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In three African nations, U.S. and China seen as best examples of a developed economy

When asked which country besides their own is the best example of a developed economy, people in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria overwhelmingly point to the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies. But among people in these three African nations, there are differences in the share of respondents who choose each power.

In Kenya, 36% say the U.S. is the best example of a developed country, while only 15% choose China. An additional 4% say Japan, South Africa or Tanzania are the best examples.

Among South Africans, around a quarter each say the U.S. (27%) and China (22%) are the best examples of an advanced economy. An additional 5% name Germany as a top example, with 4% naming the United Kingdom, Australia, Botswana or “Europe.”

In Nigeria, 28% name China as the best example of a developed economy and a quarter cite the U.S. Another 4% say Saudi Arabia.

These responses are drawn from a new Pew Research Center survey of these three major nations of sub-Saharan Africa. In all three, respondents identified broad economic qualities, such as jobs or economic growth and stability, as the main reasons for their choice of the best example of an economically advanced nation. South Africans are particularly focused on jobs and economic opportunities (28%), compared with Kenyans and Nigerians (18% each).

But Kenyans are more likely than people in the other two nations to say political stability, low corruption and good government were what made their choice economically advanced (15%). And Nigerians are more prone to focus on advanced technology and innovation (12%), as well as manufacturing, production and goods (12%) as the leading aspect of an economically developed nation.

Furthermore, people who say the U.S. is the best example of an economically advanced country give very different reasons from those who say China is the best example.

In addition to economic strength, respondents who name the U.S. focused on American governance, citing good leadership and low levels of corruption, as well as education. People who think China is the best example attribute this to Chinese technology, as well as Chinese manufacturing, products and work ethic.

Many of these differences in views might be due to the divergent foreign policies of China and the U.S. toward Africa. For many years, the U.S. focused on promoting democratic values in African countries through development aid, though in many ways, the economic aspects of the relationships fell short. But China has focused heavily on business investment, which might explain why more people who name China as an advanced economy cite business products and technological gadgets as a primary reason for this view.