Uganda’s former Minister of Agriculture spent five years in China as a United Nations representative and said Africa has much to learn from China’s self sufficiency and willingness to share.
Victoria Sekitoleko owns and runs a library in downtown Kampala where she introduces Ugandan youth to Chinese culture and philosophy.
She holds weekly classes, offers table tennis, provides information on Chinese university scholarships and exhibits Chinese art and products, according to an article in China Daily.
Chinese countries are different from Uganda’s traditional European trade partners, Sekitoleko said. “Chinese companies want to listen to us and put our requirements as the priority of our cooperation,” Sekitoleko said.
Sekitoleko represented the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in China, Mongolia and South Korea from 2005 to 2011 before retiring. She returns to China twice a year.
She said in the article she was impressed by China’s ability to feed its 1.3 billion people while many African countries rely on donations from Europe, which is struggling itself economically.
“We have the best soil and land resources in the world, and we should at least meet the minimum requirement of feeding ourselves,” she said.
Sekitoleko called on all of Africa to “wake up” and stop relying fully on food assistance from outside. “Africa should wake up and try to support ourselves like China does,” she said in the article. Uganda should not only be able to feed itself but should also begin exporting food with China’s help, she said.
With 20 percent of Uganda covered by water, China is investing heavily in the country’s fishing and aquaculture and these areas have huge potential to develop the agricultural economy, Sekitoleko said.
For example, a Chinese company opened a $5 million fish farming demonstration center outside Kampala with an agreement from the Forum on China Africa Cooperation. Local farmers train there in modern ways of fish farming using simple and affordable technology. Fish experts from across the East Africa visit the center to share knowledge on best practices.
Learning practical and affordable Chinese agriculture methods will benefit Uganda more than direct material support, Sekitoleko said.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” she said in the article.
She said she hopes her community library inspires Ugandans to learn from China.
When Ugandans complain about the poor quality of Chinese goods, Sekitoleko says she tries to find a better-quality alternative from China, according to the article.
“In fact, it’s just because they purchased low-end Chinese goods from irresponsible traders,” she said in the article. “I want to help them to know the real value of products made in China and build their confidence in Chinese businesses.”
Sekitoleko said in the article she once advised a Ugandan businessman on where to buy food processors in China. He planned to go to the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, but she suggested he could find a better deal in Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan province, where the biggest food processing equipment base in China is.
“People from Uganda have a strong desire to know about China, but we don’t have many places that provide a lot of information,” Sekitoleko said. “When people come to me for advice, I want to try to help and that makes my knowledge and experience in China valuable.”
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