Johannesburg : Africa, faced with urgent challenges to reduce and eradicate poverty, has a reliable and devoted partner from the East called China, which is also the world’s largest developing country.During his state visits to Zimbabwe and South Africa, and his attendance at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) in Johannesburg from Thursday to Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping will announce new measures to promote co-operation with Africa, with a focus on improving Africans’ livelihood, poverty reduction and investment in the continent.Africa’s industrialisation, food security, public health and disease prevention are also high on the agenda of the high-level forum, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi ahead of the visits.
The move by China comes at a critical moment for the poverty-stricken continent, with 34 of its countries, among 48 countries globally, being listed as least developed countries by the United Nations last year, and whose development has lagged far behind the rest of the world due to the colonial exploitation by the West.
While big advances in the fight against extreme poverty have been made in East Asia, the Pacific and South Asia, almost half of the population in sub-Saharan Africa still lives in extreme poverty, with less than $1.25 a day, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report in October.Actually, it would be impossible for outsiders not to notice the extreme poverty in Africa. Worst still, the enlarging gap between the rich and the poor poses a major threat to the stability in the region.
China was the first developing country to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing the population living in poverty by half ahead of the 2015 deadline.UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised China’s remarkable achievements in poverty alleviation in a video message to Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum held in Beijing in October last year.“China offers a model for agriculture in developing countries. China invested in agriculture to reduce poverty and successful agricultural projects were built up from the grass roots,” said Peter Garry, a lecturer on developmental studies at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.To use an ancient Chinese proverb, China is not only giving the African countries fish, but also teaching them how to fish.
Huawei Technologies, a Chinese telecommunications giant specialising in information and technology products and solutions, has helped to change the lives of Africans by introducing a high-speed 4G broadband network into Nigeria.The direct involvement of Chinese companies in mobile communications, including Huawei, ZTE and Tecno among other consumer phone producers, has been significant for the growth of the telecom economy in Africa, said Bright Simons, a Ghanaian technology entrepreneur and honorary fellow at a local policy think tank.The telecom industry is widely acknowledged to have contributed a good chunk of the gross domestic product (GDP) growth and tax revenue expansion that has enabled more local spending on health and education, which has directly benefited the poor on the continent, he said.“There is some evidence that China’s presence as a prospective infrastructure financier and developer leads to lower price tags for major projects, from energy plants to roads,” Simons added.
Africa is faced with arduous tasks of agricultural modernisation and industrialisation. While the former is improving, the latter has seen few development opportunities.The most important issues in Africa include transportation, adequate energy supply and houses for people living in cities. “China can assist us in realising those objectives,” said Garry.Countries like Nigeria and South Africa would learn from China’s experience in poverty reduction, said Shonibare Akinwumi, a former deputy general manager of Diamond Bank in Nigeria.The retired banker said most economies of the world still remain poor due to poor investment, or a lack of investment or inadequate attention to the modernisation of the agricultural sector, which China has room to act.“If you want people to have high income, increase their productivity and you will have growth. For a country to have growth, you have to develop the productive base that is the industrial sector,” Akinwumi said.“China is doing all these things, they create jobs and you can only reduce poverty when you create employment and it has been the missing link in our development efforts,” he added.It is important for Africa to avoid the danger of repeating past mistakes of depending on donors and to boost its own manufacturing sector, said Fay Chung, an African scholar and special advisor to the African Union.
“In contrast, China’s development did not depend on donor aid,” she said.Low industrialisation level on the continent also present huge opportunities for the industrial cooperation between China and Africa, as China has adopted a progressive approach to help the continent in developing its industrial capacity through technology transfer, she added.