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China's presence in Africa conducive to the continent's economic and social transformation

2010/06/19,FOCAC Forum, Source:Xinhua News

China's growing presence in Africa represents a historic economic and social transformation for the continent, an African-led research project "China in Africa" showed.

"In regions where economic relations with China are strong, we have seen accelerated growth and improved social conditions," said Philip Idro, who has been on the project from the start as an expert in China-Africa economic relations.

The research, conducted by African experts and sponsored by Rockefeller Foundation, showed that economic cooperation with China has brought growing income, increased access to consumer goods and technology, and improved healthcare, education and infrastructure for African countries.

Another key result of the research was "Whenever China's economy grows up, African economy grows up; whenever China's economy comes down, African economy comes down. We call this the 'new coupling'," said Idro, who also served as Uganda's ambassador to China from 1999 to 2005, during a talk show with Xinhua on Monday.

"This coupling indicates that if Africa wants to develop, it has to link with China, and China must also link with African countries, not only for raw material but also many other things," he said.

Chinese businesses were not only eyeing on African natural resources, they are paving roads, building ports, schools, bridges and stadiums, setting up manufacturing factories, and laying telecommunications cables, said Idro.

"The Chinese finance, African countries are addressing infrastructure deficits, lowering the costs of doing business and facilitating trade," he said.

Such investments had created "a springboard for generating jobs in manufacturing, mining and construction in Africa, and new training and research facilities would also contribute to skills and technology transfers," the research showed.

The researchers also found the Chinese investments were helping African economies to diversify and increase the local processing of exports, and the cooperation in agriculture was contributing to increased production and productivity.

"Those differences made by China's involvement is an indication that China's approach toward developing economic relations with Africa is successful and win-win," said Idro.

"In developing economic relations with Africa, China has always had a concept of 'growth'. This is a deliberate and urgent issue in China, and it is even more so for African countries," he said.

"Europe knows we need growth, America knows we want growth, but they don' t have the same urgency, so they would like democracy and other political issues first, but we want growth first, because we believe growth would bring in democracy and peace," Idro said.

In addition, African countries can learn very important experience from China. "Take agriculture for example, African countries can take in a number of the technologies that China has adopted to boost agricultural productivity," he said.

While bringing cheaper consumer goods and better infrastructure to the African people, China's growing presence in Africa has also sparked complaints among some local people, including workers and factory owners.

"It's true that the African manufacturers are complaining because they cannot compete with their Chinese counterparts who work so hard, and the workers also fear they might lose their jobs because of cheaper Chinese goods," said Idro.

"But the numerous consumers, who previously couldn't afford to raise their livelihood because of the limited access to consumer goods, are happy. So you have to balance this out," Idro said.

For claims that "China is aspiring to be the chief taker of African resources and interested in Africa only on that account," Idro said the criticisms were unfair as "China hardly dominates Africa's oil and gas sectors."

"China's investment in Africa's oil and gas industries amounted to one-sixteenth of the total global investment in these industries," he said, citing official data from China and Africa.

And it is also worth noting that China takes oil in Africa differently than Western states: it often packages oil deals with infrastructure project loans, while developed states and international financial institutions largely abandoned African infrastructure projects from the 1970s, according to Idro' s research.

However, economic relations between China and African countries still have room for improvement, results of the "China in Africa" research project suggested.

"The African communities have not developed a strong and coherent strategy in dealing with China, while China always takes a global concept," said Idro.

The research suggested that all African countries should develop integrated national strategies for engaging Chinese actors, anchored in long-term development plans and rooted in a transformation agenda.

"The relationship between China and Africa is still very young, and all these problems can be sorted out if both sides open their minds and be honest with each other," Idro said.

Editor's Note:

The news story is based on an interview in a talk show Monday on CNC world, Xinhua's global satellite news television service.

Philip Idro, Uganda' s former ambassador to China from 1999 to 2005, participated in the talk show. Idro, as an expert on African affairs with practical firsthand knowledge, is currently serving as the advisor on the Rockefeller Foundation project in Africa through Portland Communications of London.

Global audiences can view the 20-minute talk show, China View, via Asia-Pacific Satellite-6 at 134 degrees east longitude, with parameters set as 6065 Mhz/3840 Mhz. It can also be viewed at its website,


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