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A role in each other's dreams

Updated: 2014-02-21 09:55
By Li Lianxing ( China Daily Africa)

 A role in each other's dreams

Xia says China and Senegal need to think about how to contribute to each other's prosperity through understanding and trust. Li Lianxing / China Daily

China and Senegal can work together in reaching their goals, envoy says

Senegal and China have similar histories and now face the same challenge of realizing the dream of building prosperous countries, says China's ambassador to Senegal, Xia Huang.

"We have our China dream of rejuvenation and Senegal has its dream of becoming a highly successful emerging country. We both need to think about how we can contribute to each other's dreams through understanding and trust."

Xia says China, as Africa's biggest trading partner, has given much to the continent and should continue to support it with more technology and financial support through trade and business.

The relationship is also important because both face similar challenges internationally, he says.

"China has introduced the notion of win-win in talking about its relationship with Africa, stressing the importance of sharing the benefits. China's growth will also help speed up Africa's growth."

Africans have the right to be the judges of who will benefit from that growth, he says.

"Africa has a huge trade surplus with China, but things are changing, and Africa has developed greatly as the two regions have engaged in business. China has technology and financial support that it can offer Africa."

Xia dismisses claims that China is cynically exploiting Africa to get hold of its resources, saying trade in energy and natural resources between the two is small compared with similar trade with other countries who deal with Africa.

Senegalese President Macky Sall has just been in China on a three-day visit, making him the first African leader President Xi Jingping has had as a guest this year, and it underlines the importance of the China-Africa relationship, Xia says.

A role in each other's dreams

"This visit should be seen on two levels. First, the importance that China sees in its relationship with Africa. Developing countries are the foundation of China's foreign policy, and Africa is the continent with the most developing countries. Second, the growing importance of China-Senegal relations."

Africa has been the first port of call for Chinese foreign ministers every year since 1991, Xia says, and Senegal was one of the first countries that the present foreign minister, Wang Yi, visited last month.

Senegal is influential politically in Africa and has been highly active in world affairs despite its size, small population of about 13.5 million and economy, Xia says.

"If you take those factors into account, Senegal can hardly be regarded as a giant among African countries, but that has not limited its participation in sub-regional, regional and international affairs. In the political sphere it always makes itself heard, eloquently and in its own particular way."

Before being posted in Senegal, Xia was ambassador to Niger, one of the world's poorest countries and, like Senegal, a Francophone country.

When Chinese investors invest in Senegal or any other Francophone country they need to be aware of the differences between French-speaking Africa and English-speaking Africa, he says.

"I first came to work in Africa in 1990 as an interpreter for a minister and other state leaders, and have been involved in promoting the bilateral relationship for 20 years. I think our understanding and knowledge of Africa is still far from satisfactory. A lot of people tend to regard Africa as one country."

Chinese need to be aware that apart from the differences between French-speaking countries and English-speaking ones, there are huge differences between regions, he says.

"Given Africa's importance to China's development, we need to invest a lot more in research and education relating to the continent.

He cites the administrative and legal frameworks of countries, shaped by their colonial masters, as two areas in which the differences between countries can be striking.

"You have to identify their features and adopt the appropriate strategy. Anyone who does not do that in most Francophone countries is bound to fail."

That does not mean Francophone countries are neglected at a policy level, he says, but that because of a lack of media exposure and the language barriers, generally people know less about them.

"In China, people are more familiar with English and its traditions, compared with French because English has long been compulsory in schools, even at the primary level.

"Also, Chinese media and journalists find it easier to report on Anglophone countries."

To change this, a good starting point would be for news organizations to set up offices in cities such as Dakar to give Chinese more exposure to French-speaking Africa, he says.

There are relatively few Chinese, fewer than 3,000, in Senegal compared with some Anglophone African countries, and they are involved mainly in agriculture, building infrastructure, fishing and medical care.

China and Senegal re-established diplomatic ties in 2005 after a 10-year suspension because of Senegal's decision to forge diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Since the resumption of diplomatic ties, the China-Senegal relationship has progressed in leaps and bounds.

In 2012, trade was worth $846 million, 12.9 percent higher than in 2011, Xia says. China exports clothing, machinery and tea to Senegal and imports peanuts, cotton and fish. By the end of 2012, revenue generated by Chinese companies in Senegal exceeded $1.25 billion, he says.

Great stress is being placed on technology transfer and providing job training to Senegalese, Xia says.

"In the past eight years we have sent four medical teams and agricultural teams to Senegal to work with them in upgrading technology and skills."

The first Chinese medical team went to the country nearly 40 years ago, and more than 244 medical experts from Fujian province have worked in Senegal, he says.

The country aims to be self-reliant in food in the next half of this decade, a huge challenge to the country's agriculture, and China is pitching in to develop vegetable and rice-growing technology.

China, Senegal and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization signed a trilateral agreement in Rome in 2011, Xia says.

"As part of that, China sends agricultural specialists to Senegal to give skills demonstrations and run training programs, and FAO supports the programs through funds donated by China."

Chen Yingqun contributed to this story.


(China Daily Africa Weekly 02/21/2014 page38)

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