From KIZITO SIKUKA in Nanjing, China
SENIOR Chinese officials and scholars attending a global conference have said it is â€œunfair and deceitfulâ€ for some western countries to condemn the China-Africa partnerships, yet the same countries are actively working with China to develop their own economies.
Scholars from China and Africa are attending an International Conference on African Agriculture, Rural Development and Sino-Africa Co-operation, which opened on September 21 here.
â€œThere is something wrong with the world we live in today,â€ Prof Liu Chengfu said.
â€œChina is co-operating with virtually everyone, and when we deal with European countries or America, then the relationship is normal and ok.
â€œHowever, when we co-operate with Africa, the partnership is suddenly viewed with suspicion.â€
Prof Liu is vice director of the China Society for Africa Studies at Nanjing University.
He said despite a blooming relationship that has seen trade between Africa and China increase exponentially over the past decade, the Sino-Africa partnership continues to receive negative attention from some western countries, and Chinaâ€™s increasing engagement with Africa is often portrayed as prowling the resource-rich continent.
Yet one of the major milestones of Sino-Africa co-operation is that Africa is rapidly gaining recognition on the global market.
Furthermore, research shows that, compared to many years of African engagement with Europe and America, the Sino-Africa relations have yielded more benefits more quickly.
Prof Liu said China and Africa need to work together in addressing this misconception, perpetrated by those who â€œfeel threatenedâ€ by this blossoming relationship.
The director of the Department of African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lin Songtian concurred, saying it is sad to note that some developed countries do not want to consider Africa as an equal partner in the global market.
Rather, they want Africa to remain on the periphery as a source of raw materials and not a manufacturer of finished goods.
â€œAfrica will not be politically independent if it continues to rely on aid,â€ he said, adding that it is for this reason that China does not offer aid but is interested in fostering a win-win partnership that is based on mutual trust and respect.
He said Africa has the capacity to become a major player on the international stage, and China stands ready to assist the continent to achieve its developmental goals.
These goals can be achieved by boosting agricultural production, he said, as the sector has a greater capacity than most other industries such as tourism to be a lynchpin for socio-economic development, mainly because investment in agriculture benefit the people directly, especially poor people, of whom a significant number are farmers on the continent.
â€œAfrica is gifted with numerous resources such as land, water, good climate and labour force to feed itself,â€ said Ambassador Lin, who is a former ambassador to Liberia and Malawi.
â€œChina is willing to share experiences with Africa on how to transform its agriculture sector,â€ he said.
He urged Africa to invest more in infrastructure development, including road and rail, to ensure the smooth movement of farm produce, services and people across the region.
There is also need for the continent to increase the use of irrigation, technology and research to boost production.
Another major issue for Africa is to co-opt youths and women in agriculture development, since these make up the majority population in the region.
The International Conference on African Agriculture, Rural Development and Sino-Africa Co-operation (CAARDSAC), which runs from September 21 to 28, aims to create a platform for better communication and scholarly exchange among Chinese and African researchers.
Some 20 researchers from Africa are participating in the conference, which coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the Centre of African Studies of Nanjing University (CASNJU).
CASNJU was established in 1964 and has played an important role in promoting African studies in China. – Sardc.net.
From KIZITO SIKUKA in Nanjing, China