant contributions to infrastructure through its loans 
  • Shown the benefits of access to clean energy 
  • Shown the benefits of access to Internet 
  • Shown the benefits of access to safe water 
  • Shown how loans create local jobs 
  • Shown how improved infrastructure helps productivity 
  • Shown how improved infrastructure helps local trade 
  • Shown how “debt trap diplomacy” is nothing more than a myth.
  • All in all, shown how the benefits of China’s loans to sub-Saharan African countries bring more benefits than harms 
Please vote PRO – now over to you, Lxam! 

IV. Sources 

Round 2
"1 round forfeit is permitted, but any more than that will be counted as a forfeiture for the entire debate, and the person who forfeits more than once, looses the debate."
As such, I win.
Round 3