Tuesday,April 23,2019 13:24 PM

Can Africa learn from China?

By David Mukholi

Added 9th November 2018 07:35 PM

As the Shanghai expo was opening, somewhere in the centre of Beijing, a seminar sponsored by the Chinese ministry of commerce was closing.

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As the Shanghai expo was opening, somewhere in the centre of Beijing, a seminar sponsored by the Chinese ministry of commerce was closing.


China is becoming a number one destinations for many. Some are travelling there for business, others to pick lessons from the country’s miraculous transformation from poverty to prosperity and tourists are not missing out.

So, China is busy receiving and sending off delegation after delegation, which include Africans. Last week, Beijing hosted an International Forum on Reform and Opening-up and Poverty Reduction in China drawing hundreds of participants from across the world.

This week, a big expo opened in Shanghai for the world to find opportunities in China. Having been a big producer or factory, for the world, China is now focusing on becoming a global market too. With its population of about 1.4 billion people, who are progressively getting out to poverty in millions, China is a big consumer market that any producer would like to sell to.

As the Shanghai expo was opening, somewhere in the centre of Beijing, a seminar sponsored by the Chinese ministry of commerce was closing. Organised by the state’s China International Publishing Group, the seminar had 33 journalists and non-journalists from six African countries.

Uganda, South Sudan, Ghana and Gambia delegations had journalists only. While Ethiopia had some non-journalists and Liberia had the ministry of information, cultural affairs officials including two assistant ministers. For three weeks, they listened, saw and read China’s transformation story.

It is a momentous journey from abject poverty to prosperity. In the 1960s and 1970s, China was economically worse off than most African countries. And also it was reclusive, closed to the world as the population lived in pathetic economic conditions. Ironically, it is during this period that the foundation for China’s success today was laid.

It is evident China is determined to lift its population out of poverty. It has targets of lifting nearly one million people out of poverty every month. The people, party and the government are moving in the same direction to achieve the task. The longevity of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) also spells consistence of mission, policy and programmes is a big factor.

In Africa, the unity of purpose to anchor development decisions and programmes is lacking and sometimes lost in politics. Political actors are pulling in different directions. Take for instance Ghana, acclaimed as a democratic success for changing governments at nearly every election.

But it has resulted in reversal or abrogation of previous government’s programmes, constricting development. In the Gambia, the newly elected Adams Barrow is expected to do miracles after the turbulent reign of Yaya Jammeh. Instead of patience and providing support, hardly a year in power the opposition has branded him incompetent and want him out.

In South Sudan, power struggles have resulted into war inhibited development. Its neighbour, Ethiopia is just coming out of political unrest that affected service delivery improvement projects. Uganda is no different, the Opposition is all out to get power and implement its programmes, which certainly means making significant changes or starting afresh. China is different.

People are hardworking and not preoccupied by politics. Power struggles, protest against government and its programmes and schemes to undermine them are absent. Even, some regions with people living under poverty are calm, patiently waiting to be lifted out of poverty.

By 2012, some 300 million people had been lifted out of poverty. Today the number has grown to more than 700 million. The strong CPC leadership is key in this effort, using the targeted poverty alleviation approach, which entails a programme tailored to local conditions of an area. The 33 Africans visited some poverty stricken areas in the mountainous Guizhou Province.

Not only does the terrain affect service delivery, but also hinders access to the market and so confines the population to subsistence production. In response, the government is relocating the people, putting up modern houses for them near urban centres, giving them skills and starting schools, especially vocational in Qianxi County, Bijie City. Relocation has given people a new life.

Previously living in squalid conditions, they are now in furnished apartments. Here they have access to social services – health and education. With the skills given, each member of the household finds a job to support the family. But they are also keeping the piece of land on which they previously lived and continue growing crops.

With the construction boom in Guizhou many have found jobs. Another example of the targeted approach to alleviate poverty is in Taoba, Meitan County, previously farmers produced corn, but government guided them to turn to tea. They plant and market it jointly with Uganda and Tanzania among their market.

Their lives have changed with improved income, several of them are driving. The targeted approach means each area is unique and deserves peculiar solutions to lift its people out of poverty. Twitter:@dmukholi1

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