July 20th, 2012 | Xinhua China’s cooperative measures with Africa substantial, effective
Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday announced a series of new measures to support Africa’s development, including 20 billion U.S. dollars in credit to African countries, doubling the amount it offered at the last forum in 2009.
But Beijing’s engagement with the African continent represents more than just loans.
In 2011, China and Africa’s trade volume reached 166.3 billion U.S. dollars, three times the figure in 2006. Cumulative Chinese direct investment in Africa has exceeded 15 billion U.S. dollars, with investment projects covering 50 countries.
Gebeyehu Ganga Gayito, a minister at the Ethiopian embassy in Beijing, said he was delighted to see his country benefit from China’s investment.
“Look at every quarter of Ethiopia … infrastructure such as hospitals and railroads. You will see how we have benefited from such investment (from China),” he said.
While China’s investment in Africa has added to the continent’s development energy, the Asian country is also working hard to promote balanced trade between the two sides.
Currently, all of the 30 least-developed countries in Africa that have diplomatic ties with China enjoy “zero-tariff” treatment for 60 percent of their exports to China.
Data from the Chinese government indicates that African exports to China have been growing rapidly, reaching 93.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, representing an increase of 39 percent year on year.
According to a newly released report by South African Standard Bank research analyst Simon Freemantle and economist Jeremy Stevens, China’s share of Africa’s total exports increased from 10 percent in 2008 to nearly 18 percent last year.
And the rise will continue this year: in the first five months of 2012, Africa’s exports to China reached 50 billion U.S. dollars, up 25.5 percent year on year. Without China, Africa actually exported 15 percent less to the rest of the world last year than it did in 2009, it said.
Over the years, African decisionmakers have acknowledged that a united and integrated Africa is the right way for the continent to thrive. Breaking down infrastructural constraints to facilitate cross-border trade is a first and crucial step towards the goal.
China, well aware of Africa’s development path, has been taking action in this regard.
Tambuzai Zireva, a cross-border trader from Zimbabwe, has seen her small business grow since an increasing number of Chinese trading malls were set up in South Africa. In these “China malls,” traders from neighboring countries gather to buy commodities ranging from clothes to electronic gadgets and furniture, which they then take back to sell in their home countries.
“Because of the Chinese malls, it has become easy to set up your own retail business,” said Zireva. “The Chinese shops have established a permanent source of income for many of us,” she said.
During his opening remarks at the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), President Hu said China will establish a partnership with Africa on transnational and trans-regional infrastructure development and encourage established Chinese companies and financial institutions to take part in transnational and trans-regional infrastructure development in Africa.
“The idea of using funds to promote regional integration is strategic in the sense that it will open up Africa’s markets, some of which are landlocked,” said Gerishon Ikiara, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.
“The funds could help bridge the missing links that are required to link east Africa with west Africa, north Africa with southern Africa. The move is also likely to empower Africa to trade more with itself,” he said.
As one of the least developed continents in the world, Africa is in great need of technological support to kickstart its economy. As United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it, “Africa looks to China not only as a source of funds and trade, but also as a source of technology and innovation.”
To help Africa achieve food security through technological advancement, China has built 20 agricultural technology demonstrations centers on the continent and sent 50 teams of experts to assist locals.
Du Yongqi is a project manager at a Chinese agricultural demonstration center at the Gwebi Agricultural College in Zimbabwe. He is responsible for teaching local farmers to use agricultural technology.
“We are going to show the local farmers how to prepare the soil, how to manage crops and how to use farming machinery,” Du said.
“In China, we have different ways of preparing land to make it suitable for different types of crops, and we will show local farmers how to do this. We will also show them how to use fertilizer and chemicals, how to efficiently use these to produce more crops,” he said.
According to President Hu, in the next three years, China will build more agricultural technology demonstration centers across Africa to help it increase its agricultural production capacity.
As part of the newly announced cooperative measures, China will also send 1,500 medical personnel to Africa in the next three years.
Chinese medical teams are not new to Africa. The Chinese government has sent 42 medical teams to Africa to date, with 1,067 medical personnel currently working across the continent.
Janet Kanene is a 60-year-old Ugandan woman. She had been floundering between hospitals for years in search of medication for her aching back, until this year, when a team of Chinese doctors working in eastern Uganda’s Jinja district saved her from the pain.
“I came here when I could not even walk, but now I can. I want to thank the Chinese government for the treatment,” she said.
For nearly 30 years, there has been a Chinese medical team based in the small district in Uganda, providing high-quality medical services for about 2,000 patients daily from 13 neighboring districts.
Okello Oryem, Uganda’s minister of foreign affairs, said China’s aid is increasingly preferable, as it follows the needs of the recipient countries without creating stringent conditions.
Over the next three years, China will continue to carry out the “Brightness Action” program on the continent to provide free treatment for cataract patients, according to President Hu.
The China-Africa Brightness Action initiative was launched in 2010 and has provided over 1,000 African patients with free eye surgery.
China will also continue to carry out well-drilling and water supply projects in Africa to provide safe drinking water for the African people, Hu said.
by Xinhua writers Dan Ran and Wang Yanan