Wag­ing War on Poverty

China and africa ex­change ex­pe­ri­ences on poverty re­lief un­der the focac frame­work

ChinAfrica - - OPINION - By Xia Yuanyuan

when Vic­to­ria Sek­i­toleko was young, she had no idea what she would do when she grew up. The one thing she was sure of, how­ever, was that she would never marry a farmer.

The for­mer Ugan­dan min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture shared the anec­dote at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Poverty Re­duc­tion and De­vel­op­ment Con­fer­ence of the Fo­rum on China-africa Co­op­er­a­tion (FOCAC) 2018 in Bei­jing on Au­gust 14.

Grow­ing up in a farm­ing fam­ily where money was scarce, one value young Sek­i­toleko took away from her up­bring­ing was that she needed to get as much ed­u­ca­tion as pos­si­ble, to es­cape the poverty of ru­ral life.

How­ever, it was not un­til she en­tered the Mak­erere Univer­sity to pur­sue a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in agri­cul­ture that she un­der­stood the value of agri­cul­ture and the need for de­vel­op­ing the ca­pac­ity of this sec­tor to al­le­vi­ate poverty in her coun­try.

In 2011, as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the United Na­tions Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion in China, Sek­i­toleko be­came in­spired by the Chi­nese method of poverty re­duc­tion. “To­day, un­der the frame­work of FOCAC, I’m happy to see China and African coun­tries [have] strength­ened [their co­op­er­a­tion] in poverty re­lief,” the ru­ral de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sional told Chi­nafrica.

China’s lessons

Ac­cord­ing to Justin Yifu Lin, Coun­selor of the State Coun­cil of China, when China’s re­form and open­ing up started in late 1978, Sub-sa­ha­ran Africa’s GDP per capita was more than three times that of China. At that time, 84 per­cent of Chi­nese lived on less than $1.25 per day, the in­ter­na­tional poverty stan­dard.

How­ever, World Bank sta­tis­tics show that since the re­form and open­ing up pol­icy be­gan, China has seen a dra­matic de­crease of its im­pov­er­ished pop­u­la­tion. Its poverty rate dropped to 1.9 per­cent in 2013 from 88.3 per­cent in 1981.

Over the past three decades, some 700 mil­lion ru­ral res­i­dents across China have shaken off the yoke of poverty. In 2017, the per-capita yearly dis­pos­able in­come of ru­ral res­i­dents in poverty-stricken ar­eas reached 9,377 yuan ($1,359), an in­crease of more than

50 per­cent over that in 2013, ac­cord­ing to Liu Yongfu, Min­is­ter of the State Coun­cil Lead­ing Group Of­fice of Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment.

China’s poor peo­ple have de­rived great ben­e­fits from the coun­try’s eco­nomic growth, due to strong sup­port from the Chi­nese Govern­ment, ac­tive pro­mo­tion of in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and ur­ban­iza­tion, as well as great im­por­tance at­tached to in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion in poor ar­eas.

In De­cem­ber 2015, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping an­nounced the poverty re­duc­tion pro­gram was listed as one of the 10 ma­jor China-africa co­op­er­a­tion plans at the FOCAC Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit in South Africa. Xi pointed out that China’s ex­pe­ri­ence in poverty al­le­vi­a­tion could be used in help­ing African coun­tries com­plete their poverty re­duc­tion tar­get.

In re­cent years, China has made great strides in shar­ing its poverty al­le­vi­a­tion ex­pe­ri­ence with African coun­tries in ar­eas such as agri­cul­ture, tech­nol­ogy and skill, and in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion.

Trans­form­ing agri­cul­ture sec­tor

As Sek­i­toleko re­al­ized, in many African coun­tries, de­vel­op­ing agri­cul­ture and in­creas­ing farm­ers’ in­come are vi­tal in al­le­vi­at­ing poverty.

Ac­cord­ing to Josefa Leonel Cor­reia Sacko, Com­mis­sioner of Ru­ral Econ­omy and Agri­cul­ture of the African Union Com­mis­sion, Africa has about 600 mil­lion hectares of un­cul­ti­vated arable land, roughly 65 per­cent of the world’s to­tal. How­ever, many African coun­tries are among the most af­fected glob­ally by food in­se­cu­rity and low agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Trans­form­ing the agri­cul­tural sys­tems in Africa de­mands the need to em­power the poor farm­ers with tech­nol­ogy, im­prove their ac­cess to agri­cul­tural knowl­edge and pro­vide them ac­cess to mar­kets, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

The pri­or­i­ties in agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and African coun­tries were there­fore en­trenched dur­ing the FOCAC Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit, in­clud­ing car­ry­ing out agri­cul­tural demon­stra­tion projects, trans­fer­ring tech­nolo­gies and co­op­er­at­ing with African coun­tries to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity.

For decades, China’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture has been dis­patch­ing Chi­nese agri­cul­tural ex­perts and teach­ers to African coun­tries to pro­vide help in agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment. For ex­am­ple, in Oc­to­ber 2015, a 10-mem­ber mis­sion was dis­patched to Zim­babwe to im­ple­ment the sec­ond bi­lat­eral agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tion pro­gram. The ex­perts con­ducted the first ex­per­i­ment on hy­brid rice cul­ti­va­tion in Zim­babwe’s his­tory. The six tested rice va­ri­eties yielded more than 10 tons per hectare, set­ting a new record for the coun­try.

Per­son­nel train­ing

En­joy­ing a de­mo­graphic div­i­dend, Africa will be home to 200 mil­lion young peo­ple aged be­tween 15 and 24 by 2025, tak­ing up 20 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion of the con­ti­nent, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased by the United Na­tions. How­ever, the lack of skills is still one of the three ma­jor bot­tle­necks in Africa’s de­vel­op­ment, with the twin chal­lenges of back­ward in­fra­struc­ture fa­cil­i­ties and short­age of fund­ing.

At the FOCAC Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit, Xi pledged China will spon­sor vis­its by 200 African schol­ars and train­ing trips by 500 young Africans to China, and train 1,000 me­dia pro­fes­sion­als for Africa each year. Be­sides, China of­fers 2,000 ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties with de­grees or diplo­mas and 30,000 govern­ment schol­ar­ships to African stu­dents.

In 2017, Jack Ma, Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man of Alibaba Group, a multi­na­tional tech­nol­ogy con­glom­er­ate, said Alibaba would work with sev­eral African uni­ver­si­ties in col­lab­o­ra­tion with gov­ern­ments to de­velop train­ing pro­grams on e-com­merce, the In­ter­net, big data and cloud com­put­ing. “The ob­jec­tive is to train as many young peo­ple as pos­si­ble across Africa,” said Ma.

Be­sides, Chi­nese en­ter­prises are play­ing a big­ger role in help­ing African coun­tries’ ca­pac­ity build­ing. For ex­am­ple, in Chi­nese shoe­maker Hua­jian Group’s Ethiopia fac­tory, 3,800 of its 4,000 em­ploy­ees are lo­cals. With good train­ing, work­ers can skill­fully com­plete the full shoe­mak­ing process of leather cut­ting, bond­ing, sewing and mod­el­ing and pro­duce more than 8,000 pairs of shoes daily. Apart from ad­vanced shoe­mak­ing skills, some of them were sent to China to learn the Chi­nese lan­guage and man­age­ment skills.

“Ca­pac­ity build­ing could make a con­tri­bu­tion in im­prov­ing the lo­cal work­force qual­ity, help­ing pro­mote Ethiopia’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,” said Zhang Yunqi, Gen­eral Man­ager of Hua­jian In­ter­na­tional Light In­dus­try City (Ethiopia).

Next move

Ac­cord­ing to Liu, China is still faced with the heavy task of lift­ing 30 mil­lion poor peo­ple out of poverty, and Africa’s poverty re­duc­tion task is even tougher. Elim­i­nat­ing poverty for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment is the shared goal and his­toric task of both Chi­nese and African peo­ples. He be­lieves the up­com­ing FOCAC Bei­jing Sum­mit in Septem­ber will un­veil new mea­sures for the two sides to jointly al­le­vi­ate poverty.

Liu sug­gested at the Poverty Re­duc­tion and De­vel­op­ment Con­fer­ence that in the fol­low­ing years, China and Africa could strengthen their anti-poverty co­op­er­a­tion in three as­pects un­der the frame­work of FOCAC.

First, the two sides should fur­ther com­mu­ni­ca­tion to share their ex­pe­ri­ence of poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and work to­gether to con­duct re­search in the field. Sec­ond, China con­tin­ues its help in train­ing poverty re­lief work­ers from Africa ac­cord­ing to the needs of African coun­tries. Fi­nally, pi­lot projects could be jointly launched as ex­am­ples or tech­ni­cal sup­port for poverty re­lief ef­forts.

ca­pac­ity build­ing could make a con­tri­bu­tion in im­prov­ing the lo­cal work­force qual­ity, help­ing pro­mote ethiopia’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. ZHANG YUNQI Gen­eral Man­ager of Hua­jian In­ter­na­tional Light In­dus­try City (Ethiopia)

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Agri­cul­tural ex­perts from China and Al­ge­ria ex­change ex­pe­ri­ences in saline-al­kali land treat­ment. This meth­ods have been used to in­crease yields and al­le­vi­ate poverty

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