Industrialisation is necessary for Africa to achieve sustainable development. "Only by realising sustainable development could Africa escape foreign interference." These points were made by Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian at the Africa Institute of South Africa-Human Sciences Research Council/Embassy of the People's Republic of China conference 'Opportunities and Challenges of China-Africa Industrial Cooperation' in Pretoria on Friday.
"If Africa is not independent economically, it is hard to be independent politically," he observed. Moreover, without development, it would be impossible to defeat poverty. And poverty was the number one problem. China strongly believed that, if Africa achieved sustainable industrial development and modernised agriculture, it would have development and peace.
"African countries will embrace new opportunities for industrialisation," he assured, by exploiting new technologies. "Politically, African countries are moving towards unity, for strength," as well as developing economic integration. The twenty-first century would not only be the Asian century, it would also be the African century.
"Another very important opportunity for Africa to achieve industrialisation and sustainable development is the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative," he affirmed. This initiative came from China, but would benefit the world: "win-win cooperation for common development".
"Today, China has become Africa's largest trading partner," he highlighted. And this had been the case for the past nine years. The Asian giant had so far invested $100-billion in Africa. China had built 6 200 km of railways, more than 6 500 km of roads, 20 seaports, 20 bridges, 80 power plants and more than 200 schools across Africa.
However, no country would ever achieve development through aid, cautioned Lin. Africa must, he urged, make use of its advantages, strengthen its institutions and develop incentive policies. "Business is very simple -- 'where's my profit?'," he summarised. Africa needed to attract investors with incentives and market access, as well as promote tourism, he said, quoting Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Africa had inadequate numbers of skilled personnel and not enough capital to invest in crucial infrastructure. These were major bottlenecks to the continent's development. China, he noted, provided more than 10 000 scholarships and 50 000 educational and training opportunities to Africa every year. The continent could also access funding from various Chinese institutions and programmes, such as the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, the Silk Road Fund, and the South-South Fund.
"The money is there!" But, he explained, funding did not go to governments; it went to projects. To benefit from these funding mechanisms, a country had to have suitable projects.
He emphasised that his own country had achieved tremendous development -- "a miracle" -- since it had opened to the world in 1978. "Before 1980, China was in a far worse situation than many African countries, in economic and social development." But then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had seen the opportunity provided by the global economy. "We learnt from the West, but based on our own conditions. We did not copy them."
In the several decades since then, China had become a major global industrial power, with the world's largest foreign reserves. Per capita gross domestic product had gone from $156 in 1968 to $9 000 in 2017.
"This is the time to fight against poverty, for common prosperity," he proclaimed. "Africa is emerging!"