SOUTH Africa offers a good model to the rest of Africa in terms of the continent’s often one-sided relationship with China, as Africa’s largest economy has ensured the compliance of Chinese companies to key domestic legislation, according to Garth Shelton, professor of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Prof Shelton was speaking at the launch this week in Sandton of Win Win Partnership? China, Southern Africa and Extractive Industries, a new book published by Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW).
SARW works in 10 Southern African countries to ensure that the extraction of natural resources contributes to sustainable development.
In the book, researchers argue Africa’s lack of a "coherent strategy" in terms of its relationship with China will keep resulting in a one-sided partnership unless African countries invest heavily in research to identify new ways of ensuring a long-term, sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship.
Last month, President Jacob Zuma praised China’s commitment to Africa, but warned that a trade relationship heavily skewed in China’s favour was not "sustainable in the long term".
Prof Shelton, who co-edited the book, said South Africa was a good example to the rest of the continent on how to deal with China, as it had ensured Chinese companies complied with labour and black economic empowerment legislation as well as environmental laws, while other African countries were often less strict.
It was important for Africa to "promote a sustainable development relationship" by "convincing" China that the relationship was a long-term one, he said.
Over the next 20 years the Asian giant offered big opportunities for Africa’s development, but only if the partnership was managed properly, Prof Shelton said, adding that new ideas had to be generated and adopted to capitalise on this.
He added that there been little research by Africans on the China-Africa relationship.
Deprose Muchena, deputy director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa), said at the book launch that Africa had to identify a clear direction for its relationship with China.
"China has a very coherent policy in terms of Africa," he said, and there were up to 500 researchers on Africa in the Chinese government, while African countries were "the opposite of this".
Mr Muchena said it was important for the continent to have "evidence-based policies", in which research and investment in skills had to play a big part.
Claude Kabemba, co-editor of the book and SARW director, said the book was based on "very intense field research" in six African countries that had different approaches to dealing with Chinese companies, and research was conducted over a year and a half with the aim of identifying ways that Africa could benefit from resource extraction.
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