A forum for cooperation

A forum for cooperation

After the conference held between the a delegation of representatives from the P. R. of China under the leadershipof Dr. Sun Xia Lesotho Ministries, scholars, Think-tanks and the media on the 15th of March 2018 at the Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China, I watched an army of termites march across the lawn with blades of grass in their mandibles. After the conference held between the a delegation of representatives from the P. R. of China under the leadershipof Dr. Sun Xia Lesotho Ministries, scholars, Think-tanks and the media on the 15th of March 2018 at the Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China, I watched an army of termites march across the lawn with blades of grass in their mandibles.

These leaves were being deposited into a hole at whose bottom lies the core of the colony, the queen (herself a member of the ‘reproductives’ who form one of the three groups in the colony), and with the winter coming one can safely guess that the worker ants are gathering the grass as food to feed the detrivorous colony over the long winter. Autumn walked in a few weeks ago with the rains, and soon, the leaves will begin to lose their green and the landscape will be a spectacle the eyes of those who can make the most out of a free picture show as presented by nature will marvel at the spectacle; the yellow of the peach tree leaves, the reddish orange of the oak leaves, the gold of the poplar leaves, the evergreen of the pines and the eucalyptus, and other colours of leaves losing the essence of the last spring and summer when they could bask green in the warmth of sunlight.

The season is gone, the sunsets will be the most beautiful, and we will huddle closer to our heaters, cuddle closer in our blankets; winter will be a cold season of more warmth in the confined spaces where hugging is the name of the deed of the moment. We will cooperate for warmth in the midst of the colds of autumn and winter; and meetings such as this one we attended turn out to be similar to an army of termites gathering blades of grass and detritus to last the long economic winters of the world.Mr Yang Guang chaired the forum and in his address stated the meeting as a ‘new dimension’ in which the 10 point FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) will be associated with other frameworks of cooperation in both Africa and China in areas such as national development planning, the financial sector, investment, and people to people exchange.

This forms part of the strengthening of the plan that began in 2000 but has now been extended to go beyond 2050 by the government of the P.R. of China and the partner nations of Africa. Personal observation tells me that the meetings follow the pattern set out by in his ‘water droplets drilling through rock’ found in his book Up and Out of Poverty. Xi attests that there is no quick fix to development, for development and change are gradual processes and thus advises leaders and groups to focus on steady, systematic work necessary for quantitative change.

According to him, development problems need to be tackled with persistence and consistency, that is, all involved should “work with quiet dedication like water droplets drilling through rock.”  Mr Khomooatsana Tau, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Development Planning came with the suggestion that the FOCAC plan should include the private sector in the design, implementation and maintenance of infrastructural projects. His concern is that the private sector has raised concerns that they are not included in many of the projects the two governments implement. This issue was reiterated by Professor Mafa Sejanamane who came with the suggestion that the sharing of skills between the two nations whenever there is a project should also be high on the agenda.

His concern is that there should be footprints left in terms of acquired knowledge after each major project. All present seemed to agree on this issue, as is heard in the suggestions from the scholarly sector presented by Professor Nqosa Mahao and his colleagues.Mr Mahlelebe, a political scientist from the NUL suggested that the national development plans should be aligned with the FOCAC action plan and that priority areas should form the core of the new dimension where areas such as technology transfer become the core of the mutual exchange between China and the African partner nations. This was further elaborated by Dr.

Emmanuel Letete from the NUL Economics Department who put emphasis on the need for the industrialisation of agriculture to enable the integration of Lesotho farm produce into the markets of the world. He mentioned that part of the FOCAC plan could be driven by the development of infrastructural elements such as the construction of irrigation dams meant to increase the output of the agricultural sector of the economy. He further stated that these plans should be based on results from extensive research and feasibility studies meant to ensure that their implementation will last until the desired goals are reached.Professor Nqosa Mahao, Vice-Chancellor of the NUL suggested that the plan should move from theme to theme to address the challenge that there are areas of the economy where the Kingdom of Lesotho has no made progress in the past 50 years. He is concerned that there has been not progress in institutions of higher learning, where one finds that the vocational and technical schools lack in terms of structure, equipment and expertise and this hampers the country’s progress in education. He suggested that there should be upgrades in terms of lab facilities across relevant sectors of education and government ministries.

The need to improve on capacity growth of sectors such as engineering, mining, and agriculture came as the most prominent in his address. Concomitant with these improvements should be the prioritisation of helping set up a school of engineering to address the need for skilled labour in areas such as the rapidly growing mining sector. This was reiterated by Professor Mafa Sejanamane who mentioned the need for institutions to be linked up to points on the FOCAC plan.H. E. Shu Zhan former ambassador to Eritrea and Rwanda raised the need to locate where teachers to instruct in the tutoring of specialised subjects. Mr. Machema Ratjomose of the NUL supported the Mr Zhan’s view by addressing that there is a need to focus more on developing the appropriate infrastructure for human capital that Lesotho has. Professor Mahao raised the concern that part of the current plans seems not inclusive of the realities of the development terrain in Lesotho, thus the need for the cooperation exercise to be particular in its exploration of challenges specific to economic development in Africa.

Professor Keregero of the NUL Agriculture Department stated that there is a dire need of specialisation through the development of farming professionals. Mr Liu Haifang of the Centre for African Studies, Peking University capped the suggestions with the idea that there may a need to establish a research hub for mutual learning between the member countries involved in the FOCAC action plan. There have been numerous people to people and cultural exchanges in the various relations between Lesotho and China, which form part of the nearly 3 million visits made between China and Africa annually. This aspect of the cooperative relationships between the two partners has resulted in the setting up of Confucius Institutes in many African states. There are also growing linkages between journalists and various forms of media with the China-Africa Press Center established in order to increase mutual understanding of China-Africa relations.

There is also widespread acknowledgement across the African continent that despite the trade imbalances, China remains a reliable partner. Discussions as the one held on the 15th are evidence that with time, the relations between Africa and China will become clearer. The people-to-people exchanges will enhance China’s understanding of the rich culture and diversity on the African continent, and in turn give the African individuals that visit China a clearer picture of the state’s achievements and how to implement them. The myriad pledges on infrastructure development are based on the notion that all must become proactive players in order to ensure that infrastructure projects undertaken by China help in facilitating intra-Africa trade and the movement of people and ideas.

The African Development Bank can certainly play a leading role in this regard. The long-term plan sees China planning to move some of its industrial manufacturing capacity towards the African continent that will definitely have a significant impact on individual African countries. Institutions such as the African Development Bank, which have prepared a number of studies on manufacturing and industrialisation, should be brought in to identify ways of creating regional value chains in terms of facilitating manufacturing and industrialisation. Constant FOCAC platforms such as the one held on the 15th can be seen by the African continent as an opportunity to find ways in which they can finance and build capacity towards economic development initiatives.

One could have been looking at termites gather their winter supplies for the right reasons. It is simply a truth that the world somehow needs to cooperate if the scourges of hunger, poverty and starvation have to be vanquished on the continent and the global community. China has come out as a living testimony that one can get themselves out of poverty if they have partners that understand the essence of mutual cooperation to eradicate the economic challenges many countries in Africa face.

From here to there, from there to here, thus is the pattern of one that is looking for solutions to their problem; so one has come to realise in the various forums held between economic development partners across the globe. These wanderings shall form the beginning and the passing of every phase of the FOCAC plan of action, the only element required that will see to their successful implementation is if we adopt the attitude of the foraging termite. Answers to the challenges the FOCAC plan addresses shall be found in the discussions and they can only be surmounted if ideas, suggestions and opinions expressed in the forums are implemented on time.

I came across a poem by Chairman Mao Zedong that is in many ways similar to what is now unfolding in the relationship between China and Africa. Titled Farewell to the God of Plague, the poem poses questions one hears in the economic development conversation on the continent. It goes: So many green streams and blue hills, but to what avail ? This tiny creature left even Hua To powerless! Hundreds of villages choked with weeds, men wasted away; Thousands of homes deserted, ghosts chanted mournfully.

Motionless, by earth I travel eighty thousand li a day, Surveying the sky I see a myriad Milky Ways from afar. Should the Cowherd ask tidings of the God of Plague, Say the same griefs flow down the stream of time.The spring wind blows amid profuse willow wands, Six hundred million in this land all equal Yao and Shun. Crimson rain swirls in waves under our will, Green mountains turn to bridges at our wish. Gleaming mattocks fall on the Five Ridges heaven-high; Mighty arms move to rock the earth round the Triple River. We ask the God of Plague: “Where are you bound?” Paper barges aflame and candle-light illuminate the sky

There is always talk about the abundance of natural resources in this country, from water to diamonds, and recently coal. The vexing issue however, is that one finds a country where almost 41 percent of the population live in abject poverty. How can that potential wealth be exploited in a manner that addresses the needs of everyone? If there are willing partners committed to the eradication of the prevalent economic maladies, there is no reason why the state cannot fall in line with them to form a mutual cooperation relationship. There is clear evidence that China has made clear strides in the eradication of poverty and the maladies associated with it.

The right direction to take is one that leads forward to progress with willing partners. However, there should be clear lines of operation to find some kind of balance, that is, the action plans should not benefit only one side of the equation; all parties should get their fair share. The frank manner in which the proceedings of the day were carried out showed that at least, the FOCAC action plan is progressing to a point where all parties involved stand to benefit in the long run. It is a forum for cooperation and should be understood as such.

  Tsepiso S Mothibi

Previous Instabilities at the NUL during BNP and military dictatorships
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