Africa and China: Introducing a Mosaic

On 27 October 2021, Christian Straube opened the conference 'China and Africa: Perspectives of development cooperation/the role of civil society and churches' with a keynote speech. He addressed the complexity of Africa-China interactions and presented ten hypotheses on development in the context of Africa-China relations.

The conference 'China and Africa: Perspectives of development cooperation/the role of civil society and churches' from October 27 to 29 2021 was jointly organised by the Missionsakademie at the University of Hamburg and the China Infostelle. It brought together a variety of academic, church and civil society actors from Europe, Africa and China to discuss perspectives of development cooperation.

In the following you can find the transcript of the speech opening the conference held on the 27th October 2021.

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to everyone in the audience, may it be analogue here in front of me or digitally via Zoom. My name is Christian Straube, China Programme Manager at Stiftung Asienhaus in Cologne. I am grateful for the opportunity to open this conference with a keynote and on a topic that has been very dear to my heart since I first visited Africa, in my case Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, ten years ago.

My academic background is in Chinese Studies and Social Anthropology. More specifically, I have been analysing the discourse on China-Africa since 2013 and conducted ethnographic fieldwork on the local embeddedness and social connections of a Chinese state-owned company in Zambia’s copper industry in 2015/16. Between 2006 and 2013, I visited China on a yearly basis as university student and sinological advisor to educational trips. I have witnessed the dynamism around the 2008 Olympics, that is among other things the infrastructural upgrade of the entire country. However, I have also observed the social and environmental costs of China’s economic growth and the dwindling spaces for civil society and the Catholic church, in China and in exchange with international partners.

In this keynote I seek to lay out the ground for the one and a half days ahead of us. It is my aim to emphasise the diversity of interactions between actors from Africa and China, differentiate how power works in practice and discourse and offer a perspective, which might help identify pathways for civil society and churches in development cooperation. What I will not do is critically assess the terms ‘development’ or ‘development cooperation’. However, I do see points on the programme where we all can engage in a critique of these terms themselves.

My presentation has two parts. First, I would like to use the image of the mosaic, that is a pattern of coloured pieces of stone, glass or ceramic, to unpack the manifold relations between people, companies, governments and agencies from Africa and China. Second, I would like to present ten hypotheses on Africa-China relations that might help us set the course for new ways of thinking about them. What connects both parts will be the tension between people, state and capital; challenges, risks and opportunities; geopolitics, the local and the global.

Zambia’s debt

A new report by the China Africa Research Initiative at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies published last month illustrates the dramatic debt situation of Zambia, a landlocked country in Southern Central Africa. In the report, it is estimated that Zambian debt to Chinese public and private lenders stands at US$ 6.6 billion. This is more than twice as much as the numbers disclosed by the voted-out government and approximately one third of the national gross domestic product. The report concludes that this particular debt situation has been caused, and I quote, ‘by Zambians and multiple uncoordinated Chinese actors. Beijing did not indebt Zambia for some strategic purpose.’

The Zambian population elected a new President in August this year, ousting the ruling Patriotic Front after ten years in office. We still do not know how Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development will face the ongoing challenge for Zambian governments to control foreign borrowing. Moreover, his government has to deal with a unique density of Chinese contractors and financiers in the country, which created, according to the authors of the report, ‘a tragedy of the commons’.

The ‘tragedy of the commons’ in economics refers to the situation in which individuals exploit common resources based on their unregulated self-interest instead of using and protecting them cooperatively in the public interest of all. The large number of Chinese actors in the country and their entanglement in Zambian politics, as well as the incapacity of the Zambian state to control them, has led to a wasteful und unsustainable handling of the country’s resources.

As Zambian economist Trevor Simumba had already concluded in his 2018 study: ‘Zambia’s debt position is unsustainable.’ He called on the Zambian government to renegotiate its debt and on both Zambian and Chinese officials to ensure more transparency around the finalisation of Chinese loans. From his point of view, this must also include strengthening debt oversight systems, a requirement that became awkwardly obvious to Simumba. After he published his study, Zambian government officials asked him for his data. Should not a government possess this data and provide it for the public? Fortunately, the situation has changed since. The Zambian Ministry of Finance and National Planning just published a public debt summary including all creditors this month, with China Exim Bank in second place after Eurobonds.

Kenya’s Railways

Paying back debts to Chinese creditors is also a major challenge for the Kenyan government. In 2017, President Kenyatta inaugurated the Chinese-financed railway line between the port city of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean and the capital of Nairobi 500 kilometres inland. It was built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation and is operated by the China Communications Construction Company. In 2019, the single line standard gauge railway was extended another 100 kilometres to the northwest to Naivasha in the Rift Valley. According to reports, the railway so far failed to meet passenger and cargo volume targets. The Kenyan government, too, needs to engage Chinese creditors for debt renegotiation.

Railways have been at the backbone of China’s own economic success story since the Reform and Opening Policies starting in the late 1970s. They have been a symbol of infrastructure for development. In China, railways connected the coastal areas with their special economic zones like Shantou and Shenzhen to the interior. In 2018, China’s railway network had grown six fold since the foundation of the People’s Republic in 1949. Currently, its high speed network is the largest in the world. This massive infrastructure resulted in construction capacities unmatched internationally and state-owned contractors who were competitive enough to 走出去, ‘go out’, in order to ‘conquer’ global markets and meet the international demand for infrastructure, particularly in African countries.

Railways were and still are a symbol for state socialism and China’s engagement with Africa. They point to the fact that the People’s Republic interacted with African nations and independence movements long before the surge in trade from the 2000s onward. During the second half of the Cultural Revolution, officially periodized from 1966 to 1976, Chinese construction workers, together with Tanzanians and Zambians, had built the Tanzania-Zambia railway in the early 1970s. It was the third largest development project behind the Aswan and Volta dam projects in Egypt and Ghana at the time.

Tanzania’s friendship

At the time of its completion in 1975, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway opened up a crucial logistical alternative to the established southern route in order to access international markets via the Indian Ocean for Zambia and its nationalised copper mines. Zambia was under pressure from its Southern neighbours, White minority ruled Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa. The railway became not only a life line but also a Chinese discursive tool in what came to be known as ‘China-Africa friendship’, 中非友谊. This ‘friendship’ was rooted in a shared experience of European colonialism, joint action during the African independence struggles, common dedication to the non-alignment movement during the Cold War and multi- as well as multi-bilateral efforts for South-South cooperation.

During his first international trip as a head of state in 2013, Xi Jinping flew to Moscow before landing in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. Africa was his second stop. Welcomed by President Kikwete, Xi lauded the ‘traditional brotherly friendship between China and Tanzania’. This 'friendship' was supposed to work differently than the established patterns of (post-)colonial exploitation and dependence in the relationships with European and North American countries. China and Africa would engage in a ‘win-win cooperation’, 双赢, to be exemplified by ‘old’ projects like the Urafiki Textile Mills, urafiki being the Kiswahili term for friendship, and ‘new’ projects under the label ‘BRI’, the Belt and Road Initiative announced by Xi Jinping in 2013.

However, time has shown that many encounters between Africans and Chinese do show the recurring characteristics of imperial practices. They reproduce post-colonial power hierarchies and dependencies: from raw material exploitation to residential segregation, from ecological destruction to the oppression of popular dissent, from racism to labour abuse. Africa and China are part of tenacious global power hierarchies with some actors from China crosscutting and others reinforcing disparities.

Angola’s oil

One example of China’s economic and financial engagement with Africa, which reinforces global power hierarchies, is the case of Angola. While talks between the Angolan government and the International Monetary Fund over the best way to ‘develop’ the country came to a standstill in the early 2000s, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Angola in 2006 and topped up an already existing loan from 2004 by another US$ 2 billion. The rebuilding of Angola after the end of the civil war was aligned along infrastructure construction; financed, planned and implemented by Chinese companies and repaid with Angolan oil exports.

Such ‘resource-backed loans’ bring opportunities and risks at the same time, elaborate Mihalyi, Adam and Hwang in their 2020 study. Loans can offer cheaper financing for infrastructure and mitigate volatility. At the same time, weak resource governance, the lack of transparency of these loans and changes in commodity prices can undermine debt sustainability and exacerbate public financial distress.

When the price of oil fell after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Angola sought to renegotiate its debt and cut its oil shipments to China. ‘These oil-backed loans create stronger interdependence (between lender and borrower) than traditional financing', said Mihalyi to the news agency Reuters. The crucial question is what could ‘development’ look like when keeping raw materials in Africa, training and employing more Africans and starting to export manufactured products instead?

Ethiopia’s shoe factory

One case to answer this question can be found in Ethiopia at the Oriental Industrial Park some 40 kilometres south of Addis Ababa. It is part of the Eastern Industrial Zone, a special economic zone modelled after China’s own development trajectory via tax-privileged industrial hubs. Here in a city called Dukem, Huajian Group, a company from Guangdong Province and one of China’s largest footwear manufacturers, started a factory in 2012. The company had employed more than 4,000 people up to 2015. 90 percent of them were locals. Every year approximately 2.5 million pairs of shoes leave the factory for the United States labelled ‘Made in Ethiopia’.

In Huajian’s case, the label ‘Made in Ethiopia’ does not only mean Chinese capital and Ethiopian labour. It also means Chinese ideas of how to manage a company, how to build up a corporate identity and Ethiopian interpretations of these ideas. A work day includes assemblies of production teams, standing at attention, commands in Chinese and marching exercises; routines very well established in China, from factories to restaurants. Ethiopian workers at Huajian get to know skills but also a very particular disciplinary labour regime.

This labour regime includes long working hours, low pay and labour abuse, as some Ethiopian workers shared with international media in 2018. These are issues also pressing in China’s own manufacturing and service sector. In recent years 九九六工作制 or, in English, the '996 working hour system' has been widely criticized on Chinese social media. '996' refers to working from 9 in the morning to 9 in the evening for six days a week, which makes up 72 hours a week. These phenomena are the consequence of cost cutting measures to counter rising labour costs, the demands of global last-minute logistics and the political imperative to keep the workbench of the world going.

Congo’s mines

Labour regimes in mining, both industrial and artisanal, have been particularly harmful for humans and the environment. Zygmunt Bauman, author of the seminal book Wasted Lives, once described mining as, I quote, ‘the epitome of rupture and discontinuity’. Mining is irreversible and so are the marks in and on the bodies of miners. The abyss of the process of ore extraction, the economics and the politics thereof have produced the ‘resource curse’. The metaphor has been frequently applied to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the image of the ‘curse’ involves a bias. It privileges fate and does not really help to explain the inhumane practices that give rise to mining as a transnational sector.

Chinese private and state-owned mining enterprises, and the latter include both national and provincial level state-owned companies, have heavily invested in mining projects in the DRC. Copper and cobalt play a crucial role in the turn away from China’s dependence on fossil fuels and its turn to a green economy with batteries at its heart. Chinese mining projects have repeatedly sparked criticism. In 2016, Amnesty International reported on the hazardous working conditions in artisanal cobalt mining in Haut-Katanga. A subsidiary of Huayou Cobalt from Zhejiang was at the centre of the trade which links up local child labour, Chinese independent traders and battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea.

Looking at gold mining, eight Members of Parliament of the Democratic Republic of the Congo probed allegations of illegal mining activities by six Chinese companies in South Kivu Province just last month. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ African Affairs Director General Wu Peng took up the allegations. He proclaimed that China supports, I quote, ‘the DRC in cracking down on illegal economic activities in accordance with the law.’ This comes a month after videos from Kolwezi in Haut-Katanga circulated, showing how Chinese mining managers mistreated their workers. While Africa-China state-to-state relations are mostly considered good and are still the main focus of the government in Beijing, relations at the grass roots level tell a different story. In the mining sector, this story includes everything from promises and expectations, camaraderie and tensions to coercion and hardship.

Botswana’s tourists

The story of Africa and China also contains chapters, which are still to be written. For instance, Chinese tourism to Africa is considered a future economic opportunity for African economies, according to Hannah Ryder of Development Reimagined. We are going to hear more from her on Africa, China and ‘development’ tomorrow afternoon. In 2017, some 800,000 Chinese tourists visited Africa. They still represent a tiny portion of the total of 63 million visitors in that year.

The easing of visa regulations is a key component contributing to the growth of the sector. As of 2021, Chinese nationals can arrive in 27 African countries without previously applying for a visa. Another crucial factor are direct flights from China to Africa. Botswana has dealt with these issues and experienced a steady growth of Chinese tourist arrivals. Dominated by visits from countries within the Southern African Development Community and countries such as the US, Germany and the UK, Chinese tourist arrivals stood at 3,500 according to the Tourism Statistics for 2018 published in 2020.

The number one destination in Africa for Chinese tourists remains Egypt. Roughly 250,000 Chinese tourists visit the North African country every year. This fact has a historical dimension. Egypt was the first African country Zhou Enlai visited during his ‘safari’ between December 1963 and February 1964. He led a delegation of more than 50 people to ten countries on the continent. It was his aim to raise the People’s Republic’s profile and foster support for the PRC’s international recognition. Moreover, Zhou wanted to mark the People’s Republic’s ideological independence from the Soviet Union and gather support for a second Asian-African conference in 1965, a decade after the pioneering Bandung conference in 1955. Egypt under President Gamal Abdel Nasser had been the first African country to recognise the People’s Republic in 1956.

Egypt’s new capital

In September 2015, the Egyptian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China State Construction Engineering Corporation, a large state-owned company under the Chinese State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. The resulting development contract with CSCEC has a volume of US$ 3 billion. It comprises the ‘delivery’ of 20 skyscrapers in the central business district of Egypt’s New Administrative Capital about 50 kilometres east of Cairo and the banks of the Nile. 85 percent of this 3 billion are financed by Chinese banks. The 20 towers are to be finished in 2022.

CSCEC’s participation in the construction of Egypt’s New Administrative Capital illustrates the enormous infrastructural capacities of Chinese state-owned enterprises. They do not build single houses from scratch, but entire quarters and cities, including related transportation hubs like container terminals or airports; in Egypt, Angola, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Zambia, to name a few among many other African countries.

All these projects are rooted in China’s domestic development strategy with an emphasis on infrastructure for development like I mentioned earlier. They are the consequence of a ‘spatial fix’, to use David Harvey’s term, that is the state-led extension and internationalisation of China’s economic realm. Therefore, in order to understand what and how Chinese construction companies build in Africa, we should look at Beijing Daxing International Airport, Ordos’s Kangbashi, Tianjin’s Binhai, Zhengzhou’s Zhengdong, Chengdu’s Tianfu and Changzhou's Wujin. You have not heard of these places? This is an education gap, we should all address.

While large-scale infrastructure projects might serve a country of the size, population density and middle class development of China, these resource-intensive and land-extensive building endeavours might not be feasible, suitable and sustainable for African countries. Large scale infrastructure projects can invite corruption, foster elitist grandeur, widen development disparities and pollute the environment. Moreover, they can create an increased demand of locally scarce resources.

Mozambique’s timber

China’s demand for timber and the importance of the timber industry for Mozambique have created several challenges for the South-eastern African country. A 2013 study found that over 80 percent of Mozambique’s timber exports are destined for China. China’s demand is based on its own economic trajectory as well as a logging ban to preserve domestic forests. Consequently, Chinese demand turned overseas. Officially, timber from Mozambique is overwhelmingly exported as sawn timber, because of a log-export ban put in place by the government.

As Mozambican-based companies do not meet the standards to e.g. export to Europe, they receive lower prices. The margins for them are so low that companies need to increase quantities to survive, further straining the environment. Alternatively, they turn to the illegal export of logs. As a case from July this year shows, the lack of enforcement and corruption have created a largely uncontrolled market for Mozambican logs destined to China. Charges against nine individuals because of 76 containers full of timber involved Mozambican tax authority officials, an employee of a Chinese trading company and a Chinese middleman.

In contrast, there are also Chinese companies who have invested in the local processing of timber. These scarce but important investments add local value, create employment opportunities and bring the global timber value chain closer to its origins. Huang Wenbin from the WWF China emphasises that the complete depletion of Mozambican forests will only be stopped with Chinese cooperation.

The demand for furniture made of African wood in China will not diminish in the years to come. However, rather than looking at only Chinese demand the trade in African woods should be seen in the context of a larger global history. This history goes back to the recurring surge of capitalist consumption of elite commodities, another being ivory, by the upper middle class in different countries. The larger historical view helps us understand that timber trade today rests on cultural values, capitalist demand and historical trajectories, which are multiregional and multicultural.

South Africa’s history

The final piece of this mosaic will come from South Africa. Like timber and ivory trade from Africa to China, Chinese migration to Africa has a long history. The first Chinese in South Africa were exiles transported to the Cape Colony by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century. More Chinese migrants arrived looking for their fortune in the gold and diamond mines of Kimberly and Witwatersrand in the second half of the 19th century. However, in the anti-Chinese and racist environment of the time most of these individuals were not permitted to acquire mining licences and became business owners. Many Chinese who worked as indentured miners returned to China in the early 20th century.

Early on, the Chinese of South Africa joined other Asians in their fight against racist legislation. During the Apartheid era Chinese South Africans suffered from discrimination and were together with Black and Indian South Africans removed from ‘Whites Only’ areas. However, Chinese South Africans’ position in the racist hierarchies of the country were not clear and they were originally excluded from the post-Apartheid Black Economic Empowerment programmes. This changed in 2008. In a case brought before the High Court of South Africa by the Chinese Association of South Africa it was ruled that Chinese South Africans with citizenship before 1994 qualify as disadvantaged individuals of the category ‘coloreds’ under Apartheid.

The migration stream between China and South Africa was shut from the 1950s until the late 1970s, when Apartheid South Africa established ties with Taiwan. The incoming Taiwanese investors started textile factories in rural areas of South Africa. A more recent wave of Chinese from the Mainland of China has arrived since the early 2000s. Yoon Park, one of the initiators of the Chinese in Africa / Africans in China Research Network, noted in 2012 that there are close to half a million Chinese South Africans today, half of the estimated one million Chinese living in Africa today.

Ten hypotheses on Africa-China relations and development

Certainly, these cases do not present a complete picture of Africa-China relations. I did not talk about ivory and animal welfare. I did not present the multitude of African people travelling to China as students or traders. I did not address the fact that the People’s Republic of China contributes the largest contingent to UN peacekeeping forces in Africa. I did not say a word about the presence of Chinese state media on the continent nor the presence of Confucius Institutes on African university campuses.

The mosaic’s pieces cannot represent the full diversity and depth of Africa-China interactions but rather equal spot lights that might give us an idea of the relationship’s complexity. Still, I am convinced that the mosaic, each tiny little piece of it, has been able to point to the larger issues at hand in Africa-China relations and development. I will now present ten hypotheses on Africa-China relations and development derived from my cases. They shall open up the floor for reflection, criticism and innovation on development cooperation between Africa and China during our conference. I sincerely hope that these hypotheses give all of you enough food for thought over the coming one and half days.

Development is about mitigating environmental costs.

Development always brings along environmental costs. However, there is no planet B. Consequently, alternative programmes to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) should take into account the availability of resources and environmental sustainability. At the core of initiatives like the EU-proposed Connectivity Strategy or the US-initiated B3W should not be a process of replicating ‘a better BRI’ but of enabling sustainable livelihood improvement in Africa.

Future development cooperation should take advantage of and contribute to whatever concrete projects are already in place on the ground. The necessity for development and criticism of its costs by African societies should be an indicator. It will be inevitable for African, Chinese and EU development actors to interact and cooperate with each other.

Takeaway question: How can development be sustainable in a planetary sense?

Development is about interests.

‘Africa and China’ should be really about Africa and China. It is evident that the BRI carries geopolitical implications und dependencies not only for African countries but also the EU and the US. However, the assessment of Africa-China relations and Chinese investments in Africa should be based on African interests and their alignment with Chinese interests.

Development cooperation must be decolonised from the agendas of the Global North. This also means that the EU engages with African countries not because of China but because of Africa. Pathways of development and opportunities of cooperation should be questioned through African voices on eye level.

Takeaway question: Who profits from development?

Development is relative to economic experience.

Chinese private and state-owned companies, particularly in infrastructure, have undeniably contributed to China’s own economic development since the Reform and Opening Era. Their capacities to scale up and build with speed fortify the competitiveness of Chinese development actors overseas. The close linkage between overseas investment, domestic economy and state legitimacy have produced a high degree of macroeconomic strategizing, planning and foresight by the Chinese government.

The Chinese economic experience has produced a particular set of development actors. It has inspired African decision-makers, revealed the strengths of China’s development cooperation with Europe and uncovered the weaknesses in African-European development cooperation of the past.

Takeaway question: What can we learn from China in development?

Development is about ownership.

China as a ‘developmental state’ has the state, and through it the party, at the centre of its economic strategizing. Going out has been a top-down call by the Chinese government for companies in order to internationalise. Just this year, we have repeatedly witnessed the forceful realignment of economic innovators and actors with state and party priorities in China.

Overseas, Chinese economic actors have encountered challenges previously peripheral to their agenda, that is bottom-up calls for transparency and inclusiveness as well as outright opposition by civil society. African ownership, from transparent bidding and multi-stakeholder planning to the implementing workforce, should be improved based on the rights-based foundations of participatory economic and political systems.

Takeaway question: What constitutes the strengths of participatory bottom-up processes in development?

Not everything about development in Africa is about China.

Chinese economic actors participate in a globalised economy, marked by inequalities and disparities. Local challenges interact with global capitalist structures and vice versa. Sometimes local grievances are geopoliticised and equipped with a China framing, whereas these conflicts are in fact a ramification of the hierarchies of the globalised economy.

For instance, all economic actors in the current global system seek cost cutting measures, from rearranging production value chains to subcontracting and identifying legal loopholes in environmental regulations. Rules and regulations for development, these include proper environmental and social impact assessments, have to be applied to all economic actors irrespective of their nationality.

Takeaway question: What is China and what is system specific in development?

Development needs to be regulated.

‘We need to build back the capacity of the African state!’ These are the words of Zambian economist Grieve Chelwa. The consequences of the neoliberal reform agenda have been severe in many African countries. In order to let ‘the invisible hand of the market’ do its business, state capacities to regulate and enforce, for example environmental protection and labour conditions, have been diminished.

However, the sheer quantity and variety of Chinese, as well as other countries’, economic actors make regulatory regimes from the local to the global necessary. Development actors can only be met on eye level by African governments when they are able to enforce the regulations meant to protect people and public goods.

Takeaway question: Is the state able to represent public interests vis-à-vis development?

Development requires an independent civil society.

Just as Chinese companies have been invited to internationalise by the Chinese government, Chinese civil society organisations have also been invited to ‘go out’ from the top-down. Civil society, as recent documents by the Chinese Ministries of Commerce and the Environment have illustrated, is allocated a secondary role in order to ensure the ‘green’ implementation of, for instance, BRI projects and help protect the reputation of Chinese economic actors overseas.

This official understanding of civil society participation makes alternative dialogue forums for civil society, including organisations from China, necessary. Obviously, the proximity to the party-state might help and even protect companies and civil society organisations in China. Overseas, on the contrary, this proximity rather disrupts their work and can be detrimental to building trustful transnational civil society relations.

Takeaway question: How can civil society be strengthened with regard to development?

Development is relative to power.

Africa-China relations are not only about diplomacy, governments and large scale state-owned companies. They are not only about dominating Chinese actors and accommodating African individuals. The relations are also made up of people with different power differentials: for example, Chinese businessmen, African subcontractors, Chinese migrant labourers and African businesswomen.

The analysis of Africa-China relations and development projects needs to be diversified and differentiated. It needs to follow up on Africans in China, ‘black boxes’ like the inner workings of Chinese state-owned companies and ‘the invisible’ at the margin of large scale development projects.

Takeaway question: What constitutes power and agency in development?

There is no ‘one story’ of development.

Promoting one’s own concepts has been a widely used measure of international soft power. In Africa-China relations ‘friendship’, 友谊, and ‘win-win’, 双赢, are very prominent. These concepts open up narrative pathways for the Chinese government to ‘tell China’s story well’, 讲好中国故事.

However, we need to get to a point of 真讲非洲故事, ‘really telling Africa’s story’. This includes talking about the durabilities of European colonialism, the hierarchies of capitalist exploitation by the Global North and also the negative impacts of Chinese investment. Therefore, African local knowledge should be strengthened and its voices amplified. Moreover, partners in ‘development’ should be clear about what they mean by the concept, aligning their understandings of development to reach a common goal.

Takeaway question: Who tells the story of development?

Development is about people.

The imperial practice of raw material extraction and immediate export has to end. African countries have to shoulder the social and environmental damage of, for example, industrial mining disproportionately. Value chains should be moved closer to their origins, enabling more people in African countries to generate a livelihood from the resources in the continent’s soil.

African businesses should be supported in order to diversify their economies. Development should not be aligned with consumers’ demands in China or the Global North but the position of African suppliers in the globalised economy. Development needs to be re-centred on local populations, in the words of Zambian civil society advocate Laura Miti, and I quote, ‘deliver to the people!’

Takeaway question: Does development improve local livelihoods?

Thank you very much for your attention. I am looking forward to our conference.

Termine

17.05.2022 | Online Event
17.09.2022 | Alte Feuerwache, Köln

Corona in Asien: Zivilgesellschaftliche Länderperspektiven

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