In­spi­ra­tion and em­pow­er­ment for Africa

China Daily (USA) - - GLOBAL VIEWS -

China’s ex­pe­ri­ence of open­ing up and car­ry­ing out fun­da­men­tal re­forms pro­vides valu­able lessons from which African coun­tries can learn. More im­por­tantly, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and Africa has the po­ten­tial to be a key en­abler for achiev­ing African coun­tries’ as­pi­ra­tions for in­clu­sive and sus­tain­able growth, so­cial-eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and a stronger voice in global af­fairs.

China-Africa re­la­tions are un­der­pinned by the Five Prin­ci­ples of Peace­ful Coex­is­tence which were agreed upon at the Ban­dung Asian-African Con­fer­ence in 1955, namely mu­tual re­spect for each other’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and sovereignty, mu­tual non-ag­gres­sion, mu­tual non­in­ter­fer­ence in each other’s in­ter­nal af­fairs, equal­ity and co­op­er­a­tion for mu­tual ben­e­fit, and peace­ful co-ex­is­tence. Th­ese prin­ci­ples are against col­o­niza­tion and im­pe­ri­al­ism.

More fun­da­men­tally, China has con­sis­tently ad­hered to th­ese prin­ci­ples as ev­i­denced by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s speech at the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co­op­er­a­tion in Septem­ber in which he set out China’s “five nos” ap­proach to its re­la­tions with Africa: no in­ter­fer­ence in African coun­tries’ pur­suit of de­vel­op­ment paths that fit their na­tional con­di­tions; no in­ter­fer­ence in African coun­tries’ in­ter­nal af­fairs; no im­po­si­tion of China’s will on African coun­tries; no at­tach­ment of po­lit­i­cal strings to as­sis­tance to Africa; and no seek­ing of self­ish po­lit­i­cal gains in in­vest­ment and fi­nanc­ing co­op­er­a­tion with Africa.

The con­sis­tency with which China has abided by th­ese prin­ci­ples is a clear tes­ti­mony to the fact that its co­op­er­a­tion with Africa is sus­tain­able and trust­wor­thy. In­deed, the on­go­ing trade fric­tions be­tween China and the United States and the lat­ter’s ten­dency to un­der­mine and vi­o­late the very rules of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism — whose craft­ing and ad­vo­cacy were cham­pi­oned by it — en­hance Africa’s trust in co­op­er­a­tion with China, while ques­tion­ing the Western coun­tries’ dou­ble stan­dard and hypocrisy.

Africa’s re­source en­dow­ments and China’s pur­suit of mar­kets cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties to lev­er­age Africa-China co­op­er­a­tion to re­al­ize Africa’s as­pi­ra­tions while draw­ing on the Chi­nese ex­pe­ri­ence in pro­mot­ing in­clu­sive growth, em­ploy­ment cre­ation, and struc­tural trans­for­ma­tion of the coun­try’s econ­omy. China’s de­vel­op­ment suc­cess in th­ese ar­eas was in­formed by crit­i­cal fun­da­men­tals: build­ing hu­man cap­i­tal and im­prov­ing ac­cess to as­sets; in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture with struc­tural trans­for­ma­tion in mind; and us­ing well de­signed so­cial trans­fer pro­grams to ad­dress poverty and in­equal­ity. The key Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics can hardly be repli­cated ex­actly else­where but they pro­vide valu­able lessons on as­pects of lead­er­ship, gov­er­nance, in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment and the cul­ture of dis­ci­pline, hard work and sav­ings.

Given this rich and valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence to draw lessons from, African coun­tries should cap­i­tal­ize on their co­op­er­a­tion with China by en­sur­ing that the re­la­tion­ship is em­bed­ded within the larger ef­fort of pro­mot­ing de­vel­op­ment in the con­text of the con­ti­nent’s quest for poverty al­le­vi­a­tion. How­ever, to achieve this, Africa has to, first and fore­most, play a proac­tive role in that re­la­tion­ship, by de­vel­op­ing com­pre­hen­sive strate­gies on three lev­els. A con­ti­nen­tal strat­egy that fo­cuses on those is­sues which have a bear­ing on each other. Th­ese are ba­si­cally in­fras­truc­tural in terms of ad­dress­ing the con­nec­tiv­ity chal­lenge, and peace and se­cu­rity. Re­gional strate­gies re­flect­ing the pri­or­i­ties and agen­das of dif­fer­ent re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion group­ings. And coun­try-spe­cific strate­gies in­formed by coun­tries’ so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment plans. We have adopted this dis­ag­gre­gated ap­proach to demon­strate that Africa, as a con­ti­nent, is not ho­mo­ge­neous, nei­ther lin­guis­ti­cally nor in terms of pri­or­i­ties, as some schol­ars and politi­cians tend to be­lieve. This ap­proach also puts em­pha­sis on the need to adapt to the spe­cific char­ac­ter­is­tics of each of the three lev­els.

We are quite con­fi­dent that if this ap­proach is im­ple­mented ef­fec­tively, the FOCAC Bei­jing Ac­tion Plan (2019-21) — with its eight ma­jor ini­tia­tives for in­dus­trial pro­mo­tion, in­fra­struc­ture con­nec­tiv­ity, trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion, green de­vel­op­ment, ca­pac­ity build­ing, health­care, peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes, and peace and se­cu­rity — will go a long way, not only in scal­ing up the align­ment of the co­op­er­a­tion with Africa’s de­vel­op­ment as­pi­ra­tions but also en­hance its re­sults and out­comes. And ul­ti­mately, they will si­lence the neg­a­tive voices of those who ap­pear keen to rekin­dle the Cold War pol­i­tics of ri­valry be­tween the East and West, while for­get­ting one real­ity of to­day’s world: It has changed sig­nif­i­cantly in a num­ber of di­men­sions, in­clud­ing broad­en­ing de­vel­op­ing coun­tries’ choice in terms of sources of aid, FDI, trade and de­vel­op­ment par­a­digms.

Cur­rently, a proac­tive ap­proach from the African side ap­pears to be the miss­ing crit­i­cal link in the re­la­tion­ship. This be­ing the case, for African coun­tries to ef­fec­tively ex­ploit the ex­ist­ing and un­fold­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties re­quires a proac­tive role cou­pled with ad­e­quate com­mit­ment from and pre­pared­ness of the African lead­er­ship in terms of putting in place the req­ui­site poli­cies, strate­gies and ac­tion plans, flanked by an ef­fec­tive in­sti­tu­tional frame­work for mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion of progress. It is only through shoul­der­ing such a proac­tive role that Africa can re­al­ize its poverty re­duc­tion dream while en­sur­ing that Africa-China co­op­er­a­tion is mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial. The au­thor is di­rec­tor of Cen­tre for Chi­nese Stud­ies at Uni­ver­sity of Dar es Salaam. The au­thor con­trib­uted this ar­ti­cle to China Watch, a think tank pow­ered by China Daily. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.



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