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Africa, growth and the sum of its parts

By Li Lianxing | China Daily Africa | Updated: 2014-12-07 16:08

 Africa, growth and the sum of its parts

Symerre Grey-Johnson, an official with the New Partnership for Africa's Development, says China's relationship with Africa goes back a long way. Provided to China Daily

Call for holistic approach to economic development on continent

China's relationship with Africa is a great example of South-South collaboration that benefits both sides, says Symerre Grey-Johnson of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. However, a more comprehensive system needs to be established to monitor how the relationship is going, he says.

The partnership is an economic development program of the African Union, and Grey-Johnson is head of partnerships and resource mobilization for the organization.

China's relationship with Africa goes back a long way, has benefited both sides' development and continues to be beneficial, he says.

But if Africa is to grow more solidly and sustainably, monitoring the quality of all continental-level relationships between Africa and other partners including China, the European Union, Japan and the United States, is a must, he says.

"What we want to see is more of a holistic approach to the way China relates with Africa. That means the benefits being spread all the way along the value chain. That's what needs to be tested, and we want the Chinese Foreign Ministry to come on board to establish some sort of monitoring mechanism."

As a Pan-African organization, the partnership is asserting itself as economic plans for the continent unfold, and it hopes new partners can be found to help in the drive for growth.

"We are looking at partnerships on three levels: the continental level, meaning within African countries; between Africa and the South or South-South cooperation; and between Africa and the world."

In their external relationships African countries are too preoccupied with partners outside the continent, Grey-Johnson says, but he sees huge value in intra-Africa exchanges.

"For instance, a crucial agriculture scheme, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, was formed and influenced by African countries themselves, for which Equatorial Guinea has pledged $30 million and Angola has pledged $10 million to set up the Solidarity Trust Fund for food security."

Chinese investment in Africa and engagement with it have greatly benefited the continent but these things should focus more on the continental integration that is transforming Africa, he says.

"This means that it should not be country specific, but continent specific. China needs to approach Africa as a continental market."

But some researchers say China's Africa policy is executed too much on a continental level, he says. He believes that China, apart from engaging with the continent through the African Union, should engage with the continent through individual countries to better support Pan-African development..

"For instance, there are a number of frameworks in agriculture, fisheries and human development that China can support so that not just one country or region will be transformed, but the entire continent. It's in China's interests that this happen."

As an example he cites trans-regional railway projects carried out by Chinese companies in various African regions that affect Africa's employment, markets, supply of goods and services, and trade.

"It really is the next frontier that we are talking about. A continental approach to Africa really is needed to push forward the transformation agenda. It's a very intelligent partnership because it has demonstrated tangible results, and everyone wins."

Compared with other countries and entities that have anything to do with African development, China's approach is more practical and intelligent, he says, and that is evident in the good results.

But Africa needs to do more to attract foreign investment by drawing on its enormous resources and market potential.

"It's not money itself that is the problem in Africa but access to it," Grey-Johnson says.

Many chances have been lost because of promises aimed at luring potential investors that have ultimately been unrealistic, so Africa needs to learn how to make the best use of its assets, he says.

Grey-Johnson cites the power industry as one that urgently needs to be developed to give a fillip to other industries. One plan was put forward for doing this, but the steps aimed at increasing power production were embedded in 51 separate programs.

"These were multimillion dollar mega projects that crossed international borders. We then asked ourselves what was needed for the projects to be implemented. After many rounds of talks we realized that the projects were not properly conceived.

"And when we looked into it further we realized that because the plans were badly thought out, the appropriate financial institutions or multilateral agencies or lending institutions were unwilling to finance these projects."

More ways need to be found for securing funding for very big projects, apart from drawing on public funds, private investment, loans and grants, he says.

"We have projects that need public funds, but other projects require a public-private arrangement. We also have projects that need pure financing money and private money, whether that be a loan, equity or a combination of both."

Since the 1960s, 70-80 percent of infrastructure projects have been funded from public funds, but the private sector should now work with governments to fast-track projects, he says.

"Governments have the right to implement very big infrastructure projects because it's part of their mandate, but private money helps speed things up.

"We can't force them to do that. We want to put together a technical advisory service through which governments can get access to the world's best financial advisers, lawyers and technical people. That will mean these projects can be properly packaged, and we can go to the market to get the money we need to get the projects going. So it's not about getting people to do things, it's about putting the best possible packages together and bringing them to the market."


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