hina has prioritised Africa as a strategic partner at both the political and economic level and already its drive for raw materials has initiated a new scramble for Africa, the long-term implications of which are uncertain – but a new book argues that there can be a ‘win win partnership’ in southern Africa if governments pursue policies that are based on achieving long-term socio-economic and development goals.
Launched August 14 in Johannesburg, South Africa Win win partnership? China, Southern Africa and the Extractive Industries is based on lengthy research in six southern African countries and adds to the growing literature on the role of China in the region but does so in three distinct and important ways.
Firstly, the book has been developed by the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) – an institution that is firmly rooted in southern Africa. While there are many Western institutions that produce interesting research on China-Africa relations, this is often developed to answer questions that are important to policy makers in developed countries.
“The policy perspectives of southern Africans and the interests that southern African research serves are quite different,” said Dr Claude Kabemba, Director of the SARW and a co-editor of the book. “This research and the books recommendations are specifically intended to serve both civil society and state actors across our region.”
Secondly, much of the research that exists has focused on macro-level economic growth. And while the overall picture of how Chinese activity and investment is driving an economic boom in southern Africa is important to understand, the research that has been carried out by SARW and its partners is a critical addition because it provides local-level experiences and practical examples of the ways in which Chinese investments affect communities in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Lastly, this research provides much-needed nuance. “The research in this fascinating book shows that Chinese investment is neither an unqualified boon nor a bane,” said Sisonke Msimang, Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). “While governing elites tend to overstate the development benefits of Chinese investment, critics of Chinese investment understate them or deny them entirely.”
“The challenge for the countries of our region is not how to deter Chinese investment but how to ensure that the positive developmental potentials are enhanced,” said Msimang. But most importantly, a thorough reading of this research makes it clear that the real challenges and opportunities related to Chinese investment must be exploited by southern African states.
“How much Chinese investment helps to develop the region – rather than just exploit its natural wealth – depends on the policies and programmes of southern African governments,” said Dr Kabemba. “The onus is on our governments to pursue policies that are based on achieving long-term socio-economic and development goals and that result in a win win partnership.”
In this context, policy options and dialogue processes become critical in advancing the interests of southern Africa’s economic development, human security and democratisation in the face of the new challenges that China’s growing involvement brings.
The book concludes with a series of recommendations that would help to ensure a win-win relationship with China, including:
1. Building and maintaining an efficient and effective mining public administration;
2. Developing the competencies to run the extractive industries;
3. Strengthening tax regimes;
4. Building linkages between the extractive industries and local economies;
5· Using China’s massive finances to support regional infrastructure development; and,
6· Ensuring that Chinese companies are no longer let off the hook regarding corporate social responsibilities.
As the book makes clear, these actions would help to ensure that the relationship becomes mutually beneficial and that it results in a win for China and its companies – and a win for all southern African citizens, not just the elite.
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.