Africa-China conference focuses on knowledge sharing, domestic solutions
Key speakers at the opening session of the Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference agreed that there was no magic bullet to reducing poverty. While there was broad consensus that Africa should learn from China’s impressive growth over the last three decades, as well as lessons from Brazil and Vietnam, speakers said these experiences should take the specificities of Africa into account.
“The biggest killer disease in Africa is neither malaria nor HIV/Aids. Poverty is the biggest killer disease on our continent”, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said at the opening of the two-day Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference. “It would thus be natural for us Africans to learn from those who have succeeded in fighting poverty in order to bolster our war [on poverty] in Africa. No one has done that better than the Chinese; which is why it would be absolutely natural for us to try to learn how the Chinese did it.”
The focus of the two-day Africa-China conference would be to see “what is working out there”, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said, highlighting the need for dialogue and the exchange of ideas without seeking a “one road to success” route.
Noting that “a development breakthrough for Africa is within reach”, the UNDP Administrator also emphasized the need for sustained and inclusive growth. She said that in its work around the world, UNDP was finding strong evidence that social protection is an investment in human development and can lay the foundations for rapid growth.
Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency of South Africa, said that “Africa has grown impressively in recent years”. According to the African Economic Outlook (2010), the average real GDP growth rate between 2000 and 2008 was 5.3%. FDI inflows grew from USD 20 billion in 2003 to USD 87 billion in 2008. Improvements in infrastructure account for a large portion of the economic growth, FDI inflows and trade.” “Despite these positives, growth cannot be taken as a given and the conditions for translating economic development to social development are still fragile. These conditions largely deal with employment, human capital development and infrastructure.”
Zheng Wenkai, Vice Minister, State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said China was still facing a number of challenges, including disparities and cases of relapse into poverty, which meant the country had to work on enhancing the population’s resistance to risks.
The President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, said there was no indication that the experiences of emerging economies were transferable; however they could help to provide a general direction for African countries. He said that Africans must find their own home-grown solutions, define the nature of their relationships with large emerging economies and stressed the need for economic integration.