Evaluating China's FOCAC commitments to Africa and mapping the way ahead

Hon, Tracy ; Jansson, Johanna ; Shelton, Garth ; Liu, Haifang ; Burke, Christopher ; Kiala, Carine (Stellenbosch University. Centre for Chinese Studies, 2010-01)

A report by the Centre for Chinese Studies prepared for the Rockefeller Foundation, January 2010

The original publication is available at http://www.sun.ac.za/ccs

Article

This report investigates emerging trends, opportunities and challenges in China‟s engagement with five African countries through FOCAC, namely Angola, the DRC, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda. The report also outlines China‟s interaction with two African regional organisations; the EAC and SADC. Fieldwork for the study was carried out from January to August 2009. The aim of the research was to provide African stakeholders with accurate information and commentary on the implementation of the commitments made at the 2006 Beijing FOCAC summit in order to improve their preparedness ahead of FOCAC 2009. Based on the field research observations, country specific recommendations are provided seeking to improve the developmental benefits of each country‟s relations with China. Overall, the implementation of the Beijing Action Plan in the five countries is fairly advanced. In Angola, focus has been placed on communications infrastructure. In Sino-Congolese relations, road infrastructure and ICT are the areas which have received the most attention. In the case of Mozambique, the construction of public facilities has been the salient feature. Communications infrastructure and public facilities has been the most important characteristic of Sino-Tanzanian relations. In Uganda, focus has been on the construction of public facilities and an ICT backbone. Regarding China‟s engagement with the EAC and SADC, it is noted that there has been very little formal engagement to date. It was suggested by officials of the two Secretariats that engagement with China would be greatly beneficial to the development of the two regions respectively. In the concluding analysis, six issues are identified as pivotal to whether or not Sino-African relations post the 2009 FOCAC meeting will be beneficial for Africa‟s peoples. The most important issue pertains to employment equity in the African countries, notably the recruitment of local workers, labour rights and skills development. Second, it is imperative that Sino-African MSME joint ventures be established in order to build African capacity and ensure technology transfer. Third, the language barrier is a major challenge across the board and it must therefore be ensured that Mandarin language training gain significant traction in African countries. Fourth, coordination between the relevant African government departments and the Chinese Embassy should be improved and it is suggested that this could be done by means of appointing China coordinators in key African government departments. Fifth, it is recommended that African civil society be included to a greater extent in consultations between African leaders and Chinese government- and company representatives in order to prevent a popular backlash against the Chinese presence in Africa. Lastly, it is recommended that African countries should require that a greater share, if not all, of the building material used to construct buildings donated by the Chinese government should be sourced in African economies. It is anticipated that this approach, even if it implies that fewer buildings will be implemented, will generate greater developmental synergies in African countries. It is believed that these six issues should be taken into account by all African leaders in order to pave the way for a new Sino-African partnership, beneficial to all Africans.

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