Rethinking Africa-China relations and crafting a new silk road in the 21st century
Over the past half century, the partnership and relationship between China and Africa have been through several stages, but no doubt it is getting better and tighter in every aspect.
The initiation of modern China-Africa cooperation started from the early 50s through to the late 70s, when China and many African nations progressively gained independence. Establishing bilateral diplomatic relationship and enhancing mutual support were their core strategy, foreign aid projects in Africa have brought huge benefits to the recipient countries, such as the Tazara railway.
From the 80s until the beginning of the 21st century, China-Africa relationship was at a rapid growth period both vertically and horizontally, and one of the main reasons was due to the booming of the Chinese economy and market. Both private and public sectors have been actively involved in agriculture, infrastructure, education, health, trading and almost every industry across the continent, while tens of thousands of Africans were coming to China to work, study and doing business at the same time. Economic partnership and commercial collaboration were dominating in this period.
Of the past decades, China-Africa relationship has entered into a new era due to the rapid change in both internal and global environment. The Forum of China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was established and has successfully completed seven summits, the “Belt and Road” Initiative have been introduced to surpass the traditional point-to-point cooperation into a comprehensive scale, while the UN and the African Union also released the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and Agenda 2063 respectively, all these have tighten up the partnership between China and Africa countries and brought about even more opportunities comprehensively.
As we can see from the recent finished FOCAC Beijing summit, the Chinese government has pledged $60 billion financial support plus eight major initiatives in collaboration with Africa for industrial promotion, infrastructure connectives, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, healthcare, people to people exchange and peach & security. “This has delineating the blueprint for China-Africa relations in the new era and opening an ambitious chapter in China-Africa cooperation for the new era” announced by President Xi Jinping, of China.
85 million of manufacturing jobs are going to move out of China. Therefore if Africa (…) can capture this golden opportunity, it will be able to enjoy the same economic transformation as China and Asia Four tigers in the coming 20 years.
Industrial promotion or international capacity cooperation is one of the new concepts which has been increasingly discussed. The rapid economic growth of China since 1980s is because they captured the window of opportunity of tapping into global value chain by developing a manufacturing sector which created millions of jobs; that is the jumpstart in their economic transformation. According to forecast, by 2020, China is going to become a high-income country, which means China is going to move from a labor intensive-economy to a more capital-intensive economy and estimated 85 million of manufacturing jobs are going to move out of China. Therefore if Africa – a continent with more than 1.2 billion population with mostly young people looking for jobs – can capture this golden opportunity, it will be able to enjoy the same economic transformation as China and Asia Four tigers in the coming 20 years. ‘Agenda 2063’ as well as many national development plans released by individual countries such as “Rwanda Vision 2020”, “Togo NDP 2018-2022” and “Emerging Senegal Plan”, have all addressed industrialization and economic development as the top priority work.
Industrialization movements have already started in Africa with the global support. What Africa needs now is more success stories to provide the aspiration, confidence, and experience for realizing its potential for industrialization and shared prosperity. People are still challenging that African countries are ready to produce for the global market yet, but many successful examples have proven that African countries have the capability to playing a key role in the global value chain with support from China in practical experience, technical know-how and financial assistance. Examples such as Huajian group in Ethiopia and C&H Garments in Rwanda have both brought huge positive impact to both local community and economy through job creation and export revenue generation.
For African countries, enterprises and people, collaboration opportunities have risen in many fields between Africa and China; we could successfully expect a win-win development model to enhance the economic transformation and integration of Africa in the future.