China is Africa’s No. 1 investor as the natural resources and food-hungry country has invested more than $75B on the continent during the past decade.

china africaThat massive outlay has proved to be a double-edged sword for Africans. While Chinese companies have built or improved the African infrastructure of roads, bridges, ports and communications networks, their managers and 250K-plus Chinese workers are accused of treating Africans in a ruthless and racist way.

Germany’s Der Spiegel in November ran an article called “Billions from Beijing: Africans Divided over China’s Presence” in which China was taken to task for running dangerous mines, propping up dictatorships and flooding the 1B population market with shoddy products to kill native businesses.

There is fear that China is carving up Africa in the same fashion that the European powers did in the 1880s. Chinese companies are notorious dodgers of the press as evidenced by the Der Spiegel piece. Every inquiry it made to interview Chinese companies registered in Tanzania was either rebuffed or ignored.

Enter Hill+Knowlton Strategies. The WPP unit announced today a dedicated practice to counsel Chinese companies operating in Africa.

PR teams in Beijing, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Lagos will support H+K Access to deal with "Africa’s unique political, operational, cultural and communication challenges for Chinese firms,” according to a statement today from Alex Doll, CEO of the WPP unit’s African practice.

There are plenty of opportunities for H+K Access as long as the Chinese recognize their need to adapt to local cultures, operate in a transparent fashion and treat Africans in a just and fair manner.

H+K has a golden chance to prove the real value of PR.