By Ndumiso Mlilo in Johannesburg, South Africa | chinadaily.com.cn
Many in the African continent believe that it has made enormous progress toward governance and putting in place progressive programs for development over the last decade. Experts from the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, or AUDA-NEPAD, have reiterated that Africa is indeed rising.
Speaking in South Africa over the weekend as the continent commemorated African Day, an annual event celebrating the founding of the Organization of African Unity 56 years ago, Hamady Diop, head of the natural resources governance, food security and nutrition and water management programme, said that Africa has some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
He noted Ethiopia grew by 8.5 percent last year. In 2018, six out of 10 of the world's growing economies came from Africa.
"Africa has made significant progress in various fields and we have our own development funding mechanism -- the Africa Development Bank. The process of developing a free trade area is in high gear while other global regions are fragmenting," he said, pointing to the Brexit process and the US anti-globalization stance.
Diop said Africa's population is booming, resulting in an expanding middle class and youthful population, providing room for innovation and markets. He said the agency is pursuing continental integration with a single passport to ease movement of goods and people.
African countries have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area, bringing together 55 countries covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people.
Notably, he said a single market presents many opportunities for collaboration with China on a win-win platform. One such area is women's empowerment, where the African Union has initiated some capacity-building projects to increase their participation in the fledgling agro-processing sector. He also pointed out that the AU has a collaboration agreement with China where entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, visit China to learn from their best practices.
Diop said, "Our collaboration is largely in the aquaculture and fisheries sectors. So far, we have taken SMEs on a guided tour to China in the last two years to learn from their Chinese counterparts. We are also looking forward to the transfer of technology from China since they are advanced in this sector and the knowledge would be useful to our smallholder farmers."
The AU is working on zero hunger by 2025. Diop said bad policies have resulted in large food imports despite the continent boasting vast arable land. He said governments should make it possible for smallholder farmers to access cheap financing, a move that would significantly boost food production.
Mamadou Moussa Diakhité, the AUDA NEPAD senior project manager for sustainable land and water management, said the continent has nevertheless made great strides toward food security. He said the AU is currently identifying degraded land and forestry and restoring them before handing them back to governments and people for economic purposes.
Africa aims to restore 100 million hectares to the African states by 2030. Diakhité observed that good practices from external partners such as China would further the success of this project. He added that they would like to work with China to boost food security in Africa.
Diakhité said, "Some of my colleagues have participated in a study tour to the world's restoration success in the Loess Plateau, along the Yellow River in central China, to learn and replicate the success story."
Setloke Lekhela, Lesotho's information officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, said that China has collaborated with many African countries in improving infrastructure. He stated that the Asian giant has also helped many African countries in times of natural disasters. Lekhela said his country would like to collaborate with China in skill development around the cutting and polishing of diamonds, a move that would generate millions of jobs locally.
Chris Landsberg, the chairperson for African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at South Africa's University of Johannesburg, said that Africa has made significant progress in the last 56 years. He said there have been some policy revolutions that have been transformative in the areas of human rights, democracy, governance and integration.
He was, however, quick to point out that the continent should carry out some of its commitments. He said there are good policies that governments only need to implement.