Sunday, September 7, 2008

China in Africa - examples to follow?

Since my last post on China in Africa, the comments kept me investigating the development of Africa. My practical experiences on African development is from the project Bongo Camping.

So this week I went to a guest lecture at Africa Studies at Copenhagen University with Fantu Cheru, Professor and Research Director at The Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala.

Fantu Cheru has a pro-active, but not naive, perspective on the development of Africa. This lecture was on the potential benefits and risks of the evolving China-Africa relations, and what Africa could learn from the Chinese development since 1980.
I just like to submit my notes on Cheru's findings:

China in a new global system
There has been a fundamental shift in the configuration of global power. The world is upside-down and talking about first, second and third world nations no longer make sense. China was once part of the periphery but is now driving changes in the center and turning globalization in its favor by governing the market and controlling the transition to a new system. China has developed through a strategic integration between experimenting and finding unorthodox solutions and still preserving national security and independence – for instance on subjects like the interest rate and the political space. China brings about an example to rethink the way of development studies.

China in Africa
China has always been in Africa but with the the rise of the east their level of engagement has grown widely - also as part of the wider globalization plan for China.
The research on China in Africa is divided between paranoia:
The Chinese are coming! (taking Africa's oil that the West needs)
and naivety:
China is going to save Africa! (the next sexy thing after democracy and development).
But what is actually going on in the relations between China and Africa?

The Chinese Africa-strategy

China has an African policy while Africa does not have a Chinese policy. So it is a big challenge for the African countries to come together and formulate a regional approach through NEPAD.
The Chinese government strategy supports investment in Africa with:
investment promotion: offices helping Chinese investments all over Africa
bilateral agreements: double taxation treaty
interest free loans: little conditions, debt relief
intense diplomatic efforts: China-Africa cooperation forum

The tensions between the Chinese and the Africans
China has a supply chain cost advantage because of cooperation between Chinese firms (insourcing). But there is an unwillingness to subcontract to African companies which is bringing tension to the relationship between China and Africa. Also the dumping of cheap Chinese products on the African market is hard competition for the African manufacturing sector. Also culturally, the Chinese establishment of sub-societies and resistance to integration is bringing out angry African voices.
Nevertheless China has brought an opportunity and a threat to Africa – and Africa has an active role in deciding the outcome.

The hope for Africa
The African economies are too small to control international relations on their own which is why the avenue to a sustainable African growth lies in the regional integration. The African countries simply have too little negotiation power when doing bilateral agreements.

NEPAD can provide a way to deal with the world giving Africa:
- a stronger platform
- a common regional framework on industrialization
- a common framework on resource exploration
- a regional strategy
- common regulations on investment
- trade as opposed to bilateral agreements

The African leaders must push and be pushed towards these goals by a major mobilization of the people and the private sector in Africa.

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