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At economic crossroads, Africa should consider going the Chinese way
By Francis Semwaza
2019-03-28 03:29

African countries are given yet another learning opportunity on how to improve their societies in the short and long terms through the enduring themes of commitment to serving the public as well as effective strategies and plans to accommodate the needs of the people they serve.

Two political and development gatherings charting out China's way forward for 2019-2020 commonly targeting at further improving the lives of the Chinese people, especially those living in rural areas, provide exactly those lessons that Africa should and could embrace.

The annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), currently convening in Beijing, represent the efforts by the Asian power to sufficiently provide for its people now and in the future.

Despite the level of development it has reached in about 40 years today making it be the 'talk of the town' among the many global societies and circles, the one lesson that China provides is to never relent even after making significant socioeconomic progress.

For China's decision making bodies, the motto seems to always insist on making a 'better tomorrow' than getting stuck at today's comfort.

Since the founding of the country in 1949 until today, the words and deeds of the Chinese leadership confirm and conform, and are a culmination of the efforts of Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and many other great leaders of bringing the Chinese people together for a united and prosperous society.

This commitment has been restated by the State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, during his recent press conference where he insisted on the non-stop efforts to reform, unite the people and crafting a well thought out diplomacy with foreign countries.

In practically sustaining the legacy of these great leaders today, Premier Li Keqiang laid bare a plan to create more employment opportunities for the Chinese people through increased investment and lowering of taxes on investments and individual consumers.

Economically, the lowered taxes have a greater multiplier effect as it implies lower prices of goods and services needed by the people as well as more jobs. On the part of the government, the more investments and production will lead to an increased tax-base and eventually more revenues to the government.

These calculations seem to have worked well so far making China beat the odds by attracting the world's second largest amount of foreign direct investment (FDI), totaling 135 billion USD last year, and thus registering an annual economic growth of 6.6 percent.

Even the optimism in Premier Li's words that the country envisions its economy to grow between 6.0 and 6.5 percent this year dwells inductively on the previous performance and effective planning whose implementation has already began.

While it can be argued that the projected above 6% annual economic growth rate is ambitious for a comparatively successful economy like China where economic theories would peg annual growth hardly above 3%, it turns out to that attaining that goal is still a high possibility given the flexibility of the Chinese economy to mix hard manufacturing typical of an emerging industrial power and soft economic approaches largely embraced by highly developed nations.

China's determination and commitment toward improving industrial production and the lives of its people would help it to quickly transform into an innovation-based economy and consolidate its position in the global sociopolitical and economic arena.

The extraordinary performance of the Chinese economy is not new: even its ascendancy into the global economic realms within just a short span starting from 1978 to present continues to surprise a score of development theorists who often draw examples from the economic transformations in the Western world, including the emergence of the industrial revolution in England, France, the United States, Japan and other similar countries, a process which lasted for centuries.

China's 'open door' policy, as engineered by its Great Leader Deng Xiaoping, is a continuous endeavor that seeks to witness the country and its society benefiting as it was then, it is now and it will be in the future.

It would take this China-styled determination for the sluggish Africa in its battle against poverty as more capital is needed to bridge the gaps and concerns over unemployment, poor infrastructure, and unfavorable social conditions.

Attracting more foreign capital and investments by creating a better investment climate would work for the benefit of these struggling but reform-resistant countries.

While the African fear of abuse by foreign investors could be well noted owing to its engagements, currently the continent has a number of reputed experts who, if acting patriotic enough, would work to ensure that their respective countries would get a fair and deserved share of the development levels they envision to attain in a specific period of time.

Today's Africa should not be equated to the previous one dating as far back as 200 years ago when it could be easily exploited due to illiteracy and military weakness that paved the way for western plunder that has impoverished the second largest continent.

At the national level, the most important thing to African countries would be avoiding policies and actions that would lead to incidents of capital scare and capital flight as doing so would also affect the very base of the population resulting into increased unemployment, inflation, and ultimately people's mounting discontent with their governments.   

Building strong institutions that would prioritize the people's needs and national interest will help shape and discipline the kind of leadership that would come in place; and the people would commit to loving and supporting their countries even more once they feel that they deservedly enjoy the national pie.

Through its comprehensive social security system providing coverage to over 800 million people, China proves its commitment of working for the greater good of the ordinary Chinese by further trickling down the benefits of investments erected on the land.

This one, too, serves as a lesson to African countries whose ever-growing population, and especially the youth bulge, could pose a threat if dissatisfied with the wealth distribution in their respective countries at any point in time.

In efforts to maintain legitimacy through meaningful and people-centered development, it is unto African countries, then, to take a leaf out of their Chinese friends' socioeconomic planning and implementation of various programs, including attracting more investment.

* Francis Semwaza is a development communications consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Email: frsemwaza@aol.com

* This article was originally published on The Citizen on Sunday on 17 March 2019. Before uploading it on the Embassy's website, we have obtained the approval from the author.


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