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Close ties must continue on all levels

Updated: 2014-08-01 09:19
By Ju Yang ( China Daily Africa)

Strategic partnerships between China and Africa will offer rich opportunities to both sides

In recent years, China has increased its engagement with Africa, and growing those trade and social relations remains a priority.

But at the same time, under the impetus of Africa's own cultural institutions and civil society organizations, China has also become an increasingly attractive destination for Africans, looking to carry out international cooperation projects.

Strengthening these cultural ties through the creation of new China-Africa strategic partnerships remains important, and African organizations and think tanks have contributed significantly to the process.

China and Africa should do all they can to strengthen this growing interdependence on each other, focused on cooperation, joint ventures and mutually beneficial projects.

Given the nature of economic competition and globalization, some disagreements are inevitable along the way, but both sides should be committed to constructive dialogue through friendly consultation.

Mutual respect, and understanding each other's historical and cultural differences and backgrounds, will also help achieve constructive mutual tolerance.

Organizations such as the Beijing-Africa Center, the Foundation for International Development Africa, and the International Volunteer Organization have committed to introducing African culture to the Chinese.

In May, a special African cultural festival was held in China, involving events in 14 provinces and performers from 20 African countries.

The variety of events was huge: performing troupes, cultural lectures, a special African film week, a painting and calligraphy exhibition, book sales, concerts, and visiting artists, all brought their special skills and cultures to the country.

At the same time, African politicians, academics, artists and media professionals got together to plan further events in the future, which could continue the momentum.

African countries are eager to deepen their economic and trade cooperation with China, but joint efforts at training are also becoming popular between the two.

The ministries of education in South Africa and Angola have, for instance, funded a number of higher education and vocational programs to encourage young Africans to study in China.

Africa is arguably the world's most dynamic continent, with a growing youth population that is starting to play an increasingly important role in its economic development. Having such a young population, however, presents problems such as employment.

China is expected to transfer labor-intensive industries and skills to Africa, such as in textiles, garment, food and wood processing, building materials and machinery manufacturing.

African economic growth depends on the introduction of new production techniques to strengthen its sustainable economic development.

With that in mind, in recent years African countries have invested heavily in the creation of inward investment offices in China.

Between 2009 and last year, the number of African government and private investment agencies registered in China increased from seven to 38, promoting the interests of countries such as Malawi, Ghana, South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Angola.

Their efforts have been helped greatly by a rise in economic diversification across the continent. Two sectors pushing their case especially hard have been the tourism and the service industries.

There has been strong representation in China, for instance, from the national South African and Ethiopian tourism organizations, and from the former's flag carrier, South African Airlines.

Mauritius, the east African island state, has also been keen to promote its tourism industry, which has been boosted in recent times with significant foreign investment.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, a crop of major new industry sectors are now outperforming its more traditional economic strengths of agricultural and industrial output: telecommunications, information technology, music, online shopping, aviation and the film industry.

All of the above illustrates new kinds of opportunities are now presenting themselves in Africa, all of which offer virtually unlimited export opportunities for African countries in China.

But these and others can only be realized if efforts continue to develop and strengthen China-Africa relations and economic cooperation.

With the assistance and advice of the United Nations and other international organizations, African government agencies, trade associations, and non-governmental organizations will be able to continue offering strengthened technical and financial support to both companies wanting to look overseas, and overseas companies wanting to invest in the continent.

Achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim to improve the living standards of all Africans, is the African dream, and building stronger partnerships with China will help countries on the continent achieve them.

China, of course, sees great opportunity in Africa.

Strong, regular consultation and dialogue must continue, as the governments across the continent strive to solve what remains its most pressing issues, including poverty relief and better levels of education.

The African Union's mission in China, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, and the China-Africa Cooperation Forum co-sponsored a group of selected undergraduate and doctoral students to visit various African countries recently, such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Gabon.

The delegation brought with them books, portable teaching equipment and other materials, which they introduced to locals schools and education organizations.

Chinese corporate giants ZTE and Huawei, with the support of various civil institutions, have already hired a number of African students who had been studying in China.

These kinds of cultural, educational and industrial exchanges are perfect examples of what must be allowed to continue in years to come to ensure the two sides grow and develop their ties.

The author is a researcher at the International Cooperation Research Department, China Chamber of International Commerce.

(China Daily Africa Weekly 08/01/2014 page11)