<strong>China a dependable partner for Africa to advance commerce under the AfCFTA</strong>

China a dependable partner for Africa to advance commerce under the AfCFTA

China is today the single biggest trading partner with African countries. Geographically, China might be smaller that Africa, Europe or North America. But in terms of population, it’s the most populous nation of 1.3billion people almost the same population as the African continent. So in a way China is by its own right a continent.

Now African countries want to trade more with each other on the continent, and questions have been asked; will this hurt or benefit big trading partners like China?

Chinese officials have publically said that, China is wholly supportive of the AfCFTA, seeing it as a ‘win-win’ solution and arguing that free trade and multilateralism are key foundations to the global system. In November 2020, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi assured African that his government will provide cash assistance and capacity-building training to AfCFTA secretariat.”

The AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area of a single market for goods and services of almost 1.3 billion people across Africa that enables deepening economic integration of Africa. It was established in 2018 by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

The trade area could have a combined gross domestic product of around $3.4 trillion, but achieving its full potential depends on significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures across African signatory nations.Th world bank report 2020, estimated that by 2035, real income gains from full implementation of the agreement could be 7 percent, or nearly $450bn.

The AfCFTA aims to reduce tariffs among members and covers policy areas such as trade facilitation and services, as well as regulatory measures such as sanitary standards and technical barriers to trade.

Rwanda was selected   among countries to kick start trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) framework in a pilot phase that also involves six other countries, namely; Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius and Tanzania.

Recently, RwandAir, put in place a preferential freight tariff for Rwanda exporters under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA, according to media reports. The promotional offer gives Rwanda exporters a low pay of $1.4 per Kilogramme is aimed to motivate the business community to leverage AfCFTA- one of the 13 flagship projects of Agenda 2063 in Africa. It should be noted that in August, 2022 RwandAir had increased airfreight fee on a kilogramme of fresh produce from $1.8 to $2.

So the future of AfCFTA can only be looked at in the mirror of other regional integrations ambitions that came before it. Its liberalized trade regime will, hopefully; gradually lead to an integrated continental market with tariffs phased out on 97% of tariff lines within 10-13 year. This means we expect a fully-fledged AfCTA, between the year 2031 and 2034.

Africa’s traditional trading destination.

Africa export and import patterns have in past been dictated by their former colonial masters, religious and other western historical links. China is a new entrant in this mix and has no historical baggage in Africa.

So let us face the facts; it is not likely that Europe, major colonial powers and Christianity exporters to Africa, nor North America, a successor to European Influence in Africa are going to applaud ACFTA.  It is like children’s seesaw, one can only go up when one goes down and vice versa. The higher Africa goes up the lower the west goes down. On the other hand China and Africa, at least for the moment, don’t have to be on the seesaw.

What will be the linkage between the intra-Africa CFTA and China?

The focus on intra-African links is expected to involve China in two main areas: trade and the building of infrastructure to facilitate trade.

Infrastructure

AfCFTA is not going to be implemented by White color business people. The men in suits and neck ties, and the women in high heels, flying in Boeing and Airbuses.  It will only be successful through young men in jeans, truck suits and women in Kitenges. These will require adequate roads and railway.  Infrastructure; which will be necessary for the implementation the reduction; and latter total removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The former colonial masters did not build these roads and railways for the purpose of intra African trade. They built a few and they are not about to do so today. Particularly, the western so called “democratic models”, will not facilitate that. Neither Democrats nor Republican will win votes by promising to build Infrastructure in Africa, the same goes for Europe political parties. On the other hand, china is already dealing with Africa on infrastructure development under the Forum for Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

China is already the highest investor in African infrastructure, and so Beijing is un-doubted going to play a key role in projects to set up transport corridors that will support African, intra African trade, and industrialization. This is already happening through “The Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) framework. Africans are not naïve, they don’t see China as a God sent messiah, China has its own interests, what we shall be looking for is a Win –Win partnership.

Potential for trade partnership instead of tensions

The AfCFTA is designed to boost trade amongst African partners. Skeptics argue that, this could be the very reason that is likely to cause friction between Africa and China under AfCFTA , which is the continent’s single-largest trading partner.

Some commentators have accused China’s role as the world’s factory, producing cheap products as being the cause that has stunted the development of African manufacturing and supply chains.

With AfCFTA, Africa will take into account the rules of origin. So contrary to prophets of doom, African will not import cheap “Chinese clothes” and make shirts and pants to export to the neighbours. Countries with vast unutilized land like Zambia, DRC and Tanzania, will grow cotton, or even invite Chinese, and other experts to make clothes for export under AfCFTA.  Countries that traditionally practice animal husbandry, like Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Senegal etc. will invite china to process the hides and skins to produce, leather and leather products. This is what will qualify for rules of origin.

For the AfCFTA to succeed we don’t need bureaucracies. We don’t need American Congress, European parliament, or British House of Commons, to act. We need a partner with whom once we come out of the negotiation room, and the deal has been agreed upon the implementation starts immediately.

Author: Hanane Thamik is currently a Ph.D. scholar at the School of Information Management, Wuhan University, simultaneously a member of the Morocco-China Friendship Exchange Association, the author of China Today ,the former author of CGTN Africa, Africa-China Review, and the Canadian magazine ( Etats de splendeur ). She was chosen as Morocco’s youth representative for the Belt and Road initiative by the Moroccan embassy in China, the Arab youth participant in the 9th Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum 2020, and the Ambassador of Wuhan City to the world by Changjiang Weekly Magazine, and the Moroccan Youth Representative 2020 (FOCAC, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs). She also won the awards of the Belt and Road Tourism ambassador 2019, the Outstanding African Student in China 2018, the Cultural Achievement Award by UNESCO, the Wuhan University Outstanding International Students award 2019 and 2021, the Maotai scholarship “Excellent academic performance and outstanding overall performance 2019 and 2021,” the outstanding individual among international students fighting novel coronavirus pneumonia 2020, the only Moroccan winner of the essay contest named “experience China -our anti-epidemic story” 2020 (China Scholarship Council), the Chinese Government Outstanding International Student in China 2020 ( China Scholarship Council ),  the winner of the 5th “My Beautiful Encounter with China” essay contest for international students in China, and recently the first prize of the competition of the 37th Chu Cai Composition Competition. She was one of the successful 54 young people worldwide who has been selected to participate in a training program organized by the United Nations in Switzerland in 2019. She has also more than 20 publications among them the United Nations Geneva 2019 report, Peking University 5000-mile reports 2020 and 2021 which were handed to high-ranking officials at the Ministry of Foreign affairs in Beijing, and her most recent SCI paper, “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Sustainable Development in Electronic Markets,” which received attention from many experts across the world and was posted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on its official website.

<strong>Why Xi deserved another term to realize China modernization</strong>

Why Xi deserved another term to realize China modernization

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) ended on 22nd of october after a week of discussions on the way forward for China’s present and future aspirations.   It was not surprising that president Xi Jinping was re-elected general secretary of the 20th Central Committee of the CPC. Xi truly deserved it because of the remarkable progress and miraculous achievements realized by China since he became the president on March 14, 2013.

 Xi Jinping’s New Age of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics highlight four characteristics: The theory of character of inheritance and innovation, Centering on people’s value concept, rock-solid political concentration, the essence of realistic and practical, the concept of Community of human destiny. This philosophy that makes Xi Jinping thought, has been the magic bullet behind China’s political stability, unity, development and a foreign policy that envisages a shared future for mankind. The continuity of Xi Jinping as the general secretary of the CPC is of great significance in the consistency and smooth governance of the party, towards Chinese modernization.

In February 2021, Xi announced that China had scored a “complete victory” in its fight against poverty. Since the launch of the reform and opening up in the late 1970s, nearly 800 million impoverished rural residents were lifted out of poverty. China, the most populous country in the world with more than 1.4 billion people made history and became the envy of every developing nation, wondering how the Chinese leaders managed to do it in less than a generation. This was no mean achievement; it was miraculous.  By doing so, again, China contributed more than 70 percent of global poverty reduction.

During the fight against poverty, China took five measures, including boosting the economy to provide more job opportunities, relocating poor people from inhospitable areas, compensating for economic losses associated with reducing ecological damage, improving education in impoverished areas, and providing subsistence allowances for those unable to shake off poverty through their own efforts alone. These are lessons which many countries in the developing world can learn from China.

China’s success in poverty alleviation proved that the problem of poverty, in essence, is how the people should be treated, because the people-centered philosophy is the fundamental driving force behind this cause, which president Xi and the CPC put forward. As in a football team, the winning captain does not easily get changed for the sake of changing. The captain is retained to keep winning. This is the reason why the CPC delegates decided to re-elect Xi Jinping as the general secretary of the party to continue the development path towards national rejuvenation.

The Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) has been embraced by the international community as a public good and cooperation platform spreading connectivity, infrastructure development, investments, industrialization, trade, tourism, technological and capital fund transfer to spur economic growth, transformation and shared prosperity and common future for mankind. Xi has proven to be a leader with a global outlook rather than looking at the development and prosperity of China in isolation or with ambitions to out compete other countries.

Launched in 2013, BRI is a centerpiece of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy providing opportunities for shared development and investment initiatives across the world without discrimination. Xi has emerged as a defender of globalisation.

President Xi Jinping‘s leadership has witnessed a technological revolution that has created immense impact on the Chinese society.   China has made significant strides in Artificial Intelligence (AI), making outstanding contributions to AI globally. Scientific research and innovation, has been president Xi Jinping’s deliberate efforts in the journey towards China’s modernization.

 Xi instigated a campaign that cracked down on corruption disciplining over one million officials, reaffirmed China’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change, and also made environmental protection a priority. When I visited China in the summer of 2019, I could see the blue skies of Beijing almost seven days a week. I was told that this was not possible a few years before, as industrial pollution kept a constant smog on the horizon of China’s capital city.  Again as I travelled across many cities of China, I could see trees planted in many areas that were empty before, making the environment green and protected.

At the opening session of the 20th National Congress, Xi stressed further modernizing of national defense and the military, with enhanced   Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) capability in safeguarding the country’s security.

Xi said, achieving the goals for the centenary of the PLA in 2027 and more quickly elevating the people’s armed forces to world-class standards are strategic tasks for building a modern socialist country in all respects. China’s military capability is for national security as well as promoting global peace and security through peacekeeping engagements.

During the 20th National Congress, Xi stressed that China plays a crucial role in the reform and development of the global governance system. He said that China will pursue a vision of global governance featuring shared growth through collaboration. Under his leadership, China has promoted common values of democracy, peace, justice, fairness and freedom. China has consistently supported multilateralism and has been persistent in calling for a world order devoid of bullies and confrontation. China under Xi, advocates for peaceful co-existence and mutual respect. 

The governance of China and its development are hinged on people-centered philosophy. “Everything is for the people and everything depends on the people.” Xi Jinping was re-elected the party’s general secretary because of the confidence the Chinese people have in him because his action and achievements speak for themselves. They want him to continue leading the party to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. Where there is a will there is a way.

Author: Hanane Thamik is currently a Ph.D. scholar at the School of Information Management, Wuhan University, simultaneously a member of the Morocco-China Friendship Exchange Association, the author of China Today ,the former author of CGTN Africa, Africa-China Review, and the Canadian magazine ( Etats de splendeur ). She was chosen as Morocco’s youth representative for the Belt and Road initiative by the Moroccan embassy in China, the Arab youth participant in the 9th Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum 2020, and the Ambassador of Wuhan City to the world by Changjiang Weekly Magazine, and the Moroccan Youth Representative 2020 (FOCAC, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs). She also won the awards of the Belt and Road Tourism ambassador 2019, the Outstanding African Student in China 2018, the Cultural Achievement Award by UNESCO, the Wuhan University Outstanding International Students award 2019 and 2021, the Maotai scholarship “Excellent academic performance and outstanding overall performance 2019 and 2021,” the outstanding individual among international students fighting novel coronavirus pneumonia 2020, the only Moroccan winner of the essay contest named “experience China -our anti-epidemic story” 2020 (China Scholarship Council), the Chinese Government Outstanding International Student in China 2020 ( China Scholarship Council ),  the winner of the 5th “My Beautiful Encounter with China” essay contest for international students in China, and recently the first prize of the competition of the 37th Chu Cai Composition Competition. She was one of the successful 54 young people worldwide who has been selected to participate in a training program organized by the United Nations in Switzerland in 2019. She has also more than 20 publications among them the United Nations Geneva 2019 report, Peking University 5000-mile reports 2020 and 2021 which were handed to high-ranking officials at the Ministry of Foreign affairs in Beijing, and her most recent SCI paper, “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Sustainable Development in Electronic Markets,” which received attention from many experts across the world and was posted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on its official website.

<strong>A Zimbabwean student goes to China’s countryside to learn about the country’s victory against poverty</strong>

A Zimbabwean student goes to China’s countryside to learn about the country’s victory against poverty

After immersing himself in his studies for several years, Tungamirai Eric Mupona, 23, a postgraduate student from Zimbabwe at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, finally had a chance to go to China’s countryside to find out answers to questions he had in his mind. 

Mupona is from a village in Mashonaland Central Province, Zimbabwe. After graduating from high school at the age of 17, he came to China as an international student to study applied physics at the Zhejiang University of Science and Technology. After graduation, he went to Zhejiang University for postgraduate studies. He actively participated in social activities, hoping to gain an in-depth understanding of China, especially the development and changes in China’s rural areas. 

During his stay in China, he visited rural areas in Ningxia, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and other places to learn about China’s poverty alleviation experience with the aim to apply it to his hometown. 

“I have been going to the grassroots level after I came to China. I grew up in rural areas and have a very strong affection for the countryside. I hope to tell others what I have seen and heard in China when I return to my home country,” he told ChinAfrica.  

During his visits, Mupona experienced local Chinese culture, and witnessed rural revitalisation and functioning of grassroots governing organisations.  

Tungamirai Eric Mupona learns how to plough the land for red date under the guidance of a local farmer in Xingxian County, Shanxi Province in 2021

Chinese model of ending poverty 

In August, when visiting Jinyun County in Lishui City, Zhejiang Province, Mupona was deeply impressed by ancient Heyang Village, the scattered remains of ancient dwellings of Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912), and the cultural heritage of Wuju Opera of Jinyun.  

“I saw that the traditional culture of the county was very well preserved. Its exploration of rural revitalisation and common prosperity is based on traditional culture,” Mupona said.  

The experience showed Mupona that developing cultural industry enables their culture to be better inherited and protected, and cultural heritage development also brings employment opportunities, revitalises rural economy, and enhances community identity. 

Last summer, Mupona and more than 10 young Africans came to Xingxian County, Shanxi Province to study poverty alleviation campaigns in this former national poverty-stricken county. During a week’s visit, he found that the local households had moved from earthen caves in the mountains to residential areas furnished with complete living facilities. 

Through the development of paper cutting, millet planting and other industries under the guidance of the government and village cadres, the income of the villagers had been continuously raised. 

“I was surprised to see that the first secretary of the village branch of the Communist Party of China knew every corner of the village and every family’s situation like the palm of his hand,” Mupona told ChinAfrica. In terms of grassroots governance, the local government always puts people’s interests first, which is a people-centred approach. Under this concept, as long as an action can help local people to improve their livelihood, they will not hesitate to do it, Mupona said. “I think it is worth learning, and it is not easy.” 

After visiting dozens of counties and villages, which have gone through the transition from poverty to revitalisation, Mupona learned that speedy, sustained and inclusive development is critical to reducing poverty. He believes that poverty reduction in Africa also requires the same kind of strong political commitment and will as China has demonstrated. 

“When Zimbabwe’s economy is unstable, people in rural areas are particularly affected. Therefore, we should put the issue of agriculture, rural areas and farmers at the top of the national development strategy, because that is the key,” he said.  

Tungamirai Eric Mupona holds a little lamb in Xingxian County, Shanxi Province, in 2021 

African kindness 

During his five-year stay in China so far, Mupona has also been passionate about volunteer activities.  

For people in Hangzhou, the young African is not a stranger. Wearing a reflective safety vest and speaking fluent Chinese, he is often seen helping to maintain traffic flow, or guiding tourists. For that, he has earned the nickname of Foreign Lei Feng, a reference to a People’s Liberation Army soldier who is widely regarded as a role model for altruism in China.  

In fact, when Mupona first arrived in Hangzhou in 2017, he found it difficult to fit into the new environment. As such, he decided to participate in volunteer activities to meet new people. He has since been involved in activities such as maintaining traffic flow at the West Lake scenic area, assisting passengers at the railway stations, and teaching senior Hangzhou residents English. 

“When I do social welfare work, I feel so satisfied and happy. To me, volunteering is multidimensional: Besides serving others, I also get a sense of belonging, and feel at home,” Mupona said. Also, through voluntary work, he has learned a lot about the local society and culture, and has had a platform to communicate and make friends with local people.  

Mupona has also established an international volunteer service group Abroad Path Leaders to help more international students to adapt to life in China. The online platform currently has volunteers from nearly 100 countries. 

“Many foreigners come to China and want to learn the local culture and language, but they are afraid to speak. Participating in volunteer activities can not only contribute to the city, but also give a chance to practice Chinese and show the culture of your country,” he said.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mupona stayed in China and actively participated in the management, service and coordination of the university’s international students during the epidemic. At the same time, he also published articles to refute some false claims on the Internet that slandered China’s fight against the epidemic, and shared China’s epidemic prevention stories on social media platforms.  

In May 2020, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) officially recognised and thanked a group of African volunteers who helped to fight the coronavirus in China. Mupona was one of the guests at the ceremony.  

Lin Songtian, president of the CPAFFC, described Mupona and other African volunteers as contributors and disseminators of China-Africa friendship and outstanding friendship messengers. He said he sees the future and hope of the China-Africa relationship from the goodwill actions of these young African people.