How China delivers rural development assistance to Africa

The second panel of the Brussels briefing on New drivers, new players in ACP rural development focussed on China’s role in rural development cooperation with Africa, Africa-China economic relations and the EU’s approach to this changing architecture. Ms. Hannah Edinger of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University gave an overview of ways that China delivers foreign aid to Africa.

First of all, Ms. Edinger explained that China is engaging Africa on new terms – not shaped by traditional powers – that are based on a collaborative state-business approach to foreign policy. Aid focuses on infrastructure and the industrialisation of Africa and to a smaller extent on agricultural development. In other words, Africa is seen by China as an emerging market, where China can offer Africa new investment strategies. In this context, China is rather a development partner than a donor as such.

Although the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was created about ten years ago to coordinate Chinese foreign policy objectives towards Africa, effective coordination is challenging, and data monitoring is proving difficult. This results in disconnected aid projects. It is estimated that one third of China’s aid outflows are to Africa; FOCAC wants to double this by 2009.

She drew attention to the position of China versus traditional donors and argued that China was a relatively small donor, but its commitment is very visible and generates much international attention and debate. China-Africa relations are based on historical assistance and China, as a developing country, brands itself as understanding Africa’s needs and being the right partner.

In conclusion, Ms. Edinger stated that China indeed provides key inputs in the agricultural sector. She ended her presentation with a number of recommendations addressed to African countries, China and traditional donors. She called for greater coordination, harmonisation and transparency and said that traditional donors should be encouraged to work towards constructive partnerships with China in Africa.

See more from the 2 July Briefing

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