By Zuko Komisa
The last three decades of China have been marvelled at by many across the world; how they have drastically changed the lives of their people. Africa and China share many similarities, both have a large population but the major differences arise when it comes to the pace at which they are changing the fortunes of their respective people. A glaring difference to South Africa, which to this day has an abundance of resources, but have ridiculous levels of unemployment, inequality, and poverty.
Whether it’s the many factories that manufacture new technologies, artificial intelligence ahead of its time, China remains at the forefront of technological development in the world. South Africa has a lot to learn if it really wants to be a force in the fourth industrial revolution.
Africa, though different from this mighty nation, can pick from a basket of strategies the Chinese have implemented to get to where it is.
How did they do it?
The accelerated growth of China began late in the 1970s, a period after it suffered a recession with the majority of its population living in poverty. In 1978, the new strategy was known as the “Four Modernisations.” specifically aimed at modernising four key sectors that were meant for the long-term growth of the economy: Agriculture, industry, science and technology and National Defense. The adoption of this new economic strategy saw China inviting Western industrialists to bring capital and technology to China. This was also a period where China was similar to what North Korea is today, a closed Marxist state.
On top of the modernisation of these sectors, China opened up four special economic zones, which offered tax-free opportunities for foreign joint-ventures with Chinese firms. An initiative which could go a long way for certain coastal countries in Africa to attract foreign investment and technology.
Modernisation of these sectors is still a major challenge in this continent, more specifically, here is South Africa with evident needs to upscale development in infrastructure. Then there’s an education system that needs urgent intervention, non-inclusive health care system and agricultural sector with skewed ownership patterns. China’s ulitmate plan with the strategy they adopted was to quadruple GDP between 1980 and 2000 which they succesfully managed to do in the year 1996.
Chinese Ambassador Lin Singtian to South Africa, in a recent interview explained this phenomenon, “Poverty is the only enemy is China, fighting for common prosperity, we are a country that believes in socialism. The common goal is how do we get there, getting everyone to sacrifice themselves for the good of the nation and to the people.”
Africa need to be aggressive and serious about its development, through putting together long-term plans to accelerate the growth of its economies. Delibarate plans are required with the buy-in of all African states.
The biggest developmental problem facing Africa:
- We have not nipped the bud on civil wars and terrorism on the continent. There is rarely a time when there is sustained stability on the continent.
- A constant fight by political leaders, majority being pensioners, on who gets to sit at the table. Making it hard to plan ahead for the future perhaps because they won’t be there.
- Rampant corruption
- Unfair trade negotiations as well as being indebted to international aids
- We aren’t investing enough in quality education
The lack of unity in the policy direction of African countries also hampers growth across the continent. There is great optimism through out the continent and adopting strategies that benefit the general population can go a long way in growing this contintinet with untapped potential.