A few years ago, Lukas Lundin, a mining executive, rode his motorbike 8,000 miles from Cairo to Cape Town. His journey, which took just five weeks, meandered through 10 countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana. He was amazed to discover that 85 per cent of the roads he travelled were tarred and of high quality. Many had been built by Chinese companies.
That was 2005. Since then, China's interest in Africa has intensified. In November 2006, Beijing hosted a lavish Sino-African summit at which it promised more than 40 of the continent's leaders a new era of co-operation. Giant elephants and giraffes appeared on hoardings across the capital to mark the occasion.