Academics help shape multitude of dreams
Source: The Africa Daily
Think tanks forums provide the best avenue for exchanges between scholars from two sides.
The China-Africa Think Tanks Forum is an initiative launched by Zhejiang Normal University in 2011 to create a shared platform for dialogue and exchanges between Chinese and African think tanks. The Institute of African Studies and the China-Africa International Business School at the Zhejiang university act as the forum's standing secretariat.
With Zhejiang Normal University as its host, the think tanks forum is organized under the auspices of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. The cooperation forum's Beijing Action Plan (2013-15) calls for 100 academic research, exchange and cooperation programs of Chinese and African institutions and scholars to be sponsored over the next three years, and for the China-Africa Think Tanks 10+10 Partnership Plan to be implemented by selecting 10 think tanks from China and 10 think tanks from African countries to establish long-term paired cooperation relationships.
The last three think tank forums have brought together officials, think tank representatives, scholars, entrepreneurs and media from China, Africa and elsewhere to discuss Sino-African relations, particularly Africa's development issues, in an effort to generate analyses and policy recommendations for the betterment of the evolving Sino-African relationship.
The first and second meetings were held in Hangzhou and Addis Ababa respectively, and the third meeting was held in Beijing over two days from Oct 21. The meeting launched the 10+10 Partnership Plan and was co-hosted by Zhejiang Normal University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Under the theme "Upgrading Sino-African Relations and Constructing Chinese and African Soft Power", the forum had three sub-topics: Upgrading Sino-African Relations: Dynamics, Directions and Measures; Soft Power for Development: To build Chinese and African shared values; African studies in China and Chinese studies in Africa: Cooperation and Innovation.
The growing interest by scholars in Sino-Africa relations has been phenomenal, particularly over the past decade. However, the academic space has been rather skewed with non-African and non-Chinese scholars being dominant, thereby sometimes reinforcing stereotypes that are skeptical of China's motivation in Africa. The undertones from these academic circles sometime convey Western unease about the emergence of China and Africa in the global economy.
The think tanks comprised of authoritative academic research institutions in China and Africa are likely to change the way things are done and provide research and policy analysis more palatable to both Africa and China.
The think tanks forum has created a new pattern of academic interaction between the academia of China and Africa and, institutionalized, will provide a stable basis on which to nurture the long-term relationship between academics on both sides.
China-Africa relations are assuming greater importance internationally, and they are likely to be numerous challenges on many fronts.
As the relationship grows, the think tanks will provide academic rigor and theoretical input as solutions are sought to practical problems.
As China and Africa pursue their individual dreams, their scholars and think tanks can help the two learn from each other by drawing on their experience in governance and socio-economic development.
Many of the policy decisions in China are already informed by the country's academic institutions. There is a mechanism to meld policy analysis by scholars and the strategic thinking in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation platforms. Africa lacks a similar mechanism because academic research and government policy coexist parallel to one another most of the time. The think tank forums provide the best avenue for African scholars to engage directly with the Chinese scholars with a possibility of strongly injecting African strategic thinking into China-Africa relations.