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Investment breathes life into developing economies

2013-03-26 08:49 China Daily     Web Editor: qindexing comment

China is playing an important role in helping Africa to industrialize, said Raphael Kaplinsky, a professor of international development at the United Kingdom's Open University.

He said Africa is increasingly able to implement industrialization policies with help from Chinese investment and aid, which are offered without political conditions, unlike Western assistance.

"In previous periods, Africa had to accept a series of policies which were imposed on Africa largely under the dominance of the United States and the so-called Washington consensus. But China's growing economic and political roles globally means that Africa now has an alternative," Kaplinsky said.

"And it's very common to go around Africa and hear people say, 'we don't have to dance to the tune of the West anymore, there's a new set of opportunities out there'."

Different from the Western model of investment, which is separate from aid, Chinese investments in Africa are bundled with aid provisions, which drive long-term growth in the continent, he said.

"When Chinese involvement in the resource sector is bundled with the construction of hospitals, roads, transports and other provisions, sometimes the African countries gain more," he said.

Kaplinsky added that Chinese machinery and equipment sold in Africa are much cheaper than Western products, which means it can be enjoyed by a greater number of African people. Such capital goods are then used by Africans to create wealth.

Some equipment is also especially adapted to African consumers' needs and to suit the continent's physical conditions, despite the fact they may be less durable than Western goods, Kaplinsky added.

"Chinese motorcycles in Cameroon are much cheaper, and a whole community of school leavers has been able to buy motorcycles, which they use as taxis. This creates employment," Kaplinsky said.

He said another example in Cameroon is Chinese batteries, which last half as long as Japanese batteries, but cost a third, offering a cost-effective choice to low-income households.

He added that cheaper Chinese agricultural machinery is also helping Tanzanian farmers take the first steps toward mechanization.

"Those farmers couldn't afford any mechanization in the past because Western equipment was too expensive, but they now buy Chinese tractors," he said.

Furthermore, Kaplinsky said Africans have learned important lessons on the work ethic from Chinese people working in the continent.

"Chinese migrants in Africa live in similar conditions as Africans and act as an enormous role model for African entrepreneurs. And you don't find this with this generation of Western people," he said.

Kaplinsky said President Xi Jinping's tour of Africa is significant, demonstrating a shift from a unipolar world dominated by the US to a multipolar world in which China and Africa are important players.

"The fact it is his first international trip is significant in terms of what is happening in the world. The European economies are stuck and may be stuck for some time, the US economy may continue to grow, but clearly the very dynamic part of the world is Africa," he said.

"I think we've had a unipolar world for some time, where the Americans are driving things. But I think it will be in everybody's interest to have a larger number of poles, a larger number of sources of political power. So Africa's voice is important as a part of a more robust economy."

Special Report:

President Xi Jinping's Four-nation Debut Tour

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