China-Africa Joint Development: Beyond Slogans

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By Moshi Israel

To understand the drive behind the concept of China-Africa joint development, one needs to know exactly what China wants from Africa and what Africa wants from its relationship with China. The cooperation between Africa and China aims to be a symbiotic relationship where benefits are shared fairly and at times equally.

The key objectives for forming alliances and partnerships among nation-states are for security and trade. Through joint development partnership, China and Africa can ensure their respective economic security because the concepts of trade and security within the framework of international partnerships and relationships often intersect. One way they intersect is through the correlation between trade and economic security. Good trade policies and practices can lead to economic security which is at a larger scale is a form of national security. A rich and successful country is secure in many ways. Joint economic partnerships ensure and insure the national security of all involved.

During the China-Africa Leader’s Dialogue in August of this year, in Johannesburg South Africa, President Xi Jinping highlighted the fact that China was steadily marching towards achieving its second centenary goal of becoming a ‘great modern socialist country in all respects that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful. He reiterated that China was pursuing its rejuvenation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. This is China’s vision for itself and by analyzing this vision, we can deduce exactly what China wants with Africa. In short, China needs a stable, developed, independent, and reliable Africa to conduct business and foster civilizational exchanges for a shared future of prosperity. China can help Africa achieve its development ambitions and Africa can help China realize its ambitions for its people and vision for a world of harmonious coexistence.

China intends to expand the global market and make it diverse and less dependent on the core countries of the Western bloc. China, itself a developing country has decided to look south for developing markets, where it can trade its products and in turn assist the development process of countries in the global south. Through BRICs+, BRI, FOCAC and other initiatives, China has consistently courted Africa and made its intentions clear. Symbolic of the deep ties between China and Africa is the elevation of relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership in 2018 during the Beijing FOCAC summit.

For this relationship to work smoothly, Africa needs to know what it wants from China and fortunately, this is increasingly clear as stipulated through Agenda 2063. It is an agenda that seeks to transform the continent into a global powerhouse of the future. Through Agenda 2063, Africa aims to deliver on its objectives for sustainable and inclusive development. The agenda is driven by the Pan-African spirit rooted in the desire for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress, and collective prosperity. Agenda 2063 is an affirmation of pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.  This pan-African vision was assented to by African leaders through the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration during the golden jubilee celebrations of the formation of the OAU/AU in May 2013. The vision imagines an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.

Under the current global political climate, Africa and China need each other. President Xi recognizes this with precise clarity and therefore has spearheaded efforts and a renewed drive by China to rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and redefine its relationship with Africa. The result should be a limitless friendship that is much more integrated and equal where both party’s interests are protected through joint efforts.

Proposed areas of collaboration include; working to safeguard a peaceful and secure global environment, building an open and inclusive world economy, and promoting an equitable and just international order. Also, China through the assurances of its president seeks to cooperate with Africa to enhance the synergy of both party’s development strategies, support Africa’s voice in the international arena, support Africa’s industrialization and Agricultural modernization, and implement a plan on China-Africa talent development.

The joint development of Africa and China will mostly rely on the initiatives proposed by the latter. These initiatives include the GDI, GSI and GCI, (Global Development Initiative, Global Security initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative) all respectively addressing the key problem areas of development deficit, security challenges and a gap in mutual learning between civilizations.

By analysing these initiatives, we can decipher that China’s partnership with Africa is not solely based on economic gains. It goes further and beyond the limitations of realpolitik. China is not focused only on practical considerations when it comes to partnership with Africa, the rationale of cooperation is also rooted in moral and ideological concepts. China and Africa consider themselves family with a bond forged through history. A past of shared suffering under colonialism, imperialism and racism binds Africa and China. The latter’s lessons of wisdom through the ‘miracle’ of unprecedented development can be an inspiration to Africa’s own renaissance.

The African Union has embraced the idea of an integrated continent through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA). A more integrated Africa is a powerful one and Beijing supports this process. It is a popular view both in Africa and China that Africa’s own path to modernisation should be an African idea with African characteristics. By pushing its own modernisation path, China indirectly shows Africa the way and it is up to the giant continent to map its own path by learning what is practical from China’s experience.

For so long, the African continent has been underestimated and under looked. Africa has experienced its own centuries of humiliation and has forever struggled to raise its head above water. However, the continent, with the help of China has changed the narrative and is back floating and ready to swim. Africa is projected to have a population of over 2.7 billion people by 2060, well above the combined populations of both India and China. In the same year the continent is projected to have a combined output of $16 trillion and a vibrant middle-class market. China on the other hand is the second largest economy in the world and has a lot of potential to be the world’s leading economy with time.

It is therefore, this potential that makes China-Africa joint development an interesting prospect. Together, a better multilateral world is a reality and a shared future for all humanity is guaranteed.

The Writer is a Senior Research Fellow with Development Watch Center.


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