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Fighting poverty the Chinese way

By Yuan Wu | chinawatch.cn | Updated: 2019-12-11 11:06

Poverty, hunger, and conflict are impediments to economic development. Some of the world's least-developed countries are in Africa. The continent is home to 33 of the world's 47 least-developed countries and 10 countries with the lowest per capita GDP.

According to Poverty in a Rising Africa, a report released by the World Bank on Oct 16, 2015, even after continuous growth and increasing international aid over the past 25 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty in Africa has increased by 100 million. Malnutrition, social violence and armed conflicts are primarily to blame for that.

Although statistics show Africa's poverty rate dropped from 56 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2012, the actual number of people living in extreme poverty (that is, on less than $1.9 a day) has risen from 284 million to 388 million. It poses a big challenge to Africa's stability and development.

Thanks to reform and opening-up, China has made remarkable progress in poverty reduction. In the past four decades, China has lifted about 800 million people out of poverty. By the end of 2017, the number of people living in extreme poverty had dropped to 30.46 million.

That's why African countries want to learn from China's experience. And China is actively cooperating with the African countries, helping them build infrastructure, expedite their industrialization process and boost their agricultural productivity, as well as providing medical care to establish win-win cooperation.

According to researchers at the College of William and Mary, Virginia, China's aid to Africa has been as fruitful as that from OECD countries. After two years of operation, each aid project supported by China in an African country contributes to 0.7 to 1.1 percent of its growth.

China-Africa cooperation on poverty alleviation has given rise to new governance models and concepts that can be applied to African countries according to their real conditions. China believes African countries with similar backgrounds must focus on industrialization so as to reduce poverty on a large scale. To achieve that, however, they have to remove obstacles to infrastructure building, agricultural development, human resources and development funds. China-Africa cooperation in the above-mentioned areas is emerging as a new cooperation model to reduce poverty.

China has made huge investments in Africa's infrastructure, a factor that has changed the perspectives of African as well as Western donor countries on poverty alleviation. Infrastructure is now becoming an important area of cooperation between African and other countries, as evident from the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa which was jointly established in 2005 by G8.

Over the years, with Chinese assistance, a large number of railway, port and energy, highway, light rail and other infrastructure projects have been completed in Africa. By September 2018, a total of 10,605 kilometers of railways and 4,800 km of highways had been built solely by China Railway Construction Corporation, which provided employment for more than 50,000 local people.

According to an ICA report, China is the largest source of infrastructure investment in Africa, having invested about $12 billion annually from 2011 to 2016. On top of that, to address funding problems, economic and trade cooperation zones and industrial parks have been established. The China-Africa Development Fund and Belt and Road Infrastructure Fund were set up to provide loans and financing for industry and infrastructure.

China fully respects the sovereignty of African countries. Some Western countries often take advantage of their dominance in the international aid system by imposing harsh conditions for giving aid and influencing the flow of capital. But China's economic cooperation is based on the African countries' own agenda, and with no political conditions attached.

Besides, China plans to integrate the Belt and Road Initiative with Africa's Agenda 2063 or with the development plan of each African country. At the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in 2016, it also proposed to include Africa's industrialization in the global governance agenda. As a result, in recent years, the two sides have intensified win-win cooperation on common development goals.

Apart from providing much-needed assistance to Africa, China also promotes development to reduce poverty. For a sustained poverty-alleviation drive, the key is to help strengthen people's will to defeat poverty, and that's why people in Africa's poverty-stricken areas are encouraged to learn self-development skills. China has launched a number of development programs, including industrial development programs, to help reduce poverty.

For decades, China and Africa have cooperated in many fields. Chinese enterprises and projects give priority to hiring locals so that young people can be gainfully employed and their families lifted out of poverty. Statistics show local employees account for more than 78 percent of the workforce in Chinese enterprises in Africa. In some cases, local residents account for more than 90 percent of the workforce. Some 46,000 people were hired to build the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway in Kenya and more than 11,000 people, mostly local youths, are working in the Eastern Industry Zone in Ethiopia. Long-term cooperation in the fields of social development, such as healthcare and human resources, is also underway.

China-Africa cooperation has made giant strides, partly because of the common aspiration to eliminate poverty and pursue growth, and partly because of growing dissatisfaction with inequality in the approach of other countries on development cooperation. African countries widely welcome China-Africa cooperation on poverty reduction. Africa cannot achieve economic development and poverty reduction overnight. But it is our firm belief that China and Africa will enjoy common growth and prosperity through development cooperation.

The author is an associate researcher at the China-Africa Institute, Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

The author contributed this article to China Watch exclusively. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of China Watch.

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