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China: Imperialist or Catalyst?

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Is China the new imperial power in Africa, or a partner with which Africa can advance its developmental interests?  This is a question that 2014 Tutu Fellow Isaac Fokuo examines in an essay for African Business.  The dominant narrative in Sino-African relations is that China's interest in Africa is confined to natural resources.  Fokuo goes further.  He says that African governments need to leverage China's engagement by implementing economic development policies as a catalyst for industrialisation.

Fokuo looks at Ethiopia as an example that could be replicated elsewhere. Ethiopia changed its policies to allow for more Chinese investment in 2008 in the manufacturing sector.  With the increase in capacity, unemployment has decreased and the economy has become one of the fastest growing in the Horn of Africa.  It also added value to its cattle population in the form of growing its leather goods processing and exporting the finished goods all over the world. Investment in local manufacturing in other sectors, for example, cellphones, saw 60 million handsets sold in Africa in 2016.

Fokuo argues that African nations should consider adopting simlar models for their own circumstances to initiate a chain reaction creating millions of productive jobs. He points out that Ethiopia, like most African countries, had a relatively small or negligible manufacturing sector before engaging with China.

The full piece can be read at African BusinessIsaac Fokuo is a 2014 Fellow and a co-founder of the Sino Africa Centre of Excellence.  He is a columnist for African Business Magazine.

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Sunday, 15 December 2019

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