Sunday, 14 October 2012

China-Africa Think Tanks Forum - Adis Ababa

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia hosted on 12-13 October 2012 the second edition of the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum(CATTF II). 

Mulugeta Gebrehiwot, the director of the Ethiopian Institute of Peace and Security Studies that organised the forum, told that it should not come as a surprise that China is interested in peace and security on the African continent. 
The economic relations entrenched by China in the last decades with most of the African countries has provided the continent with much needed funding without the strings that some western powers attached to loans, and has resulted in the fast construction of large infrastructure projects. 
In 2011, China-Africa trade amounted to 166 billion dollars, according to statistics from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. A research article in Standard Bank’s Guide to Transactional Banking in Africa 2012 by Bridgette Liu and Richard Stocken titled “The role of China’s construction industry in Africa’s infrastructure development”, stated that Chinese companies now dominate the African construction sector, with a market share larger than those of France, Italy and the United States combined. 

The article also noted “Chinese state-owned financial institutions such as China Exim Bank and China Development Bank have become large-scale lenders in Africa, rivalling the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in terms of development finance outreach.”

China in order to preserve and increase its economic and political interests could soon expand its involvement in peace and security issues in Africa, according to government officials, 

Mr. Lu Shaye
Chinese officials pointed out that the Asian giant’s non-interference policy should not be interpreted as indifference to the continent’s peace and security. “Our non-interference policy in Africa does not mean we have an indifferent attitude towards African issues. We oppose some countries that in the excuse of care for another, interfere with African internal affairs,” Director-General Lu Shaye from the Department of African Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry. He said that China would not intervene readily in the affairs of another country and their involvement would be to merely support regional organisations and institutions on the continent. “In the past we provided funds to support the African Union (AU), in the future we will strengthen this support. We’ll have cooperation with the AU and other regional organisations to have a better understanding on this issue. And we will accelerate our support to the AU and other regional organisations,” Lu Shaye said. 

While China is Africa’s biggest trade partner, it already is the largest contributor of peacekeepers to Africa among permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. But the role of China in Africa is often seen as a controversial one. China’s funding of the new AU building headquarters in Addis Ababa has sparked debate among non-African critics about whether the new economic world power was buying its way into the continent. Western countries have warned on frequent occasions that China’s participation in Africa has colonial tendencies. Or that the Asian country supports oppressive regimes and is trying to take advantage of Africa’s natural recourses. United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said during her latest Africa trip in August, that the U.S. stands up for human rights and democracy “even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing.” However, Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru, an independent peace and security expert in his conference paper titled “China-Africa Relations: Areas of Reform for a Sustainable Partnership”, disagreed and stated that China’s reputation in Africa is positive as African countries feel that their Asian partners respect other people, cultures and states. (excerpt from IPS article

Picture from the Fifth ministerial conference held in Beijing in 2006

Official Forum website: