While Africa is “on the point of take-off,” its leaders must realize that “nobody will provide lunch for free – it must be earned,” said Ambassador Zhong Jianhua, China’s top diplomat in Africa, according to a report in AllAfrica.
Zhong is the most senior Chinese government official to respond to an accusation by Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, that trade relations with China are a “significant contributor to Africa’s de-industrialization and underdevelopment,” the report said.
Sustainable development requires proper management and investment of revenues earned from the continent’s abundant natural resources, Zhong said. “No country can industrialize simply by selling raw materials.”
Zhong’s comments were recorded in the first edition of Africa Research Institute’s Conversations series, launched today. Africa Research Institute is a London-based think tank that aims to draw attention to ideas and initiatives that have worked in Africa, and identify new ideas where needed.
Criticism of Chinese businesses operating in Africa are often founded, Zhong said, but these businesses usually act the same way at home in China. China’s business community, however, “has not yet understood that Africa is the next growth area,” he said.
Zhong questions conventional approaches to addressing food insecurity in Africa. “Self-sufficiency in food production is a model of the past for farmers,” he said. “In modern agriculture, farmers must respond to what the market demands.”
Zhong addressed what he called the perception that the Chinese government is hoarding archives of data on foreign aid and investment in Africa. “As a senior government official, I can tell you that it (data) is not as precise as we would like it to be… if you want data, you must be prepared for a fight.”
Thinking of China in extremes – as friend or foe – is of little value, Zhong suggested. “China is not bad, China is not good. China is a combination of these things,” he said.