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China is the best partner of Africa
2013-06-14
Brief:In the last decade, China's investment in Africa by the world's second-largest economy has surged to $2.9 billion from $75 million.China overtook the US in 2009 to become Africa's largest trading partner. Trade between China and Africa was $10.5 billion in 2000, $40 billion in 2005 and $166 billion in 2011.
Mthuli Ncube, chief economist and vice-president of the African Development Bank, said China is probably the best partner Africa can have now. "But Africa needs to step up and develop a strategy for engaging China, so both regions can move higher," he added.
 
Robert Rotberg, a visiting Fulbright scholar at Canada-based Centre for International Governance Innovation, says while China's investment in Africa has a positive impact, African countries need to "diversify to best use Chinese cash inflows".
 
"It [Africa] needs to develop manufacturing and others; China can offer to transfer knowledge," said Rotberg.
 
Ncube says that while China is increasing its investment in Africa, the continent should develop a strategy for China and use China as its example in many areas. The chief economist says Africa's manufacturing sector should begin to make different parts for various final goods which are produced in China. Ncube recommends that Africa should see China as a "ladder" which it can climb to reposition its role in the global economy. "Africa should become the factory to the world just like China became one in the last 15-20 years," says Ncube.
 
Ranaweera says China's current investments in Africa mirror exactly the same pattern of American and European investments on the continent, with the bulk of Chinese investment in minerals and natural resources (oil and gas, mining, forestry)."
 
And the criticism of China comes from competitive concerns of Americans and Europeans, he says. "Americans and Europeans criticize China, but the pattern of trade is exactly the same; Africa provides primary commodities to America, Europe and China," he said.
 
China overtook the US in 2009 to become Africa's largest trading partner. Trade between China and Africa was $10.5 billion in 2000, $40 billion in 2005 and $166 billion in 2011.
 
"China has had the experience in the last 35 years of going from a low industrial base to an advanced industrial country. This experience can prove invaluable to African countries," says Ranaweera. "These experiences can lead greatly to increasing the skills, knowledge and experience base of African countries."
 
In late March, China's new president Xi Jinping kicked off his first foreign trip since taking office less than two weeks before. The trip included a six-day Africa tour in Tanzania, the Republic of Congo and South Africa where he attended the 5th BRICS Leaders Summit in Durban. His trip to Africa showed how much importance China attaches to extending ties with the continent in the coming years.
 
Xi was the first Chinese head of state to visit the Republic of the Congo since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1964. Two-way trade between China and the Republic of the Congo jumped to $5 billion in 2012 from $290 million in 2002.
 
In a speech in Dar es Salaam, the seaside economic hub of Tanzania, Xi set the tone for the future of Sino-African relations, reassuring that China's own growth and rising international stature will not change the bilateral relations, and "the importance of Sino-African relations will not decline, but will instead rise."
 
China faces up to the new circumstances and new problems in Sino-African relations, the Chinese leader told the audience. "China has and will continue to work alongside African countries to take practical measures to appropriately solve problems in trade and economic cooperation so that African countries gain more from that cooperation."
 
Xi reassured continuing investment from China by announcing a plan to provide training for 30,000 Africans over the next three years, including 18,000 scholarships.
 
Xi also said China will strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with African countries in agricultural, manufacturing and other areas, helping these countries convert their resource advantages into developmental advantages.
 
Xi's pledge for "never-ending support for Africa" at the BRICS summit is not surprising, given the history of Sino-African relations, says Jon Taylor, a political science professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.
 
"To be frank, China differs from the US and Europe by providing more infrastructure construction and investment in exchange for development, with an eye on trade relations. With such strong economic ties, it should come as little surprise that China's development model is viewed by African leaders as viable as the Western development model," says Taylor, an avid China watcher.

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