Europe has been the privileged economic and political partner of Africa, but more recently China has increased its foothold in Africa through important financial investments and trade agreements. Against this backdrop, the empirical research conducted in 2007-08 in Kenya and South Africa as part of a pioneering international project investigates the perceptions of public opinion, political leaders, civil society activists and media operators. While confirming their continent’s traditional proximity to Europe, African citizens are increasingly interested in China and its impact on Africa’s development. Europe is criticised for not having been able to dismiss the traditionally ‘patronising’ attitude towards Africa. While African civil society leaders and media operators describe China as an opportunity for Africa to break free of its historical dependence on European markets, other opinion leaders warn against too much enthusiasm for the Asian giant. There is a suspicion that the Chinese strategy might, in the long run, turn into a new form of economic patronage.