The rapid development witnessed in Africa is largely credited to China-Africa cooperation. With many African countries lagging behind due to resource constraints, leaders and experts alike contend that the cooperation has been critical in stimulating development across the continent.
China, the world’s second largest economy, has cordial bilateral ties with African countries. Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative, among many others, the Asian country continues to play a leading role in fast tracking development in Africa. And now there is heightened optimism that these flourishing partnerships in key sectors will endure the test of time and mutually benefit both sides for years to come.
AFRICA TO BENEFIT FROM GDI
The outbreak of COVID-19 came as a major setback to the world in the realization of sustainable development. The pandemic emerged at a time majority of nations economies’, especially in the developing world, were experiencing weaker growth. The health crisis threw them into deeper crisis.
Despite the increasing complex health crisis and other global challenges, China’s economy was posting steady growth. As a responsible major country, China, the world’s second-largest economy, advanced an initiative to help the world out of the hard times.
Appreciating that every country has the right to development and everyone has the desire to develop, President Xi Jinping proposed a path of development, the Global Development Initiative (GDI), whose goal is to lift every country leaving no one behind, in the true spirit of building a community with a shared future.
While committed to its own development, President Xi noted that China will continue to share development opportunities with all countries to achieve common progress of mankind.
Aligned to United Nations 2030 Agenda, the program particularly holds promise to countries in the global south, whose economies were pushed to the edge over the last three years.
“At this new historical starting point, we will stand with fellow developing countries. Together, we will sound the clarion call for common development and establish fast tracks for development through cooperation,” said Xi last year at the UN General Assembly even as he assured that GDI gives priority to development first and people at the center.
Since this declaration and in a demonstration of the world’s faith in the program, over 130 countries and international organizations have today expressed their support for GDI, making it the single most effective platform for nations to have discussions with the UN development system.
GDI holds promise to Africa particularly because it presents equal, balanced and inclusive development partnership in the face of overwhelming challenges in attaining the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
In the shortest time since the proposal was made, cooperation platforms where China is working with relevant parties to develop cooperation networks in areas as agriculture, education, COVID-19 response and climate actions have been developed.
Levels of poverty are at an all-time high after the COVID pandemic and have condemned many people to hunger. GDI comes as a suitable response having listed poverty reduction as one of its priority areas. Cooperation projects have been tilted toward poverty reduction, food, health and other livelihood areas. Its impact is already being felt given that so far this year, China has delivered multiple consignments of emergency food assistance to developing countries in dire straits, amid pledged to provide additional humanitarian assistance.
Experts concur that China is great example in the poverty reduction and are urging African countries to replicate the East Asian country’s successful milestone in this regard in order to realize the continent's priority sustainable development aspirations. It is easy to see why. China achieved its ambitious goal of eliminating extreme poverty in 2020, by lifting over 800 million people in this bracket and improved the living standards of millions of people through decades of development.
As a result, records show that China is the only country to have realized its global Sustainable Development Goals ahead of time, and should therefore serve as a lesson for African countries in their drive to meet their SDG goals.
China's conspicuous success in alleviating poverty could be of valuable guidance for Africa in its fight against poverty and pursuit of sustainable development.
In the meantime, China's success in alleviating rural poverty through leveraging technology-led farming methods is an inspiration to Africa and other developing countries. China prioritized rural areas in its poverty reduction efforts where agriculture played a major role and Africa can do the same.
Apart from giving emphasis to rural development, China demonstrated strong political commitment and will to win the war and thus poverty reduction in Africa requires similar commitment. In the rural areas, African countries can learn from China's move to establish township industries where poverty was most pronounced.
The impact of GDI in the continent can be seen through Chinese technologies and innovations that are in use in Africa to boost agriculture and food security. In Kenya, for instance, the first harvest of a high-yielding maize variety developed through joint research between Chinese and Kenyan scientists was recently unveiled amid expectations that it will help tackle food insecurity affecting local small-holder farmers.
In Guinea Bissau, Agri-technical teams from China have visited 13 rice production areas in the three provinces and carried out "technology plus material" that has aided the west-African country and achieved remarkable results. In Madagascar, the story is the same. The average yield of hybrid rice produced with Chinese technologies is two to three times more than that of local ones. Such successes are dotted all over the continent with more countries benefitting from Chinese technologies.
At the same time, China through GDI is promoting Africa’s quest for green energy development aspirations. Africa’s access to electricity is an urgent challenge due to a growing population projected to double to nearly 2.4 billion by 2050.
Renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydro could be a viable alternative to meet the continent's burgeoning electricity needs, with most of Africa's energy currently coming from biomass and fossil fuels. Construction of green energy facilities with the help of Chinese support and technology is being witnessed in most countries.
In Nigeria, the first unit of the China-built Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Station was put into operation in late March after nine years of construction. The Power Station, with a total installed capacity of 700 MW, is expected to produce 2.64 billion kWh of electricity annually in the most populous country in Africa.
In Ethiopia, Chinese-built Adama wind farms with 102 turbines with a total generating capacity of 153 MW, is helping the country tap into its rich renewable energy potential. A similar project has being implemented by China's Dongfang Electric Corporation in Somalia, the first wind power project in the country, with a generating capacity of 120 MW.
South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya among other countries have benefitted from similar projects, financed and built by China in conjunction with local governments.
By cultivating clean energy sources, China is fortifying Africa's quest for climate-friendly development at a time the effects of climate change have pushed the world into a crisis.
Projects implemented in this regard show that cooperation with China allows the continent to tap into its rich green energy resources and learn from China's thriving clean energy development experience.
BRI STIRRING RAPID DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA
The transformation and development currently being witnessed in Africa’s landscape is largely attributed to support from China. The situation was not always like this. For many years, African countries could not development infrastructure due to resource constraints.
That was until China saw an opportunity to explore the continent's untapped potential.
Cooperation with Africa through effective platforms such as the Belt and Road Initiative at the center has been critical in stimulating infrastructure development across the continent.
China continues to play a significant role in building Africa's infrastructure projects. The international professional services network, Deloitte, notes that in 2020, for instance, Chinese firms were responsible for 31 percent of all infrastructure projects in Africa with a value of 50 million U.S. dollars or more.
The impact of Belt and Road Initiative in the continent since it came into effect a few years after it was proposed by President Xi Jinping cannot be overemphasized. The initiative has helped create linkages that will in the long-term facilitate intra-African trade. Major railway lines, roads, ports, and airports infrastructure connecting various destinations in the continent are becoming a feature.
Belt and Road Initiative is particularly attractive to the continent for the reason that China has aligned it to Africa's Agenda 2063 which is the continent's blueprint to boost economic vision.
In Kenya, for instance, the Standard Gauge Railway, financed and built by China has greatly transformed movement of goods and passengers between Naivasha and Mombasa via Nairobi.
Besides seamless movement of bulk cargo and passengers, including tourists and skilled workforce, the 480km railway line has injected vitality into the local economy and is now at the heart of Kenya's quest for economic revival.
The railway line has reduced the cost of doing business in the country, eased the backlog at the port of Mombasa and enhanced the competitiveness of locally manufactured goods in the overseas markets.
With the coming of the SGR, businesses no longer invest in security and insurances for holding stocks given the ever guaranteed safety. Five years since it started operations, the SGR passenger trains and freight trains had transported an unprecedented 7.78 million passengers and 18.8 million tons of bulk cargo respectively along the Mombasa-Nairobi corridor.
In Namibia, China's role in constructing major infrastructural development projects, including the port of Walvis Bay, road infrastructure, airport upgrading, rail and the dual carriage-way, has also strengthened and strategically positioned the country’s presence in the regional and continental trade arena.
In Zambia, China was instrumental in the construction of a railway link to the sea at the time the southern African nation had problems in exporting and importing goods, adding that this was done despite the Asian nation having problems of its own.
BRI is also building an open platform of cooperation and injecting growing impetus and stability into development of French-speaking African countries. Leaders in these countries are steadily embracing the initiative to enhance development in their region.
Cameroon has improved its infrastructure, restored industries and generated employment opportunities. Some of the major projects include the Kribi Deep Sea Port and Kribi-Lolabe Highway.
International agencies such as Deloitte have recorded the positive impact of mega projects done by China in Africa describing the investment in African infrastructure as a global public good in the context of the worldwide significance of Africa's demographic evolution and its necessary productive transformation.
The African Development Bank (AfDB), in its recent report noted that the improved infrastructure in Africa will facilitate domestic and international trade, reduce the cost of doing business and enhance Africa's competitiveness both as an exporter and a destination for investors.
Under BRI, African countries and China have solidified partnership through consultation even as scholars laud it as an exemplary mode of cooperation which is inclusive and seeks to openly develop the world.
DEEPENING TIES THROUGH FOCAC
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has played a critical role in fostering development in Africa. Established 21 years ago with a singular aim of deepening the cooperation between China and African countries, FOCAC has not only helped promote bilateral trade, but also investments and the many achievements under various action plans.
With many African countries facing similar challenges that cut across, nine areas of collaboration to be funded and supported by China, were in particular identified during the Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that was held in Senegal in November.
The nine areas include peace and security, capacity building, people-to-people relations, poverty reduction and trade and investment promotion. The others are supporting medical and health programs, agricultural programs, green development and digital innovation.
Three months later after the forum was held, in what is evident that China is keen in ensuring peace prevails within the continent, it appointed senior diplomat Xue Bing to the newly created position of special envoy for the Horn of Africa.
The region is synonymous with inter-state and intra-state conflicts and other forms of conflicts such as piracy and proliferation of small arms with the latest conflict pitting the government of Ethiopia and rebels based in Tigray.
With conflicts equally not being new in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, Xue was in particular tasked with ensuring such conflict prone countries achieve long-term stability.
Earlier, during his visit to Africa at the beginning of the year, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had proposed the "Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa.", which aims to support regional countries in achieving lasting peace and security and embracing development and prosperity.
Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, among other countries, supported the proposal which they view as one that meets a raft of challenges facing the region.
As regards health, the decision by African countries to stand with China following the outbreak of COVID-19 was clear evidence of the deepening ties between both sides. The countries in February 2020 sent letters to express their support and sympathy to the Chinese people and even donated money and supplies to the Asian country to fight the pandemic. In exchange, when COVID-19 broke out in Africa, China and its charities sent support to the cash strapped African countries to help them buy the much-needed vaccines in containing the pandemic.
Speaking during the forum that was held in Senegal, the country’s President Macky Sall thanked China for its continued support for Africa's health response and economic recovery efforts noting that their friendship has been successfully tested against the pandemic.
With the nine identified areas of collaboration, China continues to make inroads within the African continent through the widening of collaboration in the other areas in a mutually benefitting set up that continues to benefit citizens of both sides in monumental proportions.