|Africa: China's Experience, Not Western Model, Good for Africa - Scholars|
By Eric Didier Karinganire, 7 January 2013
With African countries making great strides in building their economies, they should find solutions for their problems in their own way, as China has been doing, advised Sir David King, the director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford.
According to King, Africa has its specific challenges, for instance related to its particular weather system. "You have more variable weather in Africa than in other parts of the world," King observed. "So energy and agriculture is going to be a challenge, and we have to focus on that."
Desertification spreading from north to the center and from the south to the center is also a massive problem that will serious impact on water supply, the climate change specialist noted recently during an international conference focusing on "Inclusive governance, prosperity and dignity for our people."
Therefore, scholars argued that Africa should stop its old practice of 'copying and pasting' from the western world as it has been for many years, but with no success. "We copy and paste what was done in the past and we do it so badly," was the candid analysis of Jenerali Ulimwengu, a political commentator and a civil society activist based in Dar es Salaam.
"We are called upon to revisit ourselves and first of all define who we are as we are seated here in our suits and ties like caricatures of somebody else," he said, suggesting that Africans need to go back to their traditional culture to examine and interrogate their current governance systems.
Ulimwengu suggested that they should take Rwanda's approach as it did in the justice system with the introduction of Gacaca courts, for instance. It's not even an issue of money, he added, but an issue of taking time to sit and think to see what is working or not working and then look for alternatives. "It's a problem here in Africa that we do not take time to think. That's why we have a lot of PhDs in history, but no historians; many PhDs in physics, but no physicists," he noted.
In this move, human resource development was highlighted as a priority. And China was taken as the successful experience that is imposing itself on the globe by using its own innovations. "What we see is that China is more aware than any country of the current problem of human resources," David King pointed out, referring to the recent change in China's leadership that has also seen a change in the constitution which recognizes the importance of human resources.
Reservoir of human resources
China, with its 1.3 billion population, recently developed a human resource policy that considers that the country's huge population as "a vast reservoir of human resources," and "actively developing human resources, bringing into full play the potential ability and value of each individual and promoting the people's all-round development" as a significant aim.
A nine-year compulsory education was made universal throughout the country in 2000, and illiteracy among people between the ages of 20 and 50 was basically eliminated, according to the white paper containing the policy.
The paper says "people having professional knowledge or special skills who contribute to society through creative work are highly regarded in China."
The average disposable income of urban residents increased from less than 100 Yuan in 1949 to 15,781 Yuan in 2008, and the average net income of rural residents increased from 44 Yuan in 1949 to 4,761 Yuan in 2008.
China has established a human resources development legal system based on the Constitution, including the Labor Law, the Civil Servant Law, the Labor Contract Law, the Employment Promotion Law and the Law on Mediation and Arbitration of Labor Disputes.
Making employment promotion a top priority, China strives to help urban and rural workers enhance their overall qualities and gradually expands employment. From 2005 to 2009, more than 50 million new jobs were offered in cities, and nearly 45 million surplus rural workers were transferred to non-agricultural sectors.
'Century for Africa'
"I believe that this the direction that Africa can also take as it moves forward," King suggested, adding that it is the right time for Africa to prove its potential by taking advantage of its magnitude resources to overcome its challenges.
"Africa does have challenges, but also vast resources that the rest of the world can be hungry of," he said, adding that the continent possesses both huge mineral and human resources.
"This is the century for Africa," he confidently observed.
On the one hand, King's confidence about the continent has good reasons due to fact that 8 out of the 20 fastest growing economies in 2011 were African, a trend, he remarked, that will continue for some time.
On the other side, it has been noted that some African countries have been doing well in terms of capacity building and poverty reduction. Berhane Gebre-Christos, Ethiopia's State Minister for Foreign Affairs, said his country recorded a remarkable progress in economic development by reducing poverty from 53% to 29% during the last nine years, and planning to reduce it to 19% by 2015. Public higher learning institutions also increased from two in 1991 to 31 hosting around 20 million students.
Rwanda for its part moved from one university in 1994 to 29 today, and progressed from 2000 degrees issued during its first 40 years of independence to 50,000 over the last 18 years.
The reason why Africa should take advantage of its available resources to go further is because the West and Japan have stagnated at this point of time, King noted. "Africa shouldn't imitate the development of the west," he pointed out. "Africa should show the rest of the world the way forward and I believe that it can do that."