Cheng Tao Correspondent
DURING the first-ever US-Africa Leaders Summit hosted in Washington DC, a number of sessions and panels on livelihood fields such as health, food security, and infrastructure were held to show the US’ care about Africa’s livelihood. President Obama said at the summit that the US wanted to build genuine partnerships creating jobs and opportunities for all the peoples and unleashing the next era of African growth.
As American leaders kept bashing China from time-to-time, we feel obliged to make some responses. At the time of the US-Africa Summit, Ebola was rampant in western Africa, with the death toll and number of infected people surging every day.
African countries are in a shortage of medical staff and medicine. Coupled with their less-developed medical infrastructure, they are at a critical moment in need of help from the international community. African leaders feel excruciated, and their people live in the shadow of scare. At such a moment, the attitude and practice of the US is really lamentable. 340 US volunteers were withdrawn from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, countries most seriously affected by the disease.
Japan also followed suit by withdrawing its staff of the Japan International Cooperation Agency from the epidemic areas. Deserting the ship instead of offering needed help when the African people’s lives are at peril? The “support to Africa’s health area” and “care for the African people’s lives” are empty talks only?
Let us have a look at China’s deeds. After the outbreak of Ebola, the Chinese government offered as early as in April one million Yuan worth of aid for disease prevention and control to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau each.
On August 7, the Chinese government decided to offer 30 million Yuan worth of emergency humanitarian aid material to western African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
On September 12, the Chinese government provided another 200 million Yuan worth of aid to these countries and 2 million USD of cash for the WHO and the AU respectively. China has also sent 174 medical experts and workers to epidemic countries in western Africa to fight Ebola. The Chinese medical teams in these countries are also staying there, helping to tackle the disease. I don’t know what the US side would like to say about this. President Obama “advised” that “African countries should ensure that the infrastructure of roads and bridges built by China are not just used to connect the mineral fields to the ports used for exporting the minerals to Shanghai, but good for long-term development of Africa”.
Hasn’t his spin doctors told him that infrastructure built by China not only includes roads and bridges, but also 68 hospitals, 132 schools and stadiums able to seat 800 000 people, all of which are closely related to the livelihood of the African people. Even the roads and bridges are not just for the transportation of mineral resources to China. The world-famous Tanzara Railway was built by China in support of the African people’s fight for national liberation and against apartheid regime. The AU Conference Centre built with Chinese assistance gives a strong support to the efforts of the African countries to strengthen themselves through unity.
Don’t they know that China has sent 20,000 medical staff to 51 African countries, curing hundreds of millions of patients and trained tens of thousands of medical professionals for Africa? There are still Chinese medical teams stationed even now in 41 African countries. Food self-sufficiency is still to be achieved in the Continent of Africa, and half of its people live on imported food.
Most of the American food aid to Africa is in the form of direct provision of food, including genetically modified food which the African people clearly reject. Africa has favourable natural conditions for crop growing. China tries to address Africa’s food security by tackling both root causes and symptoms, “teaching people how to fish instead of giving fish to them”.
China has now built 22 agricultural technology demonstration centres in Africa, and by jointly carrying out production demonstration and technical application with African countries, sending agricultural technical groups and agricultural vocational training and educational teaching groups, helped African countries to increase agricultural production and productivity and boost Africa’s ability to ensure their own food security.
Employment is one of the livelihood issues top on the minds of the African people. When the US is merely talking about creating jobs for Africa, China has already effectively promoted Africa’s employment through localization. Among the 21,400 employees of CNPC in Africa, 17 600 are local which accounts for 82 percent.
Huajian Group sets up a footwear company in Ethiopia, hiring over 3000 local people but having only 150 Chinese employees. It has promoted local export and employment, and helped to train a large number of technicians and professionals on leather processing for Ethiopia.
China has done a lot for Africa in improving livelihood. Sometimes due to the lack of publicity, the outside does not know enough. However, the feeling of the African people themselves counts more than anything else.
Cheng Tao, Director of African Research Centre, China Foundation for International Studies.