Enhanced China-Africa cooperation to spur manufacturing, improve response to COVID-19
In an unprecedented virtual forum hosted by the Africa Policy Institute in Nairobi on Tuesday in collaboration with the Chinese Embassy to Kenya, experts drawn from across the African continent and China called for enhanced China-Africa Cooperation to spur manufacturing and improve the response to COVID-19.
In their submissions, experts drawn from various African countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya were joined by their counterparts from China to stress the importance of manufacturing as a great catalyst for lifting Africa out of poverty and a source of great potential for fruitful cooperation.
While welcoming the delegates to the virtual conference that will conclude on Wednesday, Peter Kagwanja, the Chief Executive Officer of the Africa Policy Institute, said the forum could not come at a better time because the coronavirus pandemic has slowed down Africa's manufacturing sector with restrictions to curb the virus.
"Africa and China need to scale up their cooperation in industrialization and manufacturing as a necessary step towards a post-COVID-19 recovery agenda. As a result of the pandemic, more than 70 percent of the working-age population in Africa has been left with no job security or are unemployed, pushing the poverty rate higher," Kagwanja said.
In this regard, Kagwanja said the 40 African and 15 Chinese policymakers, diplomats and scholars who will present at the two-day virtual conference will explore innovative ways to boost China-Africa industrial cooperation and hasten the post-COVID-19 recovery.
Echoing Kagwanja's sentiments, Zhao Xiyuan, charge d'affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, said COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for robust China-Africa cooperation to fight the disease and restore livelihoods through improving manufacturing. Zhao added with globally imposed restrictions on passenger and cargo transportation, both exports and imports between China and Africa have been heavily disrupted.
"The Chinese government has dedicated their resources to Africa, because we believe Africa has massive potential and we want to be part of making that history," Zhao said. "History has proved isolation cannot bring progress, and cooperation is key to development. Hence, we must unite to defeat the virus and revive our economies."
Zhao added China's Belt and Road Initiative can assist in Africa's post-pandemic industrial recovery, noting China has stood with Africa through the pandemic by sharing its anti-COVID-19 experience with African countries by sending expert groups, holding video conferences, training local medical staff and helping to draw up preventive plans.
Giving his expertise on the opportunities and challenges facing China-Africa cooperation in manufacturing, Chinese scholar Liu Dong called for increased cooperation in developing Africa's infrastructure, as this will increase the continent's capacity to explore its resources.
"Hard infrastructure, including highways, port facilities, airports, telecommunication systems, electricity grids and other public utilities, is important for manufacturing development in Africa.
For Chinese investors in Africa, transaction costs are a setback because of higher costs of infrastructure services like transport and energy, which make up a disproportionately large part of production and trade costs," Liu said.
According to David Monyae, a South African scholar, cooperation between China and Africa should also place more emphasis on technological transfers, since technology is one of the best ways to make Africa's manufacturing competitive on a global level.
"As a continent we are not on the same page in terms of technological advancement, which is a critical component in improving Africa's manufacturing," Monyae said. "There is uneven development in technology among African countries, especially in the agricultural sector, and we have learned from China you cannot develop the manufacturing sector without developing agriculture."