Taking the floor in the second panel of the Brussels briefing on “New drivers, new players in ACP rural development”, Mr. Uwe Wissenbach, Coordinator for Africa-China relations at the EU Commission, presented the EU approach to the emergence of China in Africa.
In line with the presentations of his two fellow panelists (Mr. Wang and Ms. Edinger), he reiterated that China is still a modest donor – especially in the rural sector – and it’s impact on Africa won’t be huge in terms of aid. China has instead a much bigger impact in Africa as a customer for food products or as a competitor in WTO negotiations. In this setting, we cannot only go for competition, we also need coordination.
Mr. Wissenbach acknowledged that China has achieved impressive economic growth, but he also reminded participants that “development is not only about GDP”. There are lessons to be learned from the Chinese experience that is lifting people out of poverty, but has led to some other development indicators deteriorating. It is not enough for Africa to just copy the Chinese model and adopt a sort of “Beijing Consensus”. Instead, Africa should have a pragmatic approach to development, finding whichever solutions best serve the needs.
He concluded his intervention defining where the EU stands in this picture. In his views, the strong focus given to Africa-China cooperation brings much unnecessary controversies, fights between traditional and new donors should not be encouraged, and the legitimacy of each actor needs to be respected. China, Africa and the EU should just “work together as normal partners”. There are in fact a number of areas where this type of cooperation can be useful – e.g. climate change, peace & security, sustainable management of natural resources.
This tri-lateral framework between EU, China and Africa should also rely on existing structures such as NEPAD, and could bring better coordination in supporting African initiatives. African countries should ultimately be in charge and set the parameters of this cooperation.
See more from the 2 July Briefing