To­ward com­mon de­vel­op­ment

Peo­ple’s in­ter­ests should be at the core of ev­ery­thing that China and Africa do to re­al­ize their re­spec­tive dreams

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - ASHA- ROSE MI­GIRO The author is for­mer deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the United Na­tions.

Re­cently, the new Chi­nese ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der the dis­tin­guished lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping un­veiled the “Great Chi­nese Dream”. Through this dream China af­firms its “com­mit­ment to con­nect­ing its de­vel­op­ment with that of Africa, align­ing the in­ter­ests of the Chi­nese peo­ple with those of the African peo­ple, and in­te­grat­ing China’s de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties with those of Africa”, stressed Pres­i­dent Xi.

It is in this re­gard that the Chi­nese dream has re­ceived im­mense ap­peal in Africa it con­jures a vi­sion of col­lec­tive achieve­ment and res­onates with the con­ti­nent’s dream.

We in Tan­za­nia know that the Chi­nese dream es­pouses the same ob­jec­tives that we are striv­ing to reach poverty al­le­vi­a­tion, eco­nomic growth and at­tain­ment of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment as ar­tic­u­lated in the coun­try’s National De­vel­op­ment Vi­sion 2025. We have a work­able tool. The Fo­rum for Chi­naAfrica Co­op­er­a­tion, based on the prin­ci­ples of equal­ity, mu­tual trust, win-win co­op­er­a­tion and two-way cul­tural ex­changes, among oth­ers, stands to make a huge con­tri­bu­tion to the prac­ti­cal re­al­iza­tion of the Chi­nese dream and African dream.

The emer­gence of China as a global eco­nomic gi­ant and Africa’s largest trad­ing part­ner has raised hopes that a win-win part­ner­ship could un­leash the con­ti­nent’s eco­nomic po­ten­tials. China’s growth tra­jec­tory and in­ten­si­fied China-Africa re­la­tion­ship of­fers sev­eral un­prece­dented op­por­tu­ni­ties for both sides. China has be­come an im­por­tant ex­port des­ti­na­tion for Africa and its ris­ing do­mes­tic con­sump­tion bodes well for the con­ti­nent as it could sus­tain de­mand for African ex­ports. Africa, on the other hand, stands to ben­e­fit sig­nif­i­cantly from the in­creased trade re­la­tions with China as a gate­way to other Asian mar­kets.

In re­cent years, the African con­ti­nent has seen ris­ing lev­els of Chi­nese for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment flow­ing into key sec­tors such as telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, trans­port, port con­struc­tion, power gen­er­a­tion and agri­cul­ture. Given the scale of Africa’s in­fra­struc­ture gap, th­ese in­vest­ments present Africa with the much-needed im­pe­tus to rapid so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

On the other hand, China-Africa part­ner­ship of­fers African coun­tries an op­por­tu­nity to draw a leaf from China’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the com­pet­i­tive­ness of its in­dus­try and ex­ports. There is huge po­ten­tial for us­ing the cur­rent part­ner­ship ar­range­ments to boost Africa’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor that re­mains the largest em­ployer of its peo­ple.

Chi­nese in­vestors, on their part, can make use of the im­proved eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment on the con­ti­nent, which has thus far proved re­silient to the global eco­nomic cri­sis. In­vest­ing in Africa means get­ting ac­cess to a con­sumer mar­ket of more than 1 bil­lion peo­ple with its fast-grow­ing mid­dle class.

One of the chal­lenges is how to en­sure that Chi­naAfrica re­la­tion­ship is as eq­ui­table as it is sus­tain­able in its long-term cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect. In one of his land­mark speeches, Tan­za­nia’s first pres­i­dent Mwal­imu Julius Ny­erere aptly said: “If a door is shut, at­tempts should be made to open it; if it is ajar, it should be pushed un­til it is wide open. In nei­ther case should the door be blown up at the ex­pense of those in­side” (from his Sta­bil­ity and Change in Africa speech de­liv­ered at the Univer­sity of Toronto, Canada, Oct 2, 1969). Let us use the FOCAC mech­a­nism to en­sure that the door is not blown up.

Africa is much more than a scene of what has of­ten been re­ferred to as “des­ti­na­tion for nat­u­ral re­source ex­ploita­tion” for for­eign in­vestors. Africa is a land of strate­gic op­por­tu­ni­ties for those who are keenly in­ter­ested in work­ing with us to forge win-win part­ner­ships. It is in­deed strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion that will de­mys­tify the claim that the in­creased en­gage­ment of emerg­ing economies (such as BRICS) in Africa is es­sen­tially driven by the con­ti­nent’s abun­dant, un­tapped nat­u­ral re­sources.

Re­cent data by the United Na­tions Con­fer­ence on Trade and De­vel­op­ment show that about 75 per­cent of the value of BRICS’ for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment projects in Africa for the pe­riod 2003 to 2012 were in man­u­fac­tur­ing and ser­vices sec­tors. Only a mea­ger 10 per­cent and 26 per­cent of the num­ber and value of projects were chan­neled to nat­u­ral re­sources. It is also true that some of the African coun­tries which are rel­a­tively least en­dowed with nat­u­ral re­sources are the ma­jor ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Chi­nese in­vest­ments and trade re­la­tions.

The China-Africa part­ner­ship should work to en­sure the in­vest­ments that are made con­trib­ute ef­fec­tively to the rapid trans­for­ma­tion of African economies by, among oth­ers, over­haul­ing and mod­ern­iz­ing cur­rent pro­duc­tion struc­ture, di­rect­ing tech­nol­ogy and ad­e­quate re­sources to small and medium-sized en­ter­prises, and forg­ing strate­gic link­ages with lo­cal African pro­duc­ers with a view to get­ting value-added, high qual­ity prod­ucts ex­ported to China and other parts of the world.

China-Africa re­la­tions have come a long way. A lot has been achieved and a lot more re­mains to be gained through the Chi­nese dream and African dream. While China-Africa re­la­tions of­fer the con­ti­nent av­enues and op­por­tu­ni­ties to di­ver­sify its trad­ing part­ners and forge new mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial part­ner­ships, it is im­por­tant that such ben­e­fits trickle down to the peo­ple.

That said, uni­ver­si­ties in Africa are key play­ers in a global sys­tem in­creas­ingly driven by knowl­edge ex­change, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and new ideas. We, in­deed, live in a his­toric epoch. As re­marked by one as­tute scholar: “Uni­ver­si­ties nur­ture the hopes of the world: in solv­ing chal­lenges that cross bor­ders; in un­lock­ing and har­ness­ing new knowl­edge; in build­ing cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal un­der­stand­ing; and in mod­el­ing en­vi­ron­ments that pro­mote dia­logue and de­bate.”

Uni­ver­si­ties in Tan­za­nia should there­fore take their right­ful place in en­hanc­ing China-Africa co­op­er­a­tion. Aca­demic and cul­tural ex­changes will be cru­cial in this re­gard.

The Univer­sity of Dar es Salaam and I be­lieve other uni­ver­si­ties on the con­ti­nent al­ready main­tain aca­demic ex­changes with their coun­ter­part uni­ver­si­ties in China should make ef­forts to en­sure that co­op­er­a­tion is not con­fined to govern­ment lev­els but also per­co­lates to the peo­ple. Pres­i­dent Xi, dur­ing his visit to Tan­za­nia in March, rightly said that greater em­pha­sis should be placed “on peo­ple-topeo­ple and cul­tural ex­changes be­tween China and Africa so as to im­prove mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and per­cep­tion”.

Chair­man Mao Ze­dong once said: “Our duty is to hold our­selves re­spon­si­ble to the peo­ple. Ev­ery word, ev­ery act and ev­ery pol­icy must con­form to the peo­ple’s in­ter­ests, and if mis­takes oc­cur, they must be cor­rected that is what be­ing re­spon­si­ble to the peo­ple means.”

On that note, there­fore, what­ever we dis­cuss, plan and act in the spirit of achiev­ing our cher­ished goal of cre­at­ing and fos­ter­ing a win-win co­op­er­a­tion frame­work, peo­ple’s in­ter­ests should be at the core.

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