Industrial cooperation presents new frontier for China-Africa ties: Expert

By CHEN MIRONG / 03-22-2017 / (Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The High-Level Seminar on Industrialization, Urbanization and China-Africa Cooperation was held on March 13 in Addis Ababa. CASS President Wang Weiguang(R) and Ebrima Sall, executive secretary of CODESRIA, sign a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate bilateral academic cooperation and exchange.

ADDIS ABABA--At a recent seminar in Ethiopia, an expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said that the prospects for China-Africa industrial cooperation are bright.

“Industrial cooperation may become a new focus or new growth point for China-Africa relations in the coming years,” said Yang Guang, director of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies (IWAAS) at CASS, at the “High-Level Seminar on Industrialization, Urbanization and China-Africa Cooperation,” which was held at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, on March 13.

In the keynote speech for the high-level seminar, Yang underlined the importance of international industrialization cooperation, adding that industrialization is a core component of China’s international cooperation, and –––multiple forms of international collaboration have contributed to the industrialization achievements of the country.

At the Johannesburg Summit in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed 10 plans, among which cooperation in industrialization was prioritized.

CASS President Wang Weiguang noted that strengthening cooperation in the field of industrialization is a new opportunity for mutual benefit and the common development of China and Africa.

Wang pointed out that the challenges of industrial cooperation are a new frontier for the partnership. “For example, bilateral industrial cooperation requires a more favorable security, institutional and infrastructure environment,” he said.

Yang voiced the same concern, saying that if we can make progress in infrastructure, security as well as financing and taxation, it would significantly increase the competitiveness for attracting Chinese direct investment to Africa and the transfer of technologies to Africa.

Li Zhibiao, a research fellow and director of the Department of African Studies at IWAAS, identified four issues that must be addressed to effectively transfer the excess capacity of Chinese enterprises to Africa and advance the industrialization process of individual African countries. They are: “industrial layout and distribution; contradiction between mass production and fragmented market; conflict between economic diversification and resource dependency; and the difficult choice of industrialization models and paths. ”

With regard to the current general development environment of global industrialization, building an internal recycling industrial chain for Africa suited to developmental needs of individual countries might be the best choice to expedite industrialization on the continent, Li added.

At the seminar, a number of African scholars highlighted the need to industrialize Africa and reconnect industrialization to urbanization.

“Industrialization has to be desired and set as a goal, and there has to be an understanding that it won’t be free but there will be a price to pay,” said Lawyer Kafureeka from the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Makerere University in Kampala, capital of Uganda.

Noting the connections between industrialization and urbanization in the African context, Dzodzi Tsikata, president of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), said that urbanization has been largely demographic and is often disconnected from the development of economic and social infrastructure.

“Urbanization processes have been largely spontaneous and mirror the informal character of many African economies,” Tsikata said.

Semia Guermas Tapia, a social affairs officer of the Urbanization Section and Social Development Division at UNECA, also shed light on the decoupling of urbanization and industrialization in Africa, saying “Africa has been urbanizing without industrialization, and natural dependency can be seen to play a role in the disconnection between urbanization and industrialization.”

Nonetheless, Yang predicted that a new wave of industrialization, or reindustrialization, could come probably soon, partly because China’s industrial adjustment could present important opportunities. 

The seminar was co-hosted by CASS and CODESRIA, and organized by Addis Ababa University. More than 50 scholars from China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan attended the meeting. At the opening session, CASS and CODESRIA, the two largest think tanks in China and Africa, respectively, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate bilateral academic cooperation and exchange.



Chen Mirong is a reporter at the Chinese Social Sciences Today.