China’s fight against poverty

China’s fight against poverty

The Africa-China relationship is often mentioned and regarded to be about 60 years old, but the reality is that the relationship could possibly be well over 500 years old; that is if one is to consider that the adventurer Marco Polo and his well-known ‘Silk Route’ journals true, and the voyages of the famous ‘Eunuch Admiral’, Zhang He, are rightly noted in history.

The Africa-China relationship is a long and lasting affair, that however much history has so far chosen to ignore it, has now reached a salient turning point, as evidenced by the recent economic developments in mutual “win-win” strategic investments and economic developments that see China pledge huge amounts of financial aid (well over US$60 million) to individual African states and the continent in general.

The investments are mutual, meaning that they are not prescriptive in terms of their inception as would be the normal case where one finds the investor/donor nation imposing terms of operation on how the economic development programme they pledge their funding in should be run; the Chinese government through its various programmes adopts a model that grants the receiver of the donation (economic development aid fund), the freedom to adopt strategies that are suitable in the home environment, strategies that not only serve the interests of China, but are in every essence modelled in a manner that guarantees mutual benefit to both parties involved in the economic development and poverty eradication plan.

“Win-win” as a concept is the new way established in the Africa-China relationship, meaning that the old way, where only one side benefits, has been done away with; as witnessed by thepost at the June 21-22, 2017 High-Level Dialogue and Think-Tank Forum held at the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa under the aegis of Zhejiang Normal University of China and the AU Leadership Academy.
The relationship (friendship) between China and Africa is based on the concepts of exchange of ideas and mutual cooperation based on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Action Plan and its focus areas namely: Political Relations, Economic Development, Social Development, Cultural Cooperation, People-to-People Exchanges, Security, International Cooperation, and others based on collective dialogue as a mechanism for practical cooperation.

With the end of the opening address and keynote speeches by H.E. (His Excellency) Mr. Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister and H. E. Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, the forum then progressed to brief addresses by Ms Muna Abdalla (Manager of the AU Leadership Academy) and Professor Zheng Mengzhuang, President of Zhejiang Normal University who in his opening speech at the 2017, June 21-22 High-Level Dialogue, stated:

“Since its inception 6 years ago, the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum has been upholding the principles of “Civil Initiative, Government Participation, Frank Dialogue and Consensus Building,” resulting in a series of insightful academic output with far-reaching influences.
The forum is recognized as an important platform for the world to understand China-Africa relations and better comprehend the structure and the nature of China’s African strategy.

The successful inauguration of the Sixth China-Africa Think Tanks Forum today at the Headquarters of the African Union is in great part due to the support and guidance provided by both Chinese and African government organs, institutions, organizers and guests.
This wonderful achievement couldn’t be obtained without all the conference staff who spared no effort in this process. Therefore allow me, on behalf of Zhejiang Normal University, to extend my most sincere gratitude to all of you.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, there is a long and profound tradition of friendship between China and Africa, we not only share common development goals, we have also been committed to building a comprehensive strategic partnership.
This year’s conference is under the theme of “Fighting Against Poverty for Common Prosperity.” In this conference we read into President Xi Jinping’s book Up and Out of Poverty in an effort to step up the implementation of the strategic measures announced at the FOCAC’s Johannesburg summit . . . ”
The conference then went on to Plenary Session 1 (on the experiences of Up and Out of Poverty) co-chaired by H.E. Mr Kwesi Quartey (Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission), and H.E. Mr Zhou Yuxiao (Ambassador for Affairs of the FOCAC of the Foreign Ministry of China).
There were remarks by dignitaries who included Huang Youyi (Vice President of the Translators Association of China), Dr. Arkebe Oqubay (Inter-Ministerial Coordinator, Ethiopia), Mr Chen Zhigang (Deputy Director of the State Council, China), and Dr. Newai Gabreal (Former Economic Advisor).

The speakers’ remarks touched on H.E. President Xi Jingping’s thoughts, ideas and policies, measures on poverty reduction and development, and lessons for the continent of Africa at present and mapping of the pathways beyond to the future.

The remarks were followed by two parallel panel discussions on the topic “Policy and experience of poverty reduction in China and Africa (Governance, institutions and pro-poor growth policies)” moderated by H.E. Mr. Shu Zhan Former Chinese Ambassador to Eritrea and Rwanda under the themes of ‘I. Sharing the Chinese experiences of poverty reduction and development, II.

Opportunities and challenges for Africa’s poverty reduction and achieving sustainable self-development, III.
Development policies by suiting local conditions: exploring a suitable way for poverty reduction, and IV. What are the roles played by labour markets, financial sector and social protection programs in pro-poor growth?’

There were presentations on the themes by such luminaries as Mr. Bartholomew Armah from Renew of Planning of Economic Development, Mr. Huang Chengwei, the Director of National Education and Communication Centre for Poverty Alleviation of China, Mr Festo Maro from Economic and Social Research Foundation of Tanzania and Mr. Yang Guang the Director of the Institute of West Asia and Africa of the Chinese Academy of Social Science.
The presentations were followed by an open-floor discussion on the core themes of sustainable self-development, pro-poor growth in Africa, precision support policy, and trends, policies and the role of international cooperation.
The discussions were then followed by presentations on employment and social protection by Dr Gibson Chigumira, Chinese special economic zone by Mr. Huang Meibo, industrialization by Ms. Yazini April, the role played by government in making policies of poverty reduction by Mr Liu Hongwu, and fiscal and tax policies by Ms. Wu Qimin.

There were intermediate open-floor discussions until the forum was adjourned. In the stead of thepost Lesotho, I was part of the media delegation invited and there were opinions sought by all parties engaged in the discussion forum on how best the implementation of the 10-Point FOCAC plan can be carried out.

As representative from Lesotho in media, I was interviewed, and in the answer to Hu Zexi (from China Daily)’s question on what I thought of the book Up and Out of Poverty, I have only one reply: that the only way one can progress is if they follow living examples of what has been tested and proven to work.

The new shield is after all moulded on the outline of the old, and in the case of the Africa-China relationship, China’s model of poverty reduction has proven effective in the light of ensuring progressive economic growth; it thus becomes a shield upon which we can map our own progressive development policies.

And, from the discussions by the varied experts in the different fields related to economic development echo the view that, constant discussion and dialogue if followed by engagement and implementation could well reap positive results for the continent of Africa in terms of economic development and poverty alleviation.

As sounded by the dignitaries and academics through their various presentations, what one senses is that there is a clear chance for Africa to progress if it adopts the progressive economic governance strategies employed by China in the past to reach the now prosperous present.
The discussions on the book Up and Out of Poverty only affirm the fact that it is not only a well-written guide for progressive economic development, but the book is also a manual upon which the individual and the state can base their terms of cooperation to ensure that the progress of the latter can be guaranteed to last well into the future.

Drawing on varied topics ranging from the core (at least for me) topics on self-cultivation, the role of the media, and the water droplets drilling through rock, the book does not only see economic development from the perspective of the larger macro-economic development planning bodies that often view development on the scale of the state.

President Xi Jinping puts insistence on the return to the grassroots (where the real economic development strategy should be aimed at) as key to solving the poverty related problems of the continent of Africa.
The model has been tested and proven by the story of Ningde Prefecture which began as a poor rural community which 30 years ago was not as beautiful and advanced as it is today.

For the President, the act of economic development is not an accident, but it is a process that requires concerted effort that is aimed at uplifting first the weak (the poor and the vulnerable) from their state of poverty before implementing the main development goals in the larger economic development strategy.

The book gives out practical solutions to economic problems a large part of the African continent faces, and could well serve as a guide to uplift the continent out of the state of poverty.  The adoption of the economic development models aimed at eradicating poverty has so far lifted more than 55.64 million people out of poverty in China as stated by Mr. Huang Chengwei (Director of National Education and Communication Center for Poverty Alleviation of China).

This is due to the fact that the approach to economic development and poverty eradication focused on rural development and improvement of infrastructure as the main areas of focus, which was in turn supplemented by the mobilisation of the people (the grassroots) to be involved in the processes leading to the upliftment out of poverty.

Every strategic plan has goals, but if the goals are not understood at grassroots level, then such goals become impossible to achieve as shown by Dr. Gibson Chigumira, the Director of Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit.

He insists on adopting a labour intensive policy for poverty reduction in Africa, the changing and diversification of economic structures to absorb the large numbers of the poor and the unemployed.  He also hinted that social assistance and empowerment for the previously marginalised, as echoed from the manual Up and Out of Poverty should be adopted as part of the policy.

The discussions on day one of the two day forum revealed that indeed, for one to succeed, they sometimes have to follow in the footsteps of the giant; and who can argue that the achievements China has so far attained are an economic marvel the wise developing economy can follow?
Day Two of the forum saw the delegation of the more than 111 delegates from different fields of occupation and profession visit the expansive Eastern Industry Zone (the Ethiopia-China Huajian International Light Industry City) 30 kilometres to the East of Addis Ababa to see the commitment China has made to lifting the citizens of Africa out of poverty.

Boasting large scale industries in shoe and textile manufacturing, car assembly, ceramics, and other products, this complex is a hub of activity that currently employs more than 10,000 Ethiopian men and women even though it is still in the budding stages.
The possibilities for economic development and benefits are limitless, that is if one is to envision what scale it will be operating on upon its completion.

The words we had shared the previous day were given sure evidence that they were not just empty talk; The People’s Republic of China is committed to helping Africa out of poverty, and unlike what has been seen in the past, the commitment is not based on fickle talk but is of a form that says, “wake up and do it . . . be “hands on” when it comes to economic development.”

H.E. Shu Zhan told thepost that the people have the wisdom, so granting them the freedom to express their ideas and the opinions when it comes to the making of strategy that will lift them out of poverty really means that they can contribute positively to the process of getting Up and Out of Poverty as said by the title of H.E. Xi Jinping’s book.

The book has given me a different perspective in the first four readings, but it is now clearer after the return from the forum in Addis Ababa; the city of many contrasts, and the hub of Africa.

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