South Africa ideal partner for trilateral development

By Song Wei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/5 23:46:32

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

With the expansion and upgrading of Sino-Africa cooperation, strengthening trilateral development cooperation with South Africa will not only help China improve its image in Africa and promote localization of aid projects, but will also facilitate the participation by BRICS countries in aid programs in the continent.

By the standards of the OECD, South Africa is an emerging donor. Meanwhile, as one of the BRICS countries, South Africa is also the largest aid donor in Africa. Statistics from South Africa's Ministry of Finance show that the foreign aid funds the country provides annually have been maintained at more than 500 million rand ($38 million) over the past five years. Given the fact that South Africa's aid has mainly flowed into other African countries and that there have been rising expectations for Sino-African cooperation, exploring trilateral development cooperation with South Africa seems to be a useful approach for enhancing the quality and efficiency of Sino-Africa cooperation.

There are three reasons why it is highly feasible for China to carry out trilateral development cooperation with South Africa at present.

First, South Africa's foreign aid conforms with China's approach. Human resources training is the major focus of South Africa's foreign assistance. With its geographical, cultural and language advantages, the South African government has conducted human resources training programs in African countries, mainly involving cultural and information exchange, AIDS prevention and control, education, skills, production technology and social welfare, among others. In addition, the government also provides infrastructure assistance and emergency humanitarian assistance.

Second, South Africa holds a positive attitude toward trilateral development cooperation. Since 2000, South Africa has cooperated with 15 traditional donor countries, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Germany, France and the UK, to implement development aid projects in Africa. In recent years, it has also actively carried out trilateral cooperation with India, Brazil, Vietnam and other emerging donor countries.

Third, the coordination costs of trilateral cooperation are relatively low for China and South Africa. At present, the main factor that restricts trilateral cooperation is the high coordination costs among the three parties involved. Yet the coordination mechanism among BRICS countries has lowered the cost of negotiations between China and South Africa. Moreover, the New Development Bank (NDB) has also been a great lubricant for trilateral cooperation. According to the Fortaleza Declaration at the 6th BRICS summit in 2014, the NDB aims to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging and developing economies.

As such, China may strengthen trilateral development cooperation with South Africa in the following areas.

The first would be to enhance policy exchanges. According to the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF) Strategic Plan 2015-2020 drawn up by the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa's assistance will still focus on Africa. There are five strategic objectives: cooperation between South Africa and other countries, in particular African countries; promotion of democracy and good governance; prevention and resolution of conflict; socio-economic development and integration; and humanitarian assistance and human resource development. China could, based on its own priorities of aid to Africa, conduct policy exchanges and coordination with South Africa to identify areas of cooperation and mutual interest.

Second, management coordination could be promoted. An ARF Advisory Committee has been established to manage development cooperation projects for the fund. Any project proposal involving the usage of ARF must be submitted to the Advisory Committee for approval. Only after being approved by the committee can the proposal be submitted to the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation and the Ministry of Finance. China's foreign aid authorities could strengthen communication with the committee, jointly designing and managing trilateral cooperation projects so as to promote the sustainable operation of aid projects in Africa and thus enhance the endogenous development ability of African recipient countries.

Third, cooperation on carrying out assessments is needed. There is a risk control committee under the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, which consists of independent experts and senior officials. The committee is responsible for assessing the risks of implementing aid projects and making recommendations to the audit department. China's foreign aid authorities could establish a long-term contact mechanism with the committee. A joint expert team could be established to conduct medium and final assessments of the South Africa-China-Africa trilateral development cooperation and share improvement views among the three parties.

The author is an associate researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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