By: Nicholas Dweh Nimley
It will interest you to know that Africa, being one of the oldest continents recorded, is still behind when it comes to infrastructure development. The continent with abundance in natural resources is far from development in all forms (human capacity development, capital development and infrastructure development) to name a few. Despite its abundance in terms of resources, the people of Africa are still poor and remain the least developed continent.
Colonial powers from which the continent gained independence as per country have come and gone, thus leaving behind challenges than ever before. Structures put in place by these colonial powers were not sustained due to their failure to ensure that human capacity development was the hallmark to sustaining these structures.
The arrival of the People’s Republic of China was not embraced from the beginning due to the fact that many African countries still trusted and relied more on these colonial masters for developmental aid and infrastructure development. But later, China voyage on the continent soon found a way to give Africa a brighter future with hope through developmental assistance.
Few years later, Friendly China as I preferred to call them, saw a vast, but not an empty land to which their mission could have a safe touchdown, and this area became and is known as Africa, the Dark Continent. The presence of China on the continent became more visible in the late 2000s. By this time, Africans had understood the reasons for China’s intervention on the continent.
The intervention first became known with business establishment through investments in mineral development, and was later followed by diplomatic relations between the governments of China and countries on the continent.
Many Africans thought that China’s involvement or coming to the continent could not have had a huge impact, due to the fact that China was a stranger that needed more time to understand the continent and its people. Language barriers were another factor that Africans believe they needed to cope with.
While Africans were having these thoughts about understanding, Chinese investors, tourists, and diplomats were exploring the continent in all manners, seeking to help the continent the best ways they could in education, job creation and infrastructure development.
That’s why, the 2011 Nobel laureate and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson once said “the People’s Republic of China has proven to be a true friend to Liberia. At the time when we were going through our period of difficulties and nobody could come around; China was the first to come, and they brought a plane to help us. We thanked China for the friendship, and hope we continue the bond for the mutual benefit of our friendship”.
Sirleaf also said the PRC has helped the country develop in several areas ranging from agriculture, education, health and transportation.
Since the coming of China, the last two decades have recorded huge growth for the continent’s human and infrastructure developments through China Aid.
One of the many reasons that most of the young people haven’t understood the true nature of the traditional friendship and mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation between China and Africa; is due to inadequate or perhaps detailed information has not been given to Africans, especially the young Africans who wished better in every aspect for their continent and people as well.
The lack of information on the true essence of the beneficial and mutual cooperation with the People’s Republic China, has left many Africans to still have doubt about this unique partnership.
When people are doubtful or do not have clear and detailed information, speculations come about, and within less time, they could embrace the neocolonial mentality, of considering only western nations to be the best when referencing Africa in political, educational, development, and infrastructure context.
These neo colonial mentalities continue to make Africa the way it is today, with the continent considered by the same neo colonial powers to be the worst in everything they have “copied”.
Now, what appears to be ideological “clash” between that of the WEST and China is seen today in the views of Africans, especially those on the shores of the continent.
In order to address this issue of ensuring detailed information gets to the people, more awareness is needed across Africa on this partnership, from towns, to villages, and cities; let’s educate people on China-Africa cooperation and how impactful it is.
China has become the largest trading partner to Africa, and ensuring that the people of Africa understand that the existing cooperation is a win-win for both sides cannot be overemphasized.
Despite western nations bullying Africa with regard to its cooperation with China, leaders including scholars on the continent have disagreed with these assertions made.
And one of such scholars and researchers is Gyude Moore of the Center for Global Development who agrees that China’s development collaborations with Africa are giving the continent the development they have long wished to have.
Speaking to the BBC recently on China’s President Xi Jinping announced investments of at least $40bn (£30bn) in projects spanning agriculture, digital economy, climate change, industrialization, as well as one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines in donation and joint manufacturing; Moore said the more democratic a country, the closer they get to China.
“It appears counterintuitive, but the more democratic a country, the closer they get to China,” said W Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development.
“The biggest need in Africa happens to be infrastructure, and the funder to turn to in the last 20 years has been China,” he added.
While China is enhancing cooperation with Africa in areas such as digital economy, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, and environmental protection; they have never acted as a proselytizer, nor attach political strings; and never interfere in domestic affairs of African countries nor impose their will upon Africa.
The traditional friendship and mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation between China and Africa continue to witness unprecedented and tremendous changes over the last recent decade, especially on the shores of Africa.
Africans have been empowered like never before. They continue to receive the highest number of capacity building training and scholarships from China; than any other country in the world.
The traditional friendship between China and Africa is bringing out more positives in concrete and abstract terms. There are tangibles which anyone can point to with regard to friendship on a mutual basis.
There are no precondition clauses attached between China and African countries, instead mutual agreement in the spirit of coordination and cooperation is at the core.
China is winning on one hand, while Africa is also winning on the cooperation, on the other hand. These levels of cooperation are gradually transforming the face of the continent, building human resource capabilities, and enhancing infrastructure deficit.
No doubt, that more needs to be done in further strengthening the traditional friendship of the two sides. Africa’s problem is huge, because that’s how the West wants it to be, meaning that Africa shouldn’t be independently independent.
The win-win cooperation continues to see Africans being empowered with the skills needed to transform their countries, when compared to time past. With the presence of China, Africans are being made to see what real development is and the existing huge gaps in every sector that should be filled.
China foreign policy in Africa is evidence of them not interfering into other countries’ internal affairs. This policy which is more of a soft power diplomatic approach encourages dialogue and advocating for countries independence to be respected at all times.
The coming of China and its initiated “win-win cooperation” is another realization that the PRC sees great prospects in forming partnership with Africa.
It is well understood that the partnership between China and Africa could be equated to brother-sister relations, because they are sharing the little, they have with a ‘brother’ who needed more, especially with regards to development initiatives.
It is important to note that China has over the years initiated several projects on the shores of Africa which are geared towards helping and supporting their African brothers and sisters to develop their country.
Africa’s cooperation with China should also be based on the continent’s own vision for lifting its people out of poverty.
Now that China has made remarkable achievements in its fight against poverty, with nearly 700 million people being taken out of poverty; there should be a transfer of knowledge to help Africa deal with the existing threats of poverty on the continent.
African economies will not be sustained if the issue of poverty cannot be addressed, that’s why Africa needs the technical insight from China on ways its people can be taken out of poverty.
It is important for Africa and China to shift the model of exporting raw materials and to establish a complete industrial chain; where people can see more goods made by China and Africa jointly in the international market.
It’s cardinal for African countries to diversify their export base and pursue export processing in order to strengthen her economies for the successful win-win cooperation with China.
African countries have joined the Belt and Road Initiative which came from China. Reason for joining this organization according to Liberian president George Weah is to address the country’s infrastructure deficit.
While the trends of protectionism and unilateralism are rising, the Belt and Road Initiative has become the common cause of the world, especially Africa, and this is helping the continent rebalance economic globalization by making it more universally-beneficial and inclusive.
However, China Foreign Minister Wang Yi once said that “there will be no weakening in China’s support for Africa no matter how the international situation or world economy may evolve. China and Africa have a shared future and their cooperation is like mutual help between brothers”.
The Chinese State Councilor added that “just as China was Africa’s sincerest friend in its quest for national independence and liberation, so China will be Africa’s most reliable partner in speeding up industrialization and agricultural modernization, and boosting its capacity for home-grown development”.
The PRC is indeed a true friend to Africa’s Infrastructure Development due to their presence across the continent. Whether it is the China-Kenya business project that helps young people better understand wildlife conservation in the east African country, or Chinese companies’ openness in facilitating knowledge and technological transfer; which is an invaluable asset for Africa, China-Africa bonds continue to gain strength.
What distinguishes China-Africa cooperation is that China always keeps its words. China and Africa in 2015 rolled out 10 major plans to boost cooperation with Africa, and these plans which are gradually near success, cover the areas of industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.
As China responds to Africa’s needs, China-Africa cooperation is undergoing three shifts, namely from government-driven to market-driven, from trading goods to cooperation on production capacity, and from engineering contracts to capital investment and operations.
Statistics have shown that more than 1 million Chinese, most of them laborers and traders, have worked in Africa over the past decade, as Sino-African trade has increased from $10 billion in 2000 to over $300 billion.
This has also witnessed the Chinese telecoms firm Huawei Technologies to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) for the establishment of an information and communications technology (ICT) training and practicing center at the country’s oldest institution of higher learning.
From Cape Town in Southern Africa to Cairo in Northern Africa, the flag of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation is being raised high, with the world’s second largest economic power footprint being visible in every corner of the continent.
Enhancing the traditional and mutually beneficial friendship also requires that both sides should make huge strides in addressing the language barriers to further cement the partnership.
Doing so is the one of the best ways to solidify this friendship between the two sides.
Moreover, the establishment of the Confucius Institute is laudable, but could efforts be placed more at programs at primary school levels where Africans from kindergarten will start learning the Chinese language as one of the options in having a second language?
Can authorities on both sides see the importance of having this done either in the medium or longer term? Besides, it is important that the China-Africa research institute serve as a hub to capture brilliant talents, and professionals from across the continent in order to ensure inclusiveness.
There’s a need to put all efforts to sustain this cooperation for generations coming after us, and this can basically be done through continuous collaboration between both sides, improving economic and bilateral exchanges, and regular consultation, and dialogues.
As Africans, we know exactly what we have been through, and we shouldn’t allow anything to get into our way of not having a stronger and mutual cooperation with China. Instead of giving us small “fishes”, we have been taught by China to catch bigger “fishes”, and this is what matters if Africa should be a continent of new ideas and new thoughts.
About the author: Nicholas Dweh Nimley is a writer, journalist and a researcher on China-Africa bilateral and multilateral cooperation. He resides in Liberia and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org +231 (0)886586433/776586433. He’s also a full member of the Press Union of Liberia, Full Member, Sports Writers Association of Liberia, Senior Fellow of China Africa Press Centre, and Chief Editor at the New Covenant Outreach Ministries Online Television.