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Special Feature

The China-Africa Forum: A Unique Opportunity for President Weah to Present Liberia’s Socio-economic and Development Agenda

When the leaders of China and Africa sit together in Beijing on Monday-Tuesday next week to map out the bloc’s future development and new way forward, much of the world’s attention will shift from the ongoing protectionism and tariffs war to the platform of south-south cooperation for the greater good of China-Africa’s friendship. This year’s FOCAC reflects the importance of mutual support for China and African countries and the overall future development of the African continent in the areas of industrialization and innovation based on shared values and respect for basic principles.

There is an old Chinese saying: It is better to teach somebody how to fish than simply give him the fish. In order to help African countries in the areas of socio-economic and political “management”, industrialization, innovation and capacity building, the two-day Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing should principally teach African Presidents and Heads of Governments how to fish than simply give them the fishes and milks. China and Africa have since then become all-weather friends that understand, support and help each other. Fifty-one of the continent’s fifty-three countries on the continent have established diplomatic ties with China.

With the swift rise of overall strength of developing countries and the increase of South-South Cooperation, FOCAC has momentously advanced into a new platform for China and African countries to strengthen bilateral discussions for win-win cooperation. FOCAC has recognized the continent’s growing standing in the global community of principles and shared humanity, its development potential for China and Africa.

However, this article which comes on the eve of next week Monday’ and Tuesday’s FOCAC discusses in-depth several issues while at the same time analyzes the pros and cons of Liberia’s participation in FOCAC, and suggests the way forward if Liberia is to remarkably benefit from China’s foreign aid assistance and investment comparable to the Southern and Eastern African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burundi and Southern Sudan where China is undertaking Billions of United States Dollars’ worth investment and has helped to create about ten million jobs in South Africa, not to mention other Southern African countries.

For instance, China has One Billion United States Dollar investment in Ghana and over Twelve Billion United States Dollar investments in South Africa. The presents an exceptional opportunity for President George Mannah Weah to step on the world’s stage to adequately showcase areas of investment in Liberia and the country’s priority needs in the face of complex domestic and international economic situation and the growing pressures from the nation’s economic downturn. The forum which is expected to together about 54 African presidents and heads of state and the Chinese President Xi Jinping and other key officials of the Chinese Communist Party, would possibly turned into a milk and honey for Liberia, if the country’s high-powered delegation adequately take advantage of FOCAC by projecting the government pro poor.

The Chinese government has captured the attention of many African countries including Liberia due primarily to Beijing’s reasonable approaches towards socio-economic and infrastructural development, and the ways in which the Chinese government practices win-win diplomacy and its foreign aid’s policy towards Africa. Beijing’s “win-win” diplomatic style has featured greater accommodations with several African states, governments and leaderships including Liberia. But what the importance FOCAC and what does the continent anticipate from its diverse political leaders when they meet on Monday and Tuesday with their counterparts from China in a mutual discussions for the future of both China and Africa’s growth?

It is also expected that the forum will produce a remarkable result of win-win cooperation and will farther strengthen the bonds of friendship, boost concrete benefits between China and African states including Liberia. However, this rests on the adequate preparation of a particular African President to profoundly engage his Chinese counterpart with a development blue print, mopping out areas of national needs, being mindful of the new international dynamism of protectionism and zero sum game that make its way into contemporary power politics. It very important to understand that the world is increasingly confronted with the willful acts of high power politics of the superiority state have over other states, and the increasing instabilities and uncertainties in international political economic domains, but will out doubt, China seems to be the path for Liberia’s socio-economic development and the Weah’s administration pro poor agenda.

Unlike the Western donors who tend to impose Western values like democratic ideas on Africa, China invest and provide aid without much preconditions and interference in their internal affairs, therefore, it is not unimaginable that China is regarded by Africa as a more cooperative and valuable partner to the West. Besides providing loans, China also invests in infrastructure development and many high-visibility projects, that the African leaders generally in favor. Physical infrastructure constructions have been long neglected if not avoided, by Western donors.

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But many experts argue that China‘s policies of ‘non-interference and no political strings’ have resonated so strongly among African countries which have become so wearied of those sanctimonious clichés about democracy, human rights, and good governance being proposed by the united States and its western partners. However, during this year July 3-5 China-African Think Tank Forum held in Beijing, the over 350 Chinese-African scholars’ speeches provided a cool and composed contrast to Western journalists’ blustery demeanor and perception of China-Africa’s ties.
Generally, the African scholars in a rightly condemnation of Western journalists propaganda against Beijing, offered a subtle yet sharp rebuke of global media’s antiquated, anti-China economic growth and lack of conditionality toward aid to African governments and states. Interestingly, the strength of unity and mutual trust and respectability, among the Chinese and African scholars was unique, respecting each other’s chosen paths, shared values, innovation and accommodated each other’s core interests, ideas and concerns regarding FOCAC’s ten plans.

But considering the level at which new administration in Liberia is accelerating and intensifying its efforts to address and improve the nation’s socio-economic growth, road construction, energy generation and infrastructure development across the country, the government should diplomatically knock on the doors of Chines financial institutions including the Bank of China, while at the same time put the leadership in Beijing in the position to increase its foreign aid assistance and investment in Liberia. Other African states including South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Mauritius, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Burundi and Southern Sudan, are vastly benefiting from China’s investment and foreign aid assistance.

If Liberia is to greatly benefit from Chinese government foreign aid assistance just like Southern African countries, officials of government charged with the necessary responsibility should profoundly explained Liberia’s shared values and principles to their counterparts in Beijing, keeping in minds of the nation’s dire needs of jobs creations, human and infrastructure development and other priority needs.

The Liberian delegation should stress the urgent needs of Liberia’s socio-economic growth, infrastructure, industrialization, road, and human resource development. Those that are on the delegation should effectively showcase areas of investment in Liberia, present a workable blue-print developing areas for Beijing support; this will pave the way for the realization of the government pro poor agenda. The delegation should avoid being addressees, instead should make sure that there are no weak link, loopholes, or hidden peril in propose projects.

It is also very important that members of the delegation be practical in their negotiations with their Chines counterparts, focusing on issues that most concerned the people that can help improve the standards of living and accelerate economic growth in tandem by increasing employment and promoting entrepreneurship, developing social undertakings, and achieving success in abject poverty alleviation. Let us remember that improving the wellbeing of the Liberian population and development will never end, but there are always new starting points for every administration.

As a reflection, the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, in his recent book: The Governance of China, II, p. 598, paragraph two discloses that from 1950 to 2016, China has provided foreign countries with over RMB400 billion in aid and will continue to increase assistance. According to President Jinping, China contributes on average over 30 percent of global growth each year and revealed that in the coming years, China is expected to importUS$8 trillion worth of goods, attract US$600 billion in foreign investment, and made US$750 billion in outbound investment.

While the Deputy Administrator of the State Administration of China Foreign Exchange, Mr. Lu Lei recently told the China-Africa Think Tank Forum in Beijing that China is undertaking US$14 Billion investments in Africa. Mr. Lu Lei also disclosed that the Chinese government has earmarked addition US$110 million for development for African states for 2018. Without doubt, Liberia can benefit through well defend unique projects that are in conformity with principles and shared values shielded by mutual understanding for a win-win cooperation.

Mr. Lu Lei, further disclosed that addition US$110 million for development in Africa for the 2018 current year has been approved and that African countries including Liberia need to access the loan assistance through well defend projects through a unique projects that are in conformity with principles and shared values shielded by mutual understanding, indicating that the Bank of China has over US$100 Billion investment in Africa which is geared towards achieving a win-win cooperation between China and African countries.

While the Chinese Nation Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has shown that China’s industrial output expanded 6.8 percent in May 2018. Its data also showed that country’s GDP rose to 80 trillion yuan (about 12.3 trillion US dollars), over 13 million jobs were created, more than 700 million of which 10 million rural residents were lifted out of poverty. In order to encourage African industrialization, China also established the China-Africa Fund for Industrial Cooperation, with a startup capital of $10 billion and increased capital of $5 billion each to the China-Africa Development Fund and the Special Loan for the Development of African SMEs.

Accordingly, the Bank is also supporting projects in 47 of the 55 countries in Africa; however, it remains unknown if Liberia is among the African countries that are greatly benefiting from the bank of China’s investment in Africa; the Bank of China prioritizes industrialization, innovations, economic and social development to boost shared prosperity, production, economic growth and welfare of the people.

The Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chen Xiaodong has said, by 2025 China growth rate will be 21% and by 2020 China will becomes the world’s largest export. Presently, China export has overtaken the United States of America while 2012 to presence, over seven hundred millions Chinese have been removed from poverty, making China the first country to meet the Millennium Development goal (MDG); while by 2025, China will become the highest income country of the world.

Currently, China maintains diplomatic relationship with 54 of the 55 sovereign states on the African continent while Africa is the largest oversea destination for Chinese but the lack of well-defined and effective policy formulations by some African governments and leaderships are pulling the continent backward including wide spread corruption, extortion fees and illegal payment demanded by some African custom officers, immigration personnel and state actors are also killing Africa’s growth, state actors in Beijing have said with no particular reference to any African country.

Statistics have shown that over the past 40 years, China-Africa economic and trade cooperation has achieved leap-forward development, the trade volume between China and Africa increased more than 200 times from US$765 million in 1978 to over US$170 billion in 2017. China has maintained its position as Africa’s largest trade partner for many years. “China’s 40 years of opening up have made remarkable achievements that have attracted the attention of the world.

Considering transformation and progress over the last 40 years, all effort should be made to ensure that the new era of friendship subsisting between Liberia and China move forward against all odds, build on open and inclusive friendship through exchanges and mutual understanding by fostering partnerships based on dialogue, common interest and non-confrontation. At the peak of this level, Liberia’s delegation should be proactive-not reactive; they should not wait for their counterparts from Beijing and other great capitals or investors to identify Liberia’s needs of interests.

State actors in Liberia, especially those at the corridor of power, should be fully aware of the international balance of power and win-win cooperation, and should pinpoint Liberia’s priority areas of interests of modernizations, industrializations and economic growth and if pro poor agenda is to be achieved. Those at the helm of key positions of this government including others assigned at the notion’s diplomatic missions abroad need to persistently project the country’s image to host countries, knock on the doors of potential investors and friendly governments and international partners both multilateral and bilateral, and above be farsighted and proactive.

Historically, Liberia has had strong bilateral ties with China and African countries; since the country became Member of FOCAC, it has seen a complementary interaction between south-south cooperation and the current bilateral cooperation. In this regard, Liberia and China have relished exceptional economic cooperation over the decades. The current administration in Liberia needs to play a pivotal role as a key Member of FOCAC and at the same time ensures that Liberia’s national interest and membership in FOCAC are protected for win-win cooperation.

It is important that those on the president’s delegation to FOCAC be armed with the requisite negotiation skills, proactive and innovative, if Liberia is to enormously benefit from the Monday and Tuesday’s FOCAC’s Meeting in Beijing, bring about 54 African Presidents and Heads face to face with the Chinese leadership and Head of the Chinese government, His Excellency Xi Jinping.

Liberia’s delegation should take advantage of every opportunity offered by FOCAC to present its case for economic growth, infrastructure and human resource development and avoid being spectators while other African countries effectively showcase their economic needs and areas of investment. Considering the nation’s economic inertia, the discussion for foreign aid assistance should be based on principles and shared values grounded on the nation’s primary interest while members of delegation should be practical and knock on the doors of vibrant Chinese financial institutions like the Bank of China for economic growth, human capacity building and infrastructure developments for the realization of President Weah’s pro-poor agenda. To achieve this goal, the right people with the requisite skills, experience, qualifications and education on the delegation should engage their Chinese counterparts during the two-days FOCAC’s meeting in Beijing.

According to latest data released recently, China’s GDP has averaged a yearly growth rate of about 9.5 percent. While in terms of foreign trade, China has registered a yearly growth of over 14.5 percent in U.S. dollars. In the last 10 years, with China’s strength in the workforce, capital, market and technology, the nation, on average, contributed 30 percent of the global economic growth yearly, sharing the benefits of China’s development with the world.

Also, the country’s share in the global economic growth rose from 2.7 to 16 percent; its per-capita GDP exceeded US$800 in 2017; in the past 40 years, a total of 800 million Chinese are helped out of poverty which amounted to over 70 percent global poverty reduction. According to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), China’s industrial output expanded 6.8 percent in May 2018. It data also showed that country’s GDP rose to 80 trillion yuan (about 12.3 trillion US dollars), over 13 million jobs were created, more than 700 million of which 10 million rural residents were lifted out of poverty.

In recent years, China-Africa interconnectivity construction and industrial capacity cooperation have yielded important fruits, such as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, which came into operation in October in 2016, and the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in May 2017. Industrial park construction along the rail routes has seen preliminary achievements.

Recently, President Jinping in his latest book disclosed that China is the first developing country to meet the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in terms of poverty reduction. China has backed up this proposal with a fund of US$60 billion for major capital projects. China is the strongest partner of several African states including South Africa; in 2017 bilateral trade between the two countries increased by 11.65 percent year on year to reach US$39.17billion. Today, China is South Africa largest trading partner and a major source of investment and oversea tourists.

Our delegation should inject new revolutionary value of receptiveness imbued with highly cultivated level-headedness as an added impetus to FOCAC ten plans and a regional cooperation mechanism in Africa. In fact, Liberia should be enthusiastic about participating in the Belt and Road construction, one of the shared values of FOCAC. Also in the face of China’s remarkable achievement, Liberia need to take advantage of exceptional bonds of friendship with China to access BRICS contingency reserve of US$100 Billion offers member states, and additional US$110 Million set apart for development in Africa for the current year of 2018 by the Bank of China and another funds of US$14 Billion investment in Africa.

Although Liberia is not a member of the bloc but your government can use its friendship with China and other’s BRICS members like India, Russia, South Africa and Brazil to seek assistance in the form of loan without too many bureaucratic procedures. BRICS through its New Development Bank (NDB) offers a new choice for all the developing countries in their pursuit of self-sustainable development and the NDB African region office in Johannesburg has committed US$15 Billion for loan purposes
Let us remember that improving the wellbeing of the Liberian population and development will never end, but there are always new starting points for every administration. Even though the Weah’s administration has instituted several workable measures, government need to institute inclusive and ineffective targeted measures to help the administrative address some of the problems that might serve as obstacles for the successful implementation of the pro poor agenda.
In order to enhance the achievement of the pro poor, state actors and officials of the government should proceed from reality; focus on relevant tangible projects that are fundamental to public interest although there are growing pressures from the economic downturn. This article is authored by Josephus M. Gray. He can be reached at Email: graymoses@yahoo.com.

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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