By Hisham AbuBakr Metwally | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-02 07:15
Even decades after throwing off the shackles of colonialism and gaining independence, African countries have not been able to beat the cycle of poverty. World Bank reports say 23 of the 28 poorest countries in the world are in Africa. And the number of Africans who earn less than $1.9 dollars a day, the World Bank’s international poverty line, is about 400 million, or about 30 percent of the total population of the African continent.
Amid all these bleak facts, China-Africa cooperation comes as a ray of hope.
China helped establish the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000. Since then China has been announcing every three years the funding for vital projects in African countries, which started with $1 billion and increased to $60 billion in 2018.
President Xi Jinping has proposed 10 development and eight support plans for Africa, which include large infrastructure projects, and cooperation across sectors including science and technology, education and culture, healthcare and tourism, peace and security, and the fight against poverty.
The FOCAC mechanism is certainly a quantum leap in cooperation between Africa and China and represents a new paradigm in fruitful cooperation. And it has the potential to help African countries emerge out of poverty and move toward sustainable development.
The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative has been endorsed by 37 African countries so far, as it is aimed at improving infrastructure connectivity between Asia, Europe and Africa. Also, the initiative offers a golden opportunity to African countries to expand their foreign trade and attract more foreign investment and technologies, which will help them to build and/or improve ports, airports, railways and roadways and thus boost their economies.
The African continent has relied on the export of natural resources for their economic development, and without China’s rising demand for these resources, they would not have been able to sell them at prices higher than those offered by many of the Western countries, which believe in controlling the prices.
Therefore, China’s demand for their natural resources has achieved two strategic goals for the African countries: getting higher prices for their natural resources and maintaining constant supply of such products. African countries have benefited from China in other ways too.
China’s Government Work Report this year said the government would create more than 11 million new urban jobs and lift over 10 million people out of extreme poverty in 2019. China’s measures to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020 contain many lessons for African countries. Reform and opening-up, good governance, the fight against corruption, and the urbanization drive are among the many policies that have helped China launch a successful campaign to eradicate poverty. These policies can be used as examples by African countries to devise their own anti-poverty measures and economic development models.
President Xi has said that in order to eradicate poverty, it is important to adhere to four principles: shaking off any poverty mentality, adopting developmental measures suitable to local conditions, showing strong leadership and coordination, and avoiding investing in grandiose projects just because they might be popular. China’s investment in a wide range of sectors has helped to diversify economic development in African countries, increased their capacity for independent development, and improved their competitiveness in global trade.
By encouraging its enterprises to invest in Africa in fields such as manufacturing, agriculture, mining, construction, finance and real estate, China has also encouraged investors from across the world to invest in Africa.
It is therefore axiomatic that China has contributed in an unprecedented way to eradicating poverty in African countries as well.
The author is a researcher in economics at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry. The views don’t necessarily represent those of China Daily.