Sino-African relations: Opportunities and risks for Africa
The panel agreed that the Sino-African relations are beneficial to both Africa and China, though not equally. But how exactly is Africa benefiting from the Sino-African relations and how can the continent leverage this relationship to exploit her boundless opportunities and resources?
The panel discussion, organised by the USB as part of a group assignment for the module Perspectives on African Frontiers and facilitated by Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, convened online on 5 August 2020. The panel included Dr David Monyae of the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg; Shuvai Nyoni, Managing Director of the African Leadership Centre in Kenya; Thapelo Lippe, Managing Director of The RightSource, and Fumani Mthembi, Managing Director of Knowledge Pele.
According to Dr Monyae, Africa is part of China’s strategy, and the continent needs to know what she wants from the relationship with China, given the several programmes China has for Africa. “Africa needs to generate her view and stay away from the fights between China and the West,” he said.
Looking at China’s journey to industrialisation, which is perceived as green unfriendly, can Africa incorporate China’s lessons into her growth development plans? Mthembi indicated that though Africa has abundant reserves of coal, embracing renewable energy technologies would be the best way forward because they are cost-effective and green friendly. “However, this may not be the ideal choice for most African countries, looking at the already existing coal generation capacity and the cost of importing renewable energy technologies,” she said.
She added that the continent needs to look into renewable energy as a form of industrialisation, for instance, manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines in Africa.
On the issue of risk, security and trades, Dr Monyae stated that there is a myriad of lessons Africa can glean from China in dealing with the environmental crisis and climate change. He further indicated that Africa must embrace innovation and new technologies and exploit her abundant fossil fuel reserves in an environmentally friendly manner.
“Africa needs to solve issues such as the Inga dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, for her to be energy sufficient. Africa must also start adding value to its raw materials before exportation; both policies and local entrepreneurship would drive such changes,” he said.
On issues of Africa’s youth bulge, and the socio-economic implication thereof, Nyoni indicated that the opportunities lie around high education as there is an increasing number of African youths studying in China. “Africa needs to find ways of harnessing such opportunities to her benefit,” she said.
Regarding digitisation, Lippe stated that technology is an enabler for economic growth and that there are massive opportunities in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector that the African continent can tap into, especially using China’s Huawei 5G technologies. Dr Monyae added that Africa needs to start developing its own ICT technology instead of supporting either the West or the East.
*This article was written by the 2020 full-time MBA students as part of a group assignment for the module Perspectives on African Frontiers.