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Goal to bring Africa into the 'fourth revolution'

By Hai Yu (China Daily Europe) Updated: 2016-08-21 14:31

More industrial cooperation with China can trigger industrialization on the continent

With the global economy in a slump, the booming economy in Africa means a lot to the world right now. In the current industrial revolution, China, the United States and many European countries are already involved in the global chain, gaining fast economic growth. Yet Africa is less likely to get a share.

From a global perspective, we urge the US and Europe to transfer support for Africa from a traditional financial aid model to trade.

More industrial cooperation would trigger industrialization on the continent and assist it in seizing the opportunities from this round of industrial transfers.

At the end of 2013, I initiated the "triangle cooperation" concept with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee. The key to the strategy is to integrate African, Asian and global markets. Namely, it refers to fully exploiting the advantages of Africa's abundant labor supply, low labor costs and geographical proximity to the US and European markets to bring Asian manufacturing capacity to Africa. This can generate a large number of jobs in Africa and lift more people living on the continent out of poverty.

China is seen as the "world's factory", yet it is not in charge of orders. If Africa wants to offer thousands or even millions of jobs, the continent has to clearly target US and European markets.

Based on the trade agreement Africa signed with the US, its manufacturers can gain a 30 percent reduction in tariffs if they can transfer orders from Asia to Africa. That's why the triangle cooperation works.

Nevertheless, the deficiency of global manufacturing capability in Africa constrains the cooperation. China is transferring 85 million jobs overseas, bringing brand-new opportunities. Transfer of those jobs means global manufacturing capability is also transferred to low-income countries.

Considering that the US and European countries buy raw materials and products from Africa, the new round of transfers can be a sustainable business model.

A total of 189 countries, including China, signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000, in which they promise to make every effort to meet the needs of Africa. In the past 15 years, China has made obvious achievements.

China-Africa cooperation started in the 1960s and '70s. Although the Asian nation was relatively poor, it still funded many aid projects.

The second stage was from the '80s to '90s, during which China saw high-speed development and was in desperate need of a large amount of resources. Thus, both sides cooperated more in the field of energy and resources.

The third stage was from the mid-1990s, when China began to help Africa to build infrastructure. It was here that suspicion began to emanate from the international community, with some claiming that the aim of China's support in infrastructure is purely to transport African resources out of the continent - in other words, neocolonialism.

Actually, that's a one-sided view. It ignores the essence of the development from the perspective of the global market economy. China is helping Africa to catch up with the "fourth industrial revolution", which is what both Africa and the world need.

In December, President Xi Jinping took China-Africa cooperation to a new level at the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg, South Africa. He stressed that to build a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, China will implement 10 collaboration plans in the next three years.

The plans cover industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, finance, green development, trade and investment, poverty reduction, public health, culture and people-to-people communication, and peace and security.

Going on weight of importance, the plans for industrialization and agricultural modernization show the goal of the new era of cooperation in nature is to facilitate economic transition in African nations. The infrastructure and financial plans also provide support for economic development.

Green development and poverty reduction plans are important, as they can defuse negative factors imposed on the existing Chinese economy in Africa and improve the image of China-Africa cooperation.

Although the cooperation entered a new phase in December, it remains a challenge for China to help African countries to restructure their economies.

The author is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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