Windhoek – Southern African countries should use their political and diplomatic proximity to China to boost agricultural production, reduce poverty and improve the region’s technological infrastructure and skills base, analysts have said.
In interviews with The Southern Times Business added that the SADC bloc could also benefit from China’s strength in the pharmaceutical industry. They said while COVID-19 vaccine donations to SADC countries were more than welcome, more important would be building the region’s internal pharmaceutical capacities.
China has established itself as a major economic player in Africa with investments topping US$60 billion over the past five years, and its Belt and Road Initiative – dubbed the new Silk Road – is advancing trade through modern road, rail, seaport infrastructure development.
Namibia University of Science and Technology Associate Professor Admire Mare said, “Technology transfer and educational exchange programmes in the area of agricultural and irrigation engineering can assist Africa to reap benefits from its close co-operation with China. Instead of focusing on loans, human capital development can unlock the full potential for Africa to reap tangible benefits.
“Donor dependency kills initiative and affects the building of human capital base which can assist a nation to ensure food security. More needs to be done untangle Africa from the dependency syndrome which can be traced to the colonial era. Food security has the potential to lead to peace and sustainable development,” Prof Mare said.
University of Namibia-based international relations expert Mr Ndumba Kamwanya said Southern African countries should also look at how they can adopt and adapt the strategies and policies that have seen China rising from poverty to become the world’s second biggest economy in 30 years.
“Relations between China and most of the countries in the region are really cordial but we need to find ways to not just borrow money as well as expect donations but take a cue from their developmental policies.
“These can be borrowed and aligned to our own set up and will resulting most countries being self-sustainable. Of course other people feel the relations with China are not mutually beneficial but he honours is with us to take as much as we can from the Chinse for our own benefit,” Mr Kamwanya said.
He went on, “China is one of the only counties that have used Agriculture to lift a huge number of people from acute poverty especially in the rural areas but here in SADC we are still struggling in making sure that our agriculture becomes the core of our development. Even when it comes to dealing with a crisis China was the first to be plunged into the pandemic but they are already out with a solution while we are waiting for their helping hand instead of taking a cue from their policies.”
Economic analyst Dr Omu Kakujaha Matundu said Southern Africa needed to diversify its trade with China to include processed goods.
“Diversification of exports away from minerals to China is important. Africa should seek to export a more diversified basket to China. The region should make deliberate and concerted effort to enter Chinese value chains. Otherwise, it will remain the same difference for us and we will be stuck in a raw minerals exports, which does not add to employment creation and poverty alleviation,” he said.