The debate around China-Africa cooperation is not new, it has been widely debated. There are many views on the topic. China and Africa share a long-standing common historical background. Both continents were colonized by the western powers.
Today they share common developmental goals in the following areas: Education, industrialization programme, and economic development. China has made great strides in the developmental goals. Therefore China presents an opportunity for Africa to learn from their best practices. Relations between the two continents are facilitated through bilateral forums and the Forum on China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC).
The underlining question too many people is whether the relations between China and Africa presents a win-win situation? Critics have argued that China’s pledge and cooperation with African countries in achieving developmental goals is neo-colonialism. I don’t agree with this narrative, history tells us that Western colonialists deprived Africa of natural resources and human resources which is the main reason why Africa is underdeveloped. As President Uhuru Kenyatta once said “China is doing what colonialists failed to do in the past- help Africa out of poverty”.
The perception that China is the new colonizer is a complete misrepresentation of what China is doing in Africa. Plethora of reasons that justify why China-Africa relations are a win-win situation:
It’s no secret that China has invested a lot in education. As it stands, Chinese universities produce almost 7, 5 million graduates especial in the field of science and engineering. China’s education system has strengthened their industrial capacity. As a result China manufacturing sector and other industries have boomed the economy. One of the agreement that was signed during the previous FOCAC meeting was on people to people exchanges. This agreement is implemented in form of scholarships for African students to learn in some of the best Chinese Universities, with a view that they will go back to their own countries to make impactful contribution. Also Chinese student do go to some of the Africa Universities as part of the exchange programmes.
China is also working on projects of building 100 rural schools in African countries. They are also building training centres to capacitate the youth in Africa. Hitherto more than 30 000 African professionals have been trained in China. Its only quality education that can help Africa sustain development.
China is on the upper gear in implementing the industrialization programme. They have introduced the high-speed trains for a distance covering 19 000 kilometres. The movement of people and goods is pivotal in the 21st century. The high-speed trains are convenient, affordable and efficient.
I travelled to Hubei province from Beijing using the high-speed train; it was a great experience as I only spend 5 hours for a distance of about 1200 kilometres. Africa as well is industrializing. China is working together with African countries to implement massive infrastructure projects. An example is the current project of railway line that will connect Zambia and Tanzania.
Last month the department of Trade and Industry announced that Chinese investors will invest about R40 billion in a special economic zone designated area in Musina-Makhado. This project is expected to create more than 21 000 jobs. The R40 billion would go into the establishment of energy and metallurgical industrial park, which will include power, coking, ferrochrome, steel and stainless steel plants. This is not the first special economic zone in South Africa where Chinese have invested, also in Port Elizabeth they invested in the manufacturing of FAW motors.
In China the special economic zones are designed to encourage foreign investment and boost the country’s economic growth. These are some of the projects that prove that China-Africa cooperation is win-win. China wants to see Africa developed, and it’s putting money to see that happen not just lip-service.
China has massively invested in Africa. The bilateral trade with African countries currently stands at about R200 million. The Chinese investment in Africa ranges from the following areas: manufacturing, mining, agro-processing, education. What is fascinating about Chinese investment in Africa is they invest in more skill-intensive sectors. China’s increased trade and investment in Africa has boosted the African continent growth rate.
African companies are increasingly investing in China as well. China and Africa are open for business.
One thing that the African continent must emulate from China is how they run and support small business. Small companies are booming in China. The government strongly supports and fund small business to grow the economy and create jobs. Small business are offered tax breaks direct financial support for millions of small and micro enterprises across the nation.
African countries must also support more small companies in order to grow the economy. Sustainable economic growth should be inclusive and benefit all the people. China with so many provinces and huge population managed to make all provinces economic power houses. This is something that can be achieved by African countries.
China-Africa cooperation promotes common interest. China fully supports the implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063. Both continents are committed to peaceful development, stability, and economic growth. There can be no doubt that China-Africa cooperation is a win-win cooperation.