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Group a building block for Africa

2013-03-28 09:24 China Daily     Web Editor: Wang Fan comment

An unusually heavy downpour hit the South African coastal city of Durban for two days before the BRICS summit's debut on African soil, but interest and inspiration for a better platform for emerging markets were still sparked at the summit.

Although politicians and experts are still not satisfied with the current "declaratory level" of BRICS, they are busy pushing agreements and cooperation in the International Conference Center of Durban to move the bloc to a more consolidated status that can bear "more fruit".

Much farther north, the European Union is trying to find a way out for Cyprus' bailout plan that pushed the financial crisis in the region a step deeper. No one knows how long the crisis is going to last nor where it is heading.

For the first time, this emerging economic bloc is connected with the burgeoning continent of Africa, which has made steady progress amid gloomy international financial weather. It is expected to contribute more to the future industrialization of a continent with 54 countries.

But partners are also competitors, as each BRICS member has a long history of investing and doing business in Africa.

Business councils and think tanks have been established to ensure the development of this bloc. It is moving toward a more sophisticated group that can influence world affairs.

Competition will give Africa more choices to meet its need in the future and to improve its competitiveness.

When new US Secretary of State John Kerry was sworn in, he bluntly claimed China was a competitor in Africa and it was a "game" that the US will "win".

This claim reveals that US strategy in Africa is not for Africa, but for US interests and its "China containment" policy. More worrying is that it creates a fear of dragging Africa back into "proxy competition".

Robert Bates from the Independent said "too often the West sees Africa as a pawn in a power game", so one must be aware that this kind of proxy competition will again sacrifice Africa's development and the welfare of its people.

BRICS policy should strictly stick to mutual benefits and real equality, as reiterated by President Xi Jinping in his first speech in Africa a few days ago.

Many doubted whether this could be translated into real action to benefit Africa, but the truth is that China's aid and financial investment have never been politically conditional and can be found across the continent, even in conflict-ridden regions that rarely see other investors.

This gives African countries more flexibility to choose what fits them better, and this is also why trade volume and business ties between Africa and China in the past decade have been soaring - Africans are voting with action.

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