社科网首页|客户端|官方微博|报刊投稿|邮箱 中国社会科学网

Monica Mpambawashe: Active engagement key to unlocking value in Focac

Date:07/23/2019

  Monica Mpambawashe

        Sino-Africa relations are a topical discussion point, not just for the nations involved and their citizenry, but for the world at large.

  The announcement by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2018 of another three-year US$60 billion Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) package for Africa — which matches a similar offer in 2015 — set off another flurry of analyses and predictions.

  The key question asked is: what does China want from Africa?

  Answers from most who venture their opinion are mixed with phrases like dumping ground, neo-colonialism and exploitation featuring frequently.

  Zimbabwe, like most of Africa, is used to a Western patronage system, whereby aid money and trade concessions are doled out within a rigid guideline framework.

  There is a carrot-and-stick approach in which African nations receive a set of dos and don’ts and are rewarded for compliance or punished for failing to sing from the hymn book.

  Most Zimbabweans by now understand the capricious nature of sanctions, which are arbitrarily imposed on some nations for alleged crimes, while others — with worse track records — are not placed under the same embargoes.

  Therefore, it is not surprising that a seemingly no-strings-attached offer for financial development from China sounds too good to be true.

  There must be a hidden motive, the conclusion is reached.

  In Zimbabwe, general public opinion of the friendship between Harare and Beijing reflects that broader perspective.

  At a time when the ordinary person on the street is facing stiff economic challenges, it is forgiveable for people to ask just what it is that the friendship with China has brought to Zimbabwe.

  I will start off by answering that question in a simplistic manner by listing some tangible benefits of Sino-Zim friendship for ordinary people over the past decade below:

   Education: Zimbabwe-China Friendship High School in Epworth built at a cost of US$2 million is just one of several schools that China has built in Zimbabwe over the past five years. Hundreds of Zimbabwean students have received full scholarships to study in China.

   Health: China has built several health institutions, including the US$6 million China-Zimbabwe Friendship Hospital in Mahusekwa

   Aid: China donated 19 000 tonnes of rice worth US$24,6 million during the 2016 drought period and stepped in with assistance for those affected by Tugwi -Mukosi flooding, as well as in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

   Power: Kariba South Hydro Station worth US$533 million, which added a crucial 300 megawatts to the national grid. Current acute power shortages are because that enhanced capacity has been nullified by low water levels at Kariba Dam.

  There is no doubt that China has been a good friend to Zimbabwe.

  This same story can be told in different settings in Africa.

  But that is not enough to dismiss the genuine concerns raised by those wary of the association.

  In any good friendship, honesty, accountability and transparency are key pillars.

  Which is where as Zimbabweans, and indeed Africans, we need to step forward and actively participate in Focac discussions.

  Simply because this is something that we cannot ignore.

  Even the US is now turning to China for financial bailouts, so love or hate it, you cannot ignore China.

  Therefore, we must engage.

  It is up to us to unlock value in Focac by unpacking what is on the table and adding our informed input to create the outcomes that we desire. China is not going to do that for Zimbabwe or any other African country.

  We must stop transferring the onus of that responsibility.

  It is ours as individual African nations and as a collective continent.

  We should not treat Focac as a Christmas Bonanza, which makes it possible to harvest free give-aways.

  Nor should we treat it like an invitation to a haunted house.

  We must roll up our sleeves and get involved. China has made it clear how the US$60 billion Focac kitty will be spent.

  US$15 billion is for aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans, US$20 billion for credit lines, US$10 billion is set for special fund for China-Africa development, and there is US$5 billion for imports from Africa.

  Another US$10 billion is from Chinese businesses.

  Zimbabwean businesses need a clear strategy on how to access opportunities for credit lines, exports to China and partnerships with Chinese businesses.

  That is a total of US$35 billion in the offing.

  Zimbabwe has a fair chance of accessing a reasonable share of that pie.

  But it will not rain on us like manna from heaven, saving starving travellers in the desert.

  There is need for localised Focac strategic planning for implementation.

  It is up to local businesses to spell Zimbabwe’s vision in Focac and then produce an action plan to make it real.

  International institutions such as the World Bank have taken note of China’s dream.

  They have produced reams of analyses.

  Yet as one of the countries engaging with China, Zimbabwe and most African sister countries has very low engagement.

  Where are Focac breakfast meetings? Where are business-to-business Focac engagement initiatives? Where are Focac national-level information centres?

  Where are Focac thought leadership experts?

  Where are our documentation centres? Where are localised expert analyses teaching us of pitfalls from our own history or that of fellow African countries and how they can be avoided in future?

  Where are initiatives for regional or continental industry integration so that partnerships with African businesses make sense for colossal Chinese conglomerates, while giving African countries a more equitable stake?

  We have none because few people have bothered to delve into the initiative to understand the opportunities and pitfalls.

  As long as we take the attitude that Focac is solely a government-to-government programme, there will be no tangible benefits for our economy.

  China has established institutions to provide think-tank services for Focac initiatives.

  One of these is China-Africa Institute inaugurated in April 2019.

  A part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the institute is focused on Focac people-to-people initiatives, providing a closer cultural and social link between Chinese citizens and their counterparts from different African countries under the people-to-people pillar of Focac.

  The institute recently hosted scholars from African countries to explore areas of mutual cooperation in academic research into various areas, with emphasis on poverty reduction and cultural exchanges.

  The delegation of 12 scholars from Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe met with leaders of several Chinese academic institutions and government departments to understand China’s stance on Sino-Africa relations.

  Zimbabwe, and indeed Africa, needs to channel similar energy and dedication to Focac, if we are to gain anything from this initiative.

  It is only through proper due diligence that we can produce bankable proposals that safeguard our interests.

  We must take agency and not sit back and expect China to hand us economic salvation on a platter.

Source: https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/active-engagement-key-to-unlocking-value-in-focac

Copyright: China-Africa Institute