Friday, May 27, 2016

New Essays: China-Africa, A Maturing Relationship?


c. UNIDO/FlickrJust in time for Memorial Day Weekend: "New policy essays: China-Africa: a maturing relationship? Growth, change and resilience"   DEGRP has just published its latest set of policy essays based on discussion at a DEGRP event held in Johannesburg last December, in parallel with the second summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit.  Featuring contributions from DEGRP China-Africa researchers, as well as a keynote speech from ex-World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin, it addresses issues such as industrialisation, employment dynamics, conservation, governance, and peace and security, all in the context of changing China-Africa relations. Download the set of essays here.  



Monday, May 23, 2016

Seeking China-Africa Practicum Clients for 2016-2017

Zhongfu Practicum Team in Nigeria, January 2016
Dear Colleagues,

With generous funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) China Africa Research Initiative is sponsoring one or two student practicum groups in the International Development Program (IDEV) to do practicums on a China-Africa related topic in the 2016-2017 academic year. (Click here for a story by one of our 2015-2016 China-Africa practicum teams). We are currently seeking practicum clients.

The practicum class is a capstone option for second year master’s degree students at SAIS. Four person teams work under faculty supervision for a client, on a development-related problem. We have funding for teams to do fieldwork during the 4 week January intersession. The practicum class gives students the opportunity to use their incredible analytical, research and management skills and it gives prospective employers a chance to work with our students as free consultants. Practicum terms of reference or contracts are determined in collaboration with the client. The students do not receive a stipend.

In past years our students have worked with the Zhongfu Free Trade Zone in Nigeria, Sino-African Center of Excellence in Nairobi, ASER Center in India, FEMSA Foundation in Mexico, Mercy Corps in the Philippines, PFAN (Deloitte) in Cambodia, the World Bank Water and Sanitation program (Cambodia), and World Resource Institute (China and the Philippines) and other clients.  They have worked on a range of tasks from designing and conducting impact evaluations, stakeholder analysis, and communication and outreach tools, to a learning manual for decision-makers in rural sanitation. Here’s a link to past year’s projects and presentations: click here.

If you have ideas about a practicum project on China-Africa (normally NOT a research project per se but something that would involve something more applied: an evaluation, design, survey, strategic plan, etc.) please contact me directly by June 15. You may find out more about the IDEV program on the SAIS webpage.

Best,

Deborah Bräutigam
Director, SAIS China Africa Research Initiative
Director, SAIS International Development Program

Friday, May 6, 2016

Guest Post: Report from Yiwu: Made in Africa, By China?

Photo credit: Yunnan Chen
This guest post is by SAIS Ph.D. student Yunnan Chen, who recently attended the fifth China Africa Think Tank Forum, held this year in the city of Yiwu, Zhejiang: 

The forum, organized by Zhejiang Normal University with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), China Development Bank (CDB), and, this year, the Yiwu Municipal Government, brought together representatives from these institutions, Chinese and international scholars, officials from African embassies, and representatives from the Chinese and African business communities, to discuss the theme of African industrialization—and the role of Chinese policy and investment.

The forum served as a follow up from the 6th Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Johannesburg in late 2015, where Xi Jinping pledged $60bn USD of finance for Africa, some of which would be channelled into fostering African industry—continuing to build and transform the China-Africa commercial relationship. Representatives from Yiwu were also keen to showcase the city’s brand as the small commodities capital of China (and therefore the world). Tying into this broader theme, our recently published SAIS-CARI working paper, “Learning from China? Manufacturing Investment and Technology Transfer in Nigeria”, was one of many presentations and talks discussing aspects of China-Africa cooperation in industry. A number of themes emerged at the Forum:

Structural transformation and opportunities to industrialize: Ethiopia and Rwanda came up again and again:  their representatives highlighted the key role that China was playing in their industrial sectors. H.E. Arkebe Oqubay, the economic advisor to the PM of Ethiopia, outlined the growing importance of manufacturing to Ethiopia’s structural transformation and China’s role as a model, as well as a source of FDI. Many emphasized the critical timing: Helen Hai, the CEO of Made in Africa and UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador, told her story of leading the successful entry of Chinese shoe factories into Ethiopia, positing that as China’s economy restructures away from manufacturing, Africa can capture some of the these 85m labor-intensive jobs that will need to relocate.

Infrastructure development and regional integration: A number of speakers, including Charles Kayonda, the Rwandan ambassador to China, discussed the need for infrastructure “corridors” and regional integration, noting that China is already actively building telecommunications and railway networks. Lin Songtian, director of African Affairs at MOFA, promised further cooperation with key partners including Egypt, Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, among others, in the construction of “industrial corridors” and “demonstration sites.”

China as a responsible partner: Whilst most participants were relentlessly positive on the outcomes of China-Africa cooperation, some also addressed the flip side of China’s African engagement. MOFA’s Lin Songtian emphasized the need for a more responsible approach to debt sustainability and the financial burdens created by Chinese loans. He also acknowledged that Chinese companies need to respect local laws. One interesting presentation from a Chinese risk management firm discussed some of the growing security issues that Chinese enterprises faced abroad, and his company’s role in addressing these, indicating a growing awareness (and demand) from Chinese businesses for information and insurance in going out. (He dryly described much of their work as “wiping bottoms”, i.e. clearing up messes that Chinese themselves had caused.)

Human capital and soft infrastructure: Hard infrastructure is not enough—a number of Chinese and African participants voiced the need for greater investment in human capital, a means for Chinese firms to ‘give back’ to local communities. As one Chinese firm, Touchroad International, argued, localization would be a necessary trend for Chinese firms going abroad, using the firm’s activities in Djibouti as an example of emerging Chinese Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Takyiwaa Manuh, director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), commented that Chinese firms needed to do more in technical education and training initiatives (such as agricultural training and other vocational centres) as part of the necessary soft infrastructure to support economic modernization and industrialization.

Policy alignment between China and Africa: at the policy level, H.E. Liu Guijin, former ambassador and currently dean at Zhejiang Normal University, argued the need to align the AU’s Agenda 2063 with China’s Five Year Plans—to embed China into African development strategies. Representatives of the host city of Yiwu also stressed the significance of the Belt and Road policy, for Africa, and for Yiwu city itself, which portrayed itself as the final link of the Belt and Road in China. Commenters such as CDB’s Xu Yingqiu emphasised that places like Yiwu could play a role in integrating Africa into these global supply chains. Still, there is not a little irony for a city like Yiwu—as a trading hub and capital of small commodities and wholesale—to be championing African manufacturing and industry that would compete against the types of light manufacturing goods that the city currently exports.

Though the forum was a rather grandiose--as the photo shows--means for China, and Yiwu in particular, to showcase its achievements and reinforce the positive political message of China-Africa cooperation at the elite level, the wider inclusion of business representatives and emphasis on commercial engagement indicates a growing significance for firm-level initiatives and firm-level responsibility in the evolving China-Africa economic relationship.

Monday, May 2, 2016

New Signs of Chinese Efforts to Improve Labor Relations in Africa?

Tanzanians working on Chinese-built road (2011) photo: DB
May 1 is International Labor Day almost everywhere except the USA. Today I noticed media reports from several African countries such as Uganda and Tanzania that local Chinese Chambers of Commerce were giving awards for the best workers in Chinese companies, and to Chinese companies for being the best employers. Chinese ambassadors spoke at several of these award ceremonies.

Interesting to see that Chinese embassies are urging Chinese employers to do more to train their African workforce, investing in their skill development; boost incomes (pay higher wages?); and deliver benefits in accordance with local laws.

Although some African countries (South Africa, Mauritius, possibly others) have longstanding Chinese Chambers of Commerce, I noticed around 2006 and 2007 that Chinese embassies were pushing leading state-owned enterprises in African countries to take on the role of heads of these Chambers and to use them as ways to help socialize Chinese companies into local laws and regulations. The evolving role of these business associations would be an interesting research topic.