Cooperation between China and Africa is still in its early stages but the benefits are already being felt, according to the head of an economic-policy think tank based in Kenya. “Infrastructure is a key component to the growth of any economy and the lack thereof has severely impeded the continent’s growth,” said Robert Kagiri, director of the Africa Policy Institute’s center for strategic policy management.
“I believe that China’s partnership, in terms of financial and technical assistance, is behind the economic progress we are witnessing at the moment.”
Building infrastructure, such as roads, brings immediate benefits to rural economies by enabling farmers to more easily access markets and attracting investment, Kagiri said.
“Agriculture is the backbone of several African economies,” he said. “With the availability of modern infrastructure, the continent will definitely see an increase in foreign direct investment, which is the lifeblood of industrial development. We are on the right track to remove our people from crippling poverty.”
Many African countries could stand to learn from China’s example of investing in agriculture to reduce poverty, the economist said. “China’s success in alleviating poverty through agriculture is renowned, and this is the knowledge we want,” he said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel because that is expensive but we can borrow lessons from China. This partnership will not only strengthen food security, but will move us further up the value chain.”
Although the China-Africa partnership is a relatively new one, Kagiri expects it to expand in the future, benefiting both sides at a time of great global uncertainty. “The two sessions are going to set an agenda for China and Africa too. The continent remains an integral part of Chinese global economic growth as we present a big consumer market for its industries,” he said. “We therefore need to identify with their needs and align ourselves strategically so that we can be part of their growth.”
The Belt and Road Initiative is also important for African economies, which would do well to develop a coherent approach when engaging with China, Kagiri noted.