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September 7, 2019

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Ties between China and Africa are win-win

MALAGASY farmer Georges Ranaivomanana can finally afford enough bricks to build his own house this year thanks to the growing of hybrid rice introduced by Chinese experts.

“After using hybrid rice, we no longer know famine,” the 55-year-old said, adding that the local Malagasy seeds yield 2 tons per hectare, while hybrid rice produces a harvest of 8 to 10 tons per hectare.

“If all Malagasies use hybrid rice, Madagascar will be able to export rice,” he said.

In May, the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center set up a research center in Madagascar, partnering with the country’s agriculture ministry and local companies. The Chinese experts have successfully bred a number of hybrid rice types that suit the local climate with the highest yield of 10.8 tons per hectare.

Ranaivomanana is just one of hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries from the booming cooperation between China and Africa.

It has been a year since Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed eight major initiatives at the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to elevate cooperation between the world’s largest developing country and the largest developing continent.

The eight initiatives cover various fields such as industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.

“The eight initiatives promote the integration of China’s Belt and Road construction with African development strategies with dozens of tangible programs that really bring benefits to the African people,” said Xu Jinghu, the special representative of the Chinese government on African affairs.

Fulfilling promises of cooperation

At the FOCAC summit last year, Xi announced a raft of measures to promote China-Africa cooperation.

Among them are import of more non-resource products from Africa, increased corporate investment, more direct flights, an environmental cooperation center, an African studies institute, and security programs to combat piracy and terrorism.

Xi has said that a China-Africa economic and trade expo would be held in China, and a number of economic and trade cooperation zones in Africa would be built or upgraded.

The past year witnessed China’s commitment to fulfilling those promises.

The first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo was held late June in central China’s Changsha City, with an air route to Kenyan capital Nairobi opened two weeks before the expo.

A total of 84 deals worth US$20.8 billion were reached in trade, agriculture, tourism and other fields during the three-day event, which attracted more than 10,000 guests and traders, including those from 53 African countries.

Nigeria’s Jigawa State government signed a bilateral agreement with China’s Hunan Province on the sidelines of the expo to boost the state’s capacity in rice production.

Gambo Ibrahim Aliyu, permanent secretary of the state’s Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, expressed optimism that the partnership would give Jigawa’s high-value crops more access to the Chinese market.

China has been Africa’s biggest trading partner for 10 consecutive years, with an accumulated investment of over US$110 billion. In 2018, trade volume between China and Africa amounted to US$204.2 billion, up 20 percent year on year.

In Ethiopia, people can now look forward to a better business environment and new opportunities with the Chinese-built Dire Dawa Industrial Park near completion.

Abdulkerim Yasin, a businessman in Ethiopia’s eastern city of Dire Dawa, is hopeful that the commissioning of the industrial park will revive the business environment in the city and its surroundings.

“Presently, I’m much focused on the import sector,” Yasin said. “Once the industrial park starts operations, I am planning to commit both in the import and export sector(s) by forging partnerships (with) some of the factories that are set to start production inside the park.”

Drawing on China’s development experience, Ethiopia plans to have 15 industrial parks, mostly built by Chinese companies and with Chinese technology.

According to figures from the Ethiopia Investment Commission, Ethiopia has earned US$142 million in exports from Chinese-built industrial parks during the 2018-2019 Ethiopian fiscal year, up 50 percent year-on-year.

Promoting digital commerce

In a week, 18-year-old high school graduate Mike Manzi from Rwanda will start his new life at the Alibaba Business College in Hangzhou.

Manzi is one of 30 Rwanda students enrolled in the “International Business Cross-border E-Commerce” class. They will spend four years in Hangzhou, where the e-commerce giant Alibaba is based, studying subjects including the Internet, international trade and cross-border e-commerce.

The project is a key part of the agreement signed last year between the Rwandan government and Alibaba to build the Electronic World Trade Platform that aims to promote small and medium-sized enterprises to participate in cross-border electronic trade.

“It will help me grow in terms of business, ideas and innovations, and I will bring them (back) to Rwanda,” said Manzi.

Chinese experience has offered references and opportunities for Africa’s development and prosperity, observers have said.

In Namibia, Basil Karedzera, a clearing and forwarding agent in the city of Walvis Bay who handles vehicles bound for landlocked countries like Botswana and Zambia, said a new Chinese-built port terminal, with a carrying capacity of some 750,000 containers, is going to make business transactions smoother.

“The container terminal with larger carrying capacity will now ensure that our goods will not immediately be sent to privately owned storage facilities which often charged us an arm and a leg for storage fees,” he said.

The new port terminal, constructed by China Harbor Engineering Company, also features a cruise liner berth which is expected to drive tourism.

Putting infrastructure at the core, the Belt and Road Initiative is a new driver of development from which Africa stands to benefit, said Richard Todwong, deputy secretary general of Uganda’s National Resistance Movement.

China has constructed key transport and energy infrastructure projects in Uganda aimed at unlocking the country’s economic potential.

“China argues that development should be for everybody,” Todwong said. “When China is building dams, roads, it is powering the Ugandan economy.”

At the FOCAC summit a year ago, Xi said China and Africa have long formed a community with a shared future and will now turn that into a pacesetter for building a community for humanity.

For Nathan Ankrah, a 24-year-old Ghanaian student who recently participated in a Chinese language competition for foreign college students, China is a big part of his future plans.

“The trade between China and Africa is booming and it is a win-win situation,” said Ankrah.


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