KEY-NOTE SPEECH: Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming speaks at the opening ceremony of High-Level Symposium on China-Africa Investment Cooperation (NI YANSHUO)
On May 27, a total of 210 orphans in the three states around Abuja, capital of Nigeria, went to a summer camp to celebrate the country's Children's Day. Huawei Technologies Co., a leading global information and communications technology solutions provider from China, sponsored the event.
"I was deeply moved by what the Chinese enterprise has done for Nigerian children," said Kifasi Danladi Jerusha, founder of Nungsto Charity Foundation of Nigeria. "Huawei has established a good image for Chinese companies in the past decade."
Huawei has been working in the West African country for more than a decade. According to Chen Lei, Vice President of the West Africa Region for Huawei, it is routine work for his company to conduct public welfare projects for local communities. In light of its local labor-intensive projects, the company has also established a training center to train local people and improve their employment qualifications.
Huawei is a good example of the kind of investment that Africa is looking for from China. "China was not doing business [in Africa] in a quick fix to impress anybody; China has a long-term vision that can help improve the quality of life for African people," said Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), at the High-Level Symposium on China-Africa Investment Cooperation on September 8.
As an important part of the 15th China International Fair for Investment and Trade in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian Province, the symposium was jointly held by the Ministry of Commerce of China and UNIDO to provide a platform for international investors to better understand the investment policies and environment in African countries.
"I am quite happy about the symposium. Here, we can engage Chinese investors and investors from all over the world," Mike Bimha, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce of Zimbabwe, told Beijing Review.
On September 7 when the CIFIT opened, the Zimbabwean delegation held a seminar in Xiamen to promote its government policies for investors and the investment opportunities in the country. More than 150 participants attended the seminar.
"We have some Chinese companies currently operating in Zimbabwe and we want to see more," said Bimha, adding that his country wants more investments in mining, agriculture, infrastructure development and tourism. "In the sector of mining, we want to see more value addition. We want to see in agriculture more processing into finished products."
Bimha's answer hit the nail on the head. Due to a lack of processing ability, the coco produced in African countries is not processed into chocolate before entering the international market, and the iron ore on the continent cannot be smelted into high-quality steel before being sold to the world. Most African countries still rely on raw material exports for development.
More importantly, owing to the low economic development level, people in some African countries are vulnerable to natural disasters and diseases. The drought in the Horn of Africa this year has put thousands of people at risk of starvation.
"In this context, we should consider the issue of helping African countries process their agricultural products," Chen said.
Chen said Africa is a continent with great development potential. It has a vast area of more than 30 million square km, a growing population of more than 1 billion, abundant natural resources and hardworking people.
China has strategically adjusted its program of assisting African countries to focus more on helping them develop agriculture and education to better improve local people's livelihoods.
China also speaks for African countries in some multilateral mechanisms. One of China's focuses at the WTO-sponsored Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations is to reduce grain subsidies in developed countries. "If they do not reduce their subsidies on agricultural production, it is very hard for African countries to develop and to compete with them," Chen said.
"I believe that China's [development] model can support Africa in a certain way," Yumkella told Beijing Review. "As China's Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said, every country is different, but the general model makes a lot of sense: long-term planning, determination and also support to building entrepreneurship and production facilities."
Some Africans are looking to China's development experience. Zimbabwe has a "look-east" policy, and the Zimbabwean Government encourages its people to do business with countries in the East.
"China is one of our biggest friends from the East," said Bimha. "Our relations with China are on a win-win basis."
(Reporting from Xiamen)