Diversity, infrastructure will shape new Sino-African relations

By Mark Kapchanga Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2013-4-2 22:36:21

Africa is at the epicenter of global attention recently as leaders from Brazil, Russia, China and India converged in South Africa in late March to strike a deal on their integration and industrialization.

The five emerging economies sought to deepen political and entrepreneurial operations at the fifth BRICS Summit in Durban.

The bloc, which represents almost 3 billion people and has a combined GDP of over $14.9 trillion, wields significant influence on regional and global affairs. These nations are continuously seen as promoters of weak economies.

The coming to Africa of newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping cemented the development agenda for the continent. Xi visited Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo as part of his first overseas trip.

For the top Chinese leadership, it is important to review the experiences of Chinese firms in Africa and explore critical avenues for achieving sustainable development.China seems to be focused on playing the tunes of locals to maintain its grip in Africa. For Chinese firms to benefit from Xi's visit to Africa, they need to comply with local laws, respect traditional customs, improve labor conditions, and protect the environment.

The president's arrival is a demonstration that China could be heading back to the Beijing Declaration of 2006. This document stated that Sino-African relations should be based on political equality and economic cooperation. China further promised that it would restrain itself from any harmful societal and political influences while engaging Africa.

There is no doubt that China-African relation has reached a "golden period." But as stated in Xi's speech, the concerted efforts of both sides are needed to help each other achieve the "Chinese dream" and the "African dream."

Today, China has been Africa's largest trading partner. Business between the two continents grew from about $10 billion in 2000 to around $200 billion last year. As at April 2012, China's accumulative investment in Africa had reached $15.3 billion.Beijing has helped unlock huge opportunities in the continent. It has built roads, power plants, railways, ports and airports.

The rehabilitation of the 1,344-kilometer Benguela railway line connecting Angola with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia has spiked intra-Africa trade. Beijing is set to build a railway line linking Ethiopia and Djibouti at a cost of $1.5 billion. The 360-kilometer line will transport passengers and freight along a route to neighboring Djibouti.

But the expanded infrastructure also calls for Africa to diversify its economies. It should move away from supplying unprocessed natural resources to China. This will make it less prone to global commodity prices volatilities. In addition, Africa needs to encourage Chinese investment into more labor-intensive sectors to absorb its fast growing population.

The author is a journalist on African issues based in Nairobi, Kenya. mkapchanga@gmail.com



Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus