BY LIU GUIJIN
Currently, there is a yawning development gap between China and Africa. Yet decades ago, China was even poorer than some African countries. In 1981, when China was in the initial stages of reform and opening-up, Nairobi was a metropolis with a 28-floor Kenyatta International Convention Center and five-star hotels. At that time, the highest building in the Chinese capital was the 23-floor Beijing Hotel.
These years, Africa has been developing, but with relatively low productivity and industrialization and poor efficiency. How will a fast-paced China adapt to the low efficiency of Africa?
First, China should have a sincere mindset when cooperating with Africa. It is willing to transfer and share its own development experience to Africa. This is fundamentally different from imposing one’s development model and system on the continent.
China can adapt to African countries. Despite the backwardness and poor infrastructure in these countries, we can still find a place and by drawing experiences from China’s operation of industrial parks on domestic soil, we can bring them water, electricity and roads.
In her book The Dragon’s Gift: the Real Story of China in Africa, American author Deborah Brautigam writes that China-invested industrial parks in Africa have actually become the catalysts and incubators of industrialization of African countries.
Indeed, it will be too late if we go to Africa after all the conditions are ripe, because there will be fewer opportunities. Many Chinese enterprises have developed their businesses in war-stricken countries like Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Such is the resilience of Chinese companies and shows China’s sincere help to Africa – when no one wants to invest here, we would like to go; when no one wants to take risks, we would love to.
I suggest Chinese entrepreneurs, especially private companies and self-employed individuals, do the following when coming to Africa. First, they had better do some research about African countries’ laws, culture, regulations, and labor and environmental standards, so as not to make rookie mistakes.
Second, they should abide by local laws and regulations. For instance, they should go to official banks and organizations and should not evade taxes. They had better not take cash with them to ensure their own safety and that of their companies.
Third, they need to integrate into the local community. It is a bit difficult, given language barriers, different lifestyles and lack of understanding of local customs. It would be better if the Chinese can make friends with local people, expose themselves to the locals and learn from them.
The Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is being held in Beijing. Since its formation in 2000, the forum has become a notable brand for China-Africa cooperation. When my colleagues and I started setting the forum up, we were not very confident. We used to think of institutionalizing the forum two years after the first FOCAC had been held. It was beyond our expectation that African countries were exceedingly proactive and enthusiastic about it. It was later agreed that the forum would be held every three years, with China and African countries taking turns as hosts.
Eighteen years on, the FOCAC has become an effective tool of consultations between China and Africa on an equal footing. It is an energetic platform for expanding cooperation and a flagship mechanism that helps the world cooperate with Africa.
As the FOCAC goes into full swing, some countries, especially emerging economies, follow suit. There is South Korea-Africa Forum, India-Africa Forum Summit and Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit. But the FOCAC is undoubtedly in a leading position, in terms of both cooperation scale and depth.
The FOCAC has been engaged in pragmatic cooperation rather than empty talk. It functions in a highly efficient manner with its agreements and resolutions being implemented. The forum also benefits both Africa and China. China’s Africa policy sticks to the principle of equality, mutual benefit and joint development, which is welcomed by African countries.
This year’s FOCAC is an unprecedented gathering and will set the course for future cooperation. The 10 major plans that China rolled out to boost cooperation with Africa will continue to be implemented. In areas such as civil livelihood, industrial capacity, infrastructure, environment protection, and peace and security, China will multiply its investment.
The ongoing forum will also see deepened cooperation via the Belt and Road initiative. The initiative will be linked with the African Union Agenda 2063. The African Union will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2063. In the next 50 years, China and Africa share identical development goals. The cooperation between China and Africa has long been working to achieve policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity, which is also core of the Belt and Road program. With the facilitation of the program, China and Africa will see faster development.
This year’s FOCAC will be eyeing the future. Currently, China’s cooperation with Africa faces new challenges stemming from trade protectionism, unilateralism and egoism. The two sides need to voice out and enhance cooperation to go through international turbulences.
(The author is the first special envoy of the Chinese government on African affairs. The article is an interview with Cao Shijia of Wu Jianmin Foundation. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cooperation helps China, Africa fight protectionism, unilateralism and egoism
BY LIU GUIJIN