Because of the long years of their tireless friendship and cooperation, it was unthinkable for China not to do something about Africa’s pre- and post-COVID-19 dire situation. History beckons us to the facts of this win-win friendship that is bound to grow, Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG writes in this opinion piece.
It is not uncommon to hear some people say that China’s new-found economic prosperity is the only raison d’être of its close ties with Africa. To such people, Beijing is only interested in Africa because of the latter’s abundant natural resources that serve its huge industrial base. Such thinking is not quite true! For, Africa and China, have come a long way. Very long way indeed.
It all began way back before pre-colonial Africa times. And continued when China was just an “ordinary” nation – very much at the same level of economic standing and development like most of post-independence Africa. After the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the triumphant leaders at the helm of the newly-founded People’s Republic of China, PRC, began seeking the country’s admission into the comity of nations – the United Nations Organisation. But the West strongly resisted the move, having backed the losing side in the civil war under the defunct Republic of China, ROC.
Thanks to the vote of African nations, the People’s Republic of China was on October 25, 1971 finally admitted into the UN as a member State. And Beijing was grateful for Africa’s support. At the time that it mattered most. Similarly, Africa’s liberation struggle found favour with the Chinese. Just like it did with the defunct Soviet Union, Eastern European states, Cuba … This invaluable support – in terms of financing, training, equipment and logistics, etc, to a large extent, accounts for the independence today of African nations like Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Zimbabwe, Namibia….
In the area of economic fillip, China’s Opening Up Policy, which has seen the country metamorphose from a poor agrarian economy to the world’s second largest economy – after the United States of America – has never ceased being a shining example to Africa. And the rest of the world.
That, with determination, hard work, focus, purposeful leadership, good sense of direction, the people’s backing… any nation can also change its fortunes. Literally, within the twinkle of an eye!
From China’s new-found wealth and prosperity, Africa has also been a partaker. And no mean one at that. The most recent cases in point are the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC summits, during which China doles out whooping amounts to boost the continent’s all-round development. Promises, which are often kept – within their promised timeframes.
Such has been the relationship between Africa and China for decades today. With China providing a much-needed alternative to Bretton Woods institutions to which the continent had been tethered ever since independence. Today, Africa has another financial partner substitute in the “person” of China. Much to the chagrin of some. Thus the overbeaten complaint of “Africa’s indebtedness to China is unsustainable!” While debts must be contracted with much care – and caution – the same complaint hardly arises when African nations collect Western loans!
Take infrastructure development, for example. Hardly will you find any African country where the Chinese have not constructed such. And take away the “gift” projects, Chinese still compete and win most construction contracts on the continent. And generally carry out their tasks well – if there is no third party meddling that often compromises the quality of work at the end.
Today, and before us all, stands an unprecedented challenge- the Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic. Which China decisively and fairly promptly checkmated. The disease’s trail of all-round destruction across the globe is all too evident even to the man in street. Or what is known in the French language as “lamnda” citizen.
As Africa’s leading financial, economic and trade partner, China cannot afford to look the other way. While the continent wallows under the weight of COVID-19-inflicted economic recession.
Revamping bilateral trade, addressing the debt burden and other incentives to enable African economies grow and stand on their feet, is not only welcome, but a necessity. In other words, a buoyant Africa will directly – if not indirectly – also help in growing China’s giant economy.
Because of their long years of tireless friendship and cooperation, it is unthinkable, therefore, for China not to do something about Africa’s post-COVID-19 dire financial and economic straits. History beckons us all to the facts of this win-win friendship such that we do not hope for anything less. Because in dire times like these, a friend in real need, becomes a friend indeed!
Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG, a journalist based in Yaounde, Cameroon, is a contributor to People’s Daily English Language Online Desk. He is a 2017 Fellow of the China-Africa Press Centre.
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