"In the past, Chinese interest in Africa was strongly ideological… Those days have long gone and China's main interest in the region now is resources and access to them," James Edward Hoare, an assistant fellow at Chatham House, said.
He said that cultivating relationships with African leaders and building transport infrastructure was a good way to guarantee access to the continent's resources.
"Railway building is labour intensive and the Chinese have plenty of labour and in recent years much experience in constructing modern railway systems," Hoare said.
Associate fellow Shaun Breslin of Chatham House told Sputnik that obtaining resources in Africa and transporting them out of the region was certainly on China's agenda, but Beijing had more concrete and lucrative interest.
"Strategic resources concerns are important, but so too is simply making money… The profit motive remains important," Breslin said.
Both experts pointed out that by investing in Africa, China was bound to face competition with other countries who also had interests in the continent. Breslin noted that in 2013 the two biggest investors in Africa were the United States and the United Kingdom, with investment from India on the rise.
"I wouldn't call it a 'fight' — but it's clearly a more crowded playing field than it has been before," he told Sputnik.
Last week, the African Union (AU) and China agreed on a plan to develop road, rail and air transport routes linking the capitals of all 54 African states. The AU-China memorandum of understanding was signed at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa by AU Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming.