OPINION: It’s upon African countries to foster better relations with China
By Gideon Keter
The partnership between African countries and China provide more opportunities to make it more productive.
The Asian giant has already shown that it is much interested in providing more to enhance the partnership.
The recent news that Kenya and China have struck a deal to allow Chinese tutors to share their technical skills with students in various local universities is much welcome.
This would not only enable the tutors to impart knowledge on the learners but would also present them an opportunity to learn the local languages and appreciate the local culture.
This follows the script indicating China’s willingness to do more than offering loans and looking away as they wait for African countries to settle them.
China hosted the China-Africa Friendship Group, an outfit that brings together young leaders from West, South, East and South Africa who are seeking a better partnership with China through friendship and intellectual exchanges rather than purely economic pursuits.
The Group was hosted by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference for the inaugural visit in December 2019 and had a good opportunity to exploit various ways through which African leaders can make China a development friend rather than an exploitative partner.
Some of the key things proposed during the visit were enhanced Chinese scholarship for bright students, technological exchange through Chinese-supported digital centres and innovation incubators in Africa, exportation of sophisticated Chinese medical and agricultural technologies to the continent.
Indeed, the China-Africa policy supports such forums and it is time African leaders exploited such opportunities to better the relationship with the Asian economic giant.
It is clear China will play a big role in development in the continent for many years ahead. With this realization, it is critical to pursue friendlier policies to ensure the partnership blossoms.
There have been efforts to make learning Chinese language part of the curriculum in Kenya, for instance. That is a progressive venture that should be encouraged. It would also make sense for Africa to also ensure Chinese appreciate and learn the local languages, like Kiswahili, for easier communication between the expatriates and locals.
There has been growing concerns on the pace at which the Chinese companies are absorbing the locals to senior managerial roles. For them to appreciate the locals, the companies should strive to employ more Africans to senior posts. With that, the knowledge gap between the expatriates and locals would be cut as skills would be easily transferred to the local communities.
One of the critical things African countries must also do is adopt the Chinese hardworking culture. The Chinese are known to be some of the hardworking people in the planet.
Most of the Chinese firms are seeking opportunities in Africa and at times unfriendly policies discourage them from investment.
The Chinese companies should be encouraged to consider partnering with local companies for needed supplies. A recent report indicated that most of the 106 Chinese companies in Kenya sourced their construction supplies abroad locking out local firms from the lucrative venture.
This can be remedied if the Chinese invest more in nurturing local companies and sharing with them sophisticated technologies and skills required for them to raise their stake in the supplies sector.
The governments must also do more to show value for the massive loans obtained from the Asian country for their people to appreciate the need for such debt.
Finally, African countries must always pursue a win-win-win partnership with China.
The goal of a win-win strategy is for each partner to gain and further the common good. An Africa-China “Win-Win” partnership is notable, but a “Win-Win-Win” engagement is transformational. The best strategic partnerships are win-win-win: they work for the proponent, the economic partner, and the citizens.
Gideon Keter is an MP representing youth and a member of Africa-China Friendship Group.