Africa: China - Africa's Springboard to Industrialization

Opinion by Lovemore Chikova

China is fast proving its mettle on its commitment to helping African countries come out of their situations to occupy global positions of prosperity. While some people on the continent are yet to wake up to that reality, the Asian country has a drawn-out vision which augurs well with the developmental aspirations of African countries. That China has emerged as Africa's largest trading partner in the last few years is undisputable, with trade reaching $975,92 billion between 2011 and 2015.

And many observers have been wondering why China has been able to occupy such as position with regards to Africa, which is often portrayed in negative light by the West. The success of China's investment policies in Africa can be attributed to the Asian economic giant's approach to its relations with other nations.

China has adopted a unique approach in its foreign policy, which entails mutual respect, trust, equality and mutual cooperation. That China and Africa have lived together through difficult times and have always insisted on developing mutual cooperation has acted as the basis of their shared interest.

What distinguishes China from other countries in its relations with Africa is that the Asian economic giant treats countries on the continent with sincerity.

With globalisation taking its toll on the world, including the downward trends in the world economy, many had envisaged the change of fortunes in China-Africa relations. Yet China has never relented when it comes to Africa, continuing to commit foreign direct investment in areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, construction, mining and manufacturing.

This explains the growth in trade between China and Africa as indicated by the above high trade figures. What is more important in China-Africa relations is the fact that the Asian nation is clear that its policies are the opposite of what former colonisers want to propagate for Africa.

This is reflected in that China treats African countries as equals, a move totally different from how imperialist powers conduct their business on the continent. China must be credited for establishing the basis of such a flourishing relationship and it is now time for the cooperation to be taken a step further.

Decisions made at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Johannesburg last year, must be taken seriously for this new era of relations to bear the desired result.

The summit proved that China is committed to help African countries claim their rightful place in the world order.

The milestone of the summit was that it set the development path to be followed in China-Africa relations.

At the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping summarised this win-win cooperation by extending $60 billion to the African continent to, among other things, help the continent industrialise.

Of this amount, $5 billion will be in the form of a grant and interest free loans, which can be accessed by African countries for different purposes to enhance their capacities.

The huge chunk of the money will go towards development of infrastructure and kick-starting the industrialisation process for the continent.

This sums up the new direction China is taking for the development of Africa and major positive changes on the continent in the foreseeable future will be caused by the Asian country.

Chinese director-general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Lin Songtian recently aptly summed up this new level of cooperation between China and Africa.

And no one can argue against his pronunciation of the relations between China and Africa and quoting him will bring the point home more effectively.

While officially opening the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum in Yiwu city in southern China recently, Mr Lin said his country had "entered a new stage of development which needs to transfer a large number of advantageous industries and production capacity overseas".

He said African countries hope to learn from China's successful development experience and development model to improve their capabilities.

Another important point noted by Mr Lin was that African countries enjoyed "the advantages of abundant natural resources, population dividend and great market potential".

China, on the other hand, "has the comparative development advantages in capital, technology, market, businesses, capable personnel and successful development experience".

It is a fact that African countries are grappling to become independent economically and chart their own ways for sustainable development.

But they cannot be successful without the help from other countries, especially in terms of technological transfer and foreign investments.

China has stepped in at the right time for the purpose.

To show its seriousness in implementing the outcomes of the Johannesburg FOCAC summit, China recently selected eight countries it will use as models for industrialisation and capacity building.

This is only the first step which will eventually lead to the complete industrialisation of the continent in due course.

The countries chosen for this demonstration phase are Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, the Republic of Congo, South Africa, Egypt, Angola and Mozambique.

The selection of these countries was done after China carefully considered the conditions necessary for a quick turnaround to facilitate the spread of the concept to other countries.

It was good that Mr Lin explained that other countries should not feel left out as they will continue to benefit from the Asian country in other ways.

"By choosing demonstration countries and priority partners in Africa for production capacity cooperation, China does not mean to exclude other African countries," he explained.

"Neither will such an approach affect normal mutually beneficial cooperation between Chinese businesses and other African countries.

"In doing so, we mainly draw on China's experience of starting with some pilot work and spread the successful practice later, a lesson accumulated through its reform and opening up and use successful cooperation to build demonstration countries and zones and strengthen development of comprehensive China-Africa cooperation."

In doing all this, China will be guided by the 10-Point Plan enunciated by President Xi at the Johannesburg FOCAC summit.

The plan has become the basis of the new commitment the Asian economic giant is taking towards Africa.

According to President Xi, the first point is that China will implement the China-Africa industrialisation plan through promoting industry partnering and production capacity cooperation.

Second: Implement China-Africa agricultural modernisation plan, where China will share experiences in agricultural development and transfer readily applicable technologies.

Third: Implement the China-Africa infrastructure plan which will include planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the infrastructure.

Fourth: Implement the China-Africa financial plan to increase investment flows.

Fifth: Implement China-Africa green development plan which will see projects being launched to develop clean energy, protect wildlife, promote environment-friendly agriculture and build smart cities.

Sixth: Implement the China-Africa trade and investment facilitation plan.

Seventh: Implement China-Africa poverty reduction plan by increasing aid to Africa and carry out poverty reduction programmes focusing on women and children.

Eighth: Implement China-Africa public health plan by helping strengthen public health prevention and control systems, as well as capacity building in Africa.

Ninth: Implement China-Africa cultural and people-to-people plan through the building of cultural centres, providing satellite TV reception to villages, scholarships, study trips and more direct flights to encourage tourism.

Tenth: Implement the China-Africa peace and security plan where the Asian country will provide a $60 million grant to support the building and operation of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis.

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