I don't think they get a pass at all. They are acting in their own self interest in the context of a geopolitical and a particular economic system's reasoning---just as the African nations are.
One of the issues with African economic development is that they are resource rich with economies based extremely heavily on export markets. Given the nature of how African countries have attempted to grow economically, this is no small nor minor matter. The Chinese arrangements are far more attractive in partially because of what they DO NOT involve (ie degrees of Chinese political involvement and IMF style loans and conditions). It also carries development internally because China (like Africa nations) is an export driven economy.