China Gives Africa Hope
Africa has a significant proportion of the world’s developing countries that are in need of appropriate policies and strategies aimed at stimulating sustainable economic growth and development and reducing poverty. Although Africa has made commendable progress in meeting many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), more work needs to be done to ensure that it meets the MDGs by the target date of 2015.
Africa stands to learn from China’s experience in attaining high economic growth performance and in significantly reducing poverty among its populace. The rapid transformation of China’s economy, coupled with sustained high economic growth rates, even during the global economic and financial crisis, has made China the envy of the developed and developing countries alike. Africa needs to learn from that experience with a view to creating jobs, addressing poverty and developing resilience to economic shocks.
China’s economy is fast becoming the world’s production plant and as a result of globalization, China’s capacity to formulate appropriate and responsive policies towards private sector development leading to rapid expansion of the enterprise economy has become a decisive factor in determining high and steady economic growth, and wealth creation. At the same time, the acceleration of private enterprise development within the last decade in Africa, has been a key strategy to promoting growth and poverty reduction and attainment of the MDGs.
Recognizing the important role enterprise development has played in economic growth of African economies, the African Union has placed enterprise development high on its integration and development agenda. The land-mark decision on this was taken in January 2005 in Abuja, Nigeria, when the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government institutionalized the organization of the African Union Private Sector Forum to, among other things, bring together the private sector and key policy makers to deliberate on policies and strategies aimed at promoting private sector development in Africa.
Since this landmark decision, African Union Private Sector fora have been organized on an annual basis. In addition, the African Union Commission continues to pursue initiatives aimed at creating an enabling environment for enterprise development. It continues to do this mainly through measures aimed at strengthening African institutions and ensuring appropriate economic and development policies and strategies. Key among the measures is the drafting of a Private Sector Development Strategy and Action Plan; a Micro-Finance Policy Framework and Action Plan; the harmonization of investment policies and strategies in Africa with the aim of attracting domestic and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); the harmonization of business laws, and the organization of Africa-EU Business Forum on an annual basis since 2006.
Further, we continue to embark on supporting measures such as those aimed at mobilizing funds for relevant programmes, namely, the creation of an African Investment Bank and the development and implementation of the Minimum Integration Programme (MIP). Through the implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), we continue to pursue the development of infrastructure, a key prerequisite for ensuring competitiveness.
Enhanced partnership between Africa and China will benefit both sides. It is in this regard that the Commission, with the guidance of Member States, continues to engage China with a view to strengthening the Sino-Africa relations. Fora such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) have been critical in sharing experiences. The event organized by China-DAC Study Group in association with the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa provides another excellent patform for sharing experiences with China and also OECD-DAC Members.
It is clear that sustained partnership holds immense potential for both Africa and China. However, to achieve the desired “win-win” cooperation, Africa and China must work together to ensure that their respective interests are preserved. Furthermore, in order to realize the full potential benefits of enterprise development, Africa must endeavour to pursue enterprise development in parallel with policies that promote economic integration of the continent. Therefore, any meaningful engagement between Africa and China must be supportive of such processes.
As we all know, there is significant amount of trade and investment flows between Africa and China. Therefore, it is important to stress the need for a strong and vibrant African enterprise development to enable the continent serve as a credible partner and sustain such trade and investment in a mutually beneficial manner. In the same vein, China’s opening of its market to goods and services from Africa is also very important. Trade patterns need to be two-way to ensure an appropriate balance.
Africa, China and OECD-DAC Members ought to share lessons with each other with a view to enhancing their capacities in areas such as transfer of technology and technical skills, creation of appropriate infrastructure, support for SMEs by microfinance and linking them with markets, attracting foreign direct investment, creating jobs through rural and micro enterprises and development of institutional policies. Such engagement presents Africa, China and OECD-DAC Members an invaluable opportunity to deliberate on their development and economic challenges and to propose concrete recommendations that would promote an enabling environment towards common sustainable growth.
By Dr. Jean Ping
Chairperson, African Union Commission.
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