China’s robust economic growth in the past 30 years, which has lifted 700 million people out of extreme poverty, offers lessons for other regions, especially Africa to pay keen attention. China and Africa “have always belonged to a community of shared values and fruitful future” and “have always been good friends who stand together through thick and thin, good partners who share weal and woe, and good brothers who fully trust each other despite changes in the international landscape.
Below is the full text of Assistant Professor Josephus Moses Gray official speech delivered at the 7th Meeting of the China-Africa Think Tank Forum held in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China. Professor Gray who teaches at the University of Liberia Graduate Program in International Studies presented Liberia’s socio-economic and political situation. Professor Gray is attending the International Conference through the official invitation of the Chinese government to join several other distinguished scholars and professors from across Africa and China.
About 70 scholars from across Africa’s 55 states including 44 PhD holders, 10 Presidents and Directors of Universities, 19 full professors and high profile officials from the Chinese Communist Party also attended the Forum. Professor Gray delivered the second address during the Plenary Session followed, by dozens of other representatives from Egypt , Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Algeria, Kenya, China, Eritrea, Chad, Gambia, Sierra Leone, South Africa and dozen of other representatives of Africa’s 55 states. Below is the full text of professor Gray’s speech which was used to recounts China-Liberia’s unique ties, promotes Prwsident Weah pro poor agenda and Liberia’s urgent needs.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be present here today to join distinguished professional individuals of acclaimed backgrounds. Thank you for inviting me to come here to participate in the 7th Meeting of the China-Africa Think Tank Forum. When you first asked me, I was honored as you know; this is a cause that is dear to my heart. I’ve been looking forward to this moment ever since.
Many of you travel long distances serve to remind us all just how important our presence is in meeting our common objective for a successful Forum. We are honored to have you all here today. Let us respectfully keep the wheel of this 7th Meeting of the China –Africa Think Tank Forum in place for the realization of our common untied front of which we have travelled long distances to gather here and beautifully discuss the new way forwards in China-Africa relations.
First of all, I wish to thank the organizers of the 7th Meeting of the China-Africa Think Tank Forum, the Government and People of this great country for giving me this opportunity to speak here and interact face to face with all of you. As an academician and Africanist who has been involved with contemporary issues of national and international concerns for many years, I have cherished profound feelings here.
Although previous distinguished speakers have broadened our horizons with their detailed and wonderful presentations, considering the Theme and Topics of this 7th Meeting of the China-Africa Think tank Forum, I see it as an honor to join the previous speakers on the topic: China and Africa Countries’ independent Exploration of Development Paths; Experience and inspiration. Considering the importance of time, I will try to be brief and present just the highlights; details can be found in the official copy of my speak with the organizers of this Forum.
China and Africa have shared historic facts-China is the world faster developing economic and holds the world largest population, while Africa is host of abundant rich natural resources, brilliant cultures, hard-working, talented and courageous people and significant contributor to the advancement of human civilization and world development. Africa is one of the cradles of mankind.
From the early days of the rise of pan-Africanism in the 20th century to the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 which now gives birth to the African Union (AU) in 2002 in Libya, the African continent seeks strength through harmony and accomplishing renaissance of civilization, has long been a cherished aspiration of the African people. The people of Africa have made great efforts on the path of a united front through unity, thus leaving behind glorious pages of success and notable endeavors.
To my distinguished colleagues from across the continent, representing notable governments and institutions of high esteem, Africa must firmly uphold the road to peace, solidity and socio-economic development; Africa cannot achieve peace and development in isolation from the world, and the world needs Africa for stability and prosperity, and Africa needs the world.
The world should assist in a peaceful, stable and constantly developing Africa is a blessing for the world. In a land that has gone through so many wars and conflicts, where communities and homes have been broken down where the youthful population seeks socio economic development and human development, the world should pay key attention to Africa’s economic plead for help which calls for our extra care.
Kindly permit me to provide a little clear balance of China-African long standing exceptional relationship which has been a win-win situation. China is the largest developing country in the world and Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. China and Africa are faced with both historical opportunities for greater development and unprecedented challenges that without doubts are turning into prospects for both countries and peoples.
Despite the vast oceans that separate China and Africa, the friendship between China and Africa remained unquestionable, dated back to ancient times and transcended both time and space. Communication and indirect trade between China and Africa started as early as over 3000 years ago. By the 6th century, China and Africa already had direct contacts via sea route. According to pages of history, in the 15th century, Zheng He, the well-known Chinese navigator of that time, led fleets to the east coast of Africa for four times, and visited places in Somalia and Kenya of today. Even now, the remnants of the crew of Chinese fleets can still be found in Kenya.
In 2002, the copy of a Chinese map entitled “Da Ming Hun Yi Tu”, which dates back to the year of 1389 and is identified as the earliest map indicating the outline of the whole African continent in the world, made a stir in South Africa, when it was displayed as part of the Parliamentary Millennium Project exhibition in Parliament of South Africa. It proves that the contact between Chinese and Africans predates the European “discovery” of the African continent by over 100 years and China was the first country that established contacts with Africa.
In contemporary history, China and Africa shared similar experiences, both having suffered from aggression, plunder and enslavement by colonialists. Therefore, the Chinese people and the people of Africa have all along rendered each other solidarity and support and shared weal and woe in their struggles against imperialism and for national independence and liberation.
In 1949, the birth of new China opened up a new chapter in Sino-African relations. Since 1950s and 1960s, as more and more African countries won independence and established diplomatic relations with China, the Sino-African relationship was ushered into a new era of all-round development that is having great impacts on the lives of millions on both fronts; the presence of China in Africa’s development cannot be questioned, China is visible on the continued march as evident by the hundreds of projects undertaking or completed, while new agreements have been consolidated for an effective implementation.
China: A Hope for Africa’s social-economic development
There is an old Chinese saying, it is better to teach somebody how to fish than simply give him the fish. In order to help African countries to enhance their ability of capacity building, and development to enhance economic growth, the forthcoming FOCAC in September should make human resource development the focal point of its follow-up actions.
Let me quote the words of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia: “Africa is not poor; it is poorly managed”. Conflicts and crises such as civil strife have affected governance in Africa as well as the establishment of sustainable growth performance. Although some countries have recovered from civil wars, good governance remains a challenge. This includes boosting national capacity to avoid crises in governance, maintaining good internal relationship and peace building, as well as reinforcement of issues regarding national security reducing and crime.
Therefore, the forthcoming FOCAC should how to fish than simply give him the fish and ensure that the issue of socio-economic and political “management” will be at the top of the agenda, to help keep the continent on the path with other continents. China and Africa have since then become all-weather friends that understand, support and help each other. Fifty-one of the continent’s fifty-three countries have established diplomatic ties with China thus far, the most recent being South Sudan in 2011
China’s relations with Africa should adhere to the principles of good governance which include sincerity, inclusiveness, respect for the rule of law, practical results, affinity and good faith and uphold the values of friendship, justice and shared interests. China and Africa “have always belonged to a community of shared values and fruitful future” and “have always been good friends who stand together through thick and thin, good partners who share weal and woe, and good brothers who fully trust each other despite changes in the international landscape.
Profoundly, let me us this forum to extoll China’s unwavering and productive policy towards Africa of non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs nor dictates to Africa to swallow the bitter pills of forced submission or risk the imposition of sanction or a blockage to aid. Nowadays, China remains a shining and deeply admired posture in the realm of mutual respect for others to be master of their own destiny and captain of their own future. Indeed, that praiseworthy.
Let me reiterate, China’s involvement is said to serve hope for Africa, as China provides an alternative political-economic framework for Africa while China in return stands to also benefit. Today, dozens of scholars have viewed China’s recent involvement in Africa as that of a development partner. Their basis of argument is that China’s presence presents an opportunity for development and economic growth, by providing aid to poverty stricken and marginalized countries like my country Liberia has helped to provide visible development assistance such as infrastructural, debt cancellation, scholarships, constructions of roads and bridges and provisions and support to health delivery and education systems.
China has a major diplomatic presence in Africa. In fact, Beijing is more widely represented in Africa with missions on the ground than is the United States. Beijing, which has diplomatic relations with Fifty-one continent’s fifty-three countries, maintains an embassy with an accredited ambassador in 48 of them. China maintains offices of a commercial counselor in 40 of those countries and seven consulates general in five of them.
China and Africa have shared comprehensive consensus on major international issues, common interests and a willingness to deepen their cooperation. The rapid development of the Sino-Africa relationship reveals on-going transitions that facilitate the move towards a new strategic partnership. China also emphasizes the notion of “respect” for African countries, embodied in its policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries and in an approach to conflict resolution on the continent that is seen as much less confrontational as Western interventions.
Unlike the Western donors who tend to impose Western values like democratic ideas on Africa, China invest and provide aid without much preconditions and interference in their internal affairs, therefore, it is not unimaginable that China is regarded by Africa as a more cooperative and valuable partner to the West.
Besides providing loans, China also invests in infrastructure development and many high-visibility projects, that the African leaders generally in favor. Physical infrastructure constructions have been long neglected if not avoided, by Western donors. Also, Chinese investors are highly reputed by the African of their rapid completion of infrastructures with acceptable qualities. China has educational relationships with 50 African countries and keeps increasing her assistance on training and education to African countries. In 2005, China also hosted the Sino-African Education Minister Forum. In 2007, there are around 5,900 students from Africa studying in China, with most of them receiving scholarships provided by the Chinese government.
For the past 50 years or so, thanks to the concerted efforts and care of leaders of several generations from the both sides, Sino-African friendship has withstood the test of times and our cooperation has developed steadily and further deepened in the fields of politics, economy, culture, education, public health and military affairs, despite vicissitudes in the international situation and tremendous changes in our respective national conditions.
As we find ourselves at the beginning of the 21st century, maintaining peace, seeking stability and promoting development have become a shared aspiration of people of all countries. In order to further strengthen the friendly cooperation between China and Africa under the new circumstances and jointly respond to the challenge of economic globalization, the Chinese Government made the proposal of convening the first Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing in October 2000, in light of suggestions of some African countries
FOCAC has become a mechanism of collective consultation and dialogue between China and friendly African countries, providing a new platform of friendly exchange and cooperation between China and Africa. Besides bilateral channels, I am deeply convinced that with the concerted efforts of China and Africa, the forthcoming FOCAS Summit in September this year is bound to bring out more practical results, and breathe new vitality into the friendly relationship between China and Africa.
The September FOCAC’s Summit is expected to welcome new democratically elected African leaders including the President of Africa’s oldest state, the Republic of Liberia, His Excellency President George Mannah Weah who cannot wait to attend FOCAC and make the case for China-African win-win cooperation. Liberia is moving forward under President Weah’s pro poor agenda. Let me share with this Forum a very interested historical fact about Liberia’s dynamic political system in Africa.
Interestingly, Liberia is not just the First African’s Republic but also the First to democratically elect the First Woman President in Africa, Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirlead. Again, Liberia is the First to elect a Soccer Legend and World Best as President in Africa, his Excellency Mr. George Mannah Weah. Again and again, Liberia the birth of the Organization of African Union (OAU) now African Union (AU) originated from held in Liberia while Liberia was the first to produce the First Female President of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
China’s robust economic growth in the past 30 years, which has lifted 600 million people out of extreme poverty, offers lessons for other regions, especially Africa to pay keen attention. China has been consistently supporting African regional and sub-regional organizations like OAU, AU, SADC and ECOWAS, in efforts to safeguard regional peace and security. During the past few years, especially since the establishment of FOCAC, China has also played a more active role in the UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. The cooperation between China and Africa in the fields of peace and security has been greatly enhanced.
Africa has long proclaimed its desire to industrialize its economy in an effort to attain higher living standards and increase productive including employment opportunities for its populace. Sino-African trade and economic cooperation has been advancing smoothly. For long, China has provided within its capacity sincere assistance to the economic development of African countries, Liberia is a case study where China’s infrastructures are visible. China has provided aid to hundreds of projects in Africa which involved agriculture, road, infrastructure, health, education, animal husbandry, fishery, textile, energy, water conservancy, power generation and other sectors.
This growing economic tie between China and Africa paves the way for experience sharing – Sino-African trade rocketed to $160 billion in 2011, from $2 billion in 1999. “China’s cooperation with Africa is by no means new. What is new, however, is the level and significance of China’s partnership with Africa,” said Robert Zoellick, former president of the World Bank Group. “South-South trade, investment and exchange of know-how can become an important source of growth in the post-crisis era.”
China ́s trade and investment in Africa has improved Africa’s infrastructural development, increased Africans purchasing and consumer power, boosted prices of Africa ́s natural resources and increased competition over Africa ́s natural resources. These have changed the condition for aid because African governments have become more interested in trade and investments other than aid.
Let me conclude with theses words of caution: China’s relations with Africa should adhere to the principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith and uphold the values of friendship, justice and shared interests. China and Africa “have always belonged to a community of shared future” and “have always been good friends who stand together through thick and thin, good partners who share weal and woe, and good brothers who fully trust each other despite changes in the international landscape.
China’s vastly increased involvement in Africa over the past decade is one of the most significant recent developments in the region. Embodying the principle of mutual benefit, China has consistently combined the extension of financial assistance for infrastructure construction in Africa with the expansion of Chinese business interests and the pursuit of resource security goals.
China’s Africa interest is part of a recently more active international strategy based on multi-polarity and non-intervention. Increased aid, debt cancellation, and a boom in Chinese-African trade, with a strategic Chinese focus on oil, have proven mutually advantageous for China and African state elites. By offering aid without preconditions, China has presented an attractive alternative to conditional Western aid, and gained valuable diplomatic support to defend its international interests.
The development landscape in Africa is changing, with new partners from the global South taking on a more important role as providers of much needed finance and know-how for Africa’s development. China has been the most prominent emerging partner and Chinese entrepreneurs have increased their trade and investment relations with African counterparts by a factor of more than ten over the past decade. But the pool of actors has widened and Europe and Washington are no longer at ease.
In Africa poor governance has led to poor economic growth and it is manifested through corruption, political instability, ineffective rule of laws and institutions. Some African countries went through governance failures and corruption at some point in time, but their governance capacity made them recover and ensure the maintenance of rapid growth performance through constant demands to improve government and reduce corruption.
In many African countries, corruption takes place as a rule based for decisions. That is, public officials influence the economic decision in detriment of the entire society. This results in inefficiency and high transaction costs as well as distortion of transparent and normal market operations and thus, creating insecurity for investors. Corruption takes place when public officials break the laws to fulfill their own interest. The most common types of corruption are bribery and extortion as well as the allocation of public resources to favor political benefits.
In most cases the African leaders try to run the country by copying the modern western state systems at domestic level and neglect the tradition and culture of their own people. The leadership in most African countries is centralized, thus, the local government does not have the power and authority to take any decision. Therefore, it hinders efficient the capacity of the local administrations.
Due to rampant corruption, African children do not have access to quality education which is required to let them gain knowledge and skills, to equip them to have better ideas and opportunities for employment. Other correlated problems as well, for example, lack of skills and strong policies, and that is low economic performance with high inflation.
The ruling class in Africa many a times pleads ignorance of the fact that they are in power in order to be of service to the citizens and not vice versa; they exploit their positions to put as much public money as they can in their pockets and even get away with it! Unfortunately, most African countries have come to recognize corruption as a normal occurrence and often see it as a means to an end.
In 1999 the United Nations approximated that the ruling elites drained more than 250 billion dollars out of Africa each year in their private over sea back accounts in Europe where they have invested their ill-gotten gains and wealth stolen from their motherland. Africa continues to be poor because politics is considered an easy ticket to prosperity, to add to that the leadership has no continuity agenda and opt for dying in office, being some of the richest people in the world amidst the most poverty-stricken citizens in the world.
In this day and age corruption and bad leadership and corruption are killing Africa’s progress while the greater number of the continent’s population lives on less than United States One dollar a day. The population in most cases is suppressed by their leaders, the autocratic means that keep these corrupt political bureaucrats in the hands of power.
Again, abject poverty and rampant corruption served as major obstacles to growth and development on the continent; with on the other hand gross human rights violations, injustices, disrespect for rule of law and order, misused of national resources and state wealth by autocrats and corrupt leaders and their families and friends, dishonest bureaucrats, foreign capitalists and the lack of proper democracy, are some of the problems responsible for the continent’s backwardness in the context of growth and development.
Governance has increasingly become a major instrument for the successful growth performance and development purposes in the world. The government does not provide an efficient institutional framework to sustain good governance, transparency and accountability of its institutions. In many African countries, weak institutions do not secure the required long run sustainable growth. However, many African leaders are contented with a short term solution that imposes a long term cost to the nation.
My compassion pleads to my distinguished professional brothers and sisters of diverse backgrounds from Africa is that let us return to our various countries and share these brilliant speeches to our various leaders and heads of governments that the wheel is in place for the September’s historic FOCAC. Our leaders should come with zeal of taking FOCAC to a new level.
Josephus M. Gray, PhD – Assistant Professor of International Relations