African scholars and researchers recently gathered in Nairobi and affirmed their commitment to nurturing and supporting research cooperation and academic exchange on China-Africa relations and other regions. The participants also explored how to create strong foundations for an effective African participation in the Forum on China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC’s), inspired joint Africa-China research Cooperation and Academic Exchange Program. It also discussed future directions, institutional frameworks for engaging the Joint Africa-China Research Cooperation and Academic Exchange Program.
The two days international conference held in Nairobi March 28th-29th brought together over fifty researchers, research institutions, think tanks and policy makers and their counter parts from China led by Professor/Ambassador Du Xiaocong- Counsellor, African department in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The conference was facilitated by the Council for the Development of Social science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).
The conference which was a follow up to the Beijing Conference of March 29th-30th is a contribution to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation ( FOCAC).According to Professor Mohamed Salih of the Institute of Social studies (ISS), the Hague, Netherlands' the conference came at a time when many African nations are leaning towards China for economic support. China’s influence in Africa economically is worrying the west and is a trend that the west is strongly concerned about and at times trying quietly to suppress.
However as correctly put by Professor Anyang Nyong’o during the opening of the conference, China’s relationship with Africa should go beyond commerce and trade. Recently, during the debate at the United Nations Security Council meeting about Kenya’s participation at the International Criminal Court (ICC), China took a position contrary to the majority views among the Kenyans and the international community by supporting Kenya governments position of seeking deferral of cases for its six suspects currently before the ICC in relation to the post election violence of 2007-8.
Even though China is respected, recognized and admired for its remarkable contribution in infrastructure development especially road construction, China is also being accused of using Africa as a dumping ground for its substandard products and also for being cold and lukewarm when it comes to social interaction unlike their counterparts from the west and other far East countries such as Japan.
According to Mr Denise Kodhe of the Institute for Democracy & Leadership in Africa (IDEA), China should not operate in isolation but should adopt similar positions taken by western countries of demanding respect for human rights, democracy and good governance from African leaders." It appears that African leaders involved in corruption and bad governance are running away from the west seeking refugee in China in the pretext of economic aid and support" said Kodhe who is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of IDEA.
According to Kodhe Africa has serious governance and economic issues that is threatening its own existence. It thus requires collateral and concerted efforts from all its friends and supporters including China. China can thus do a lot more for Africa than just road construction and trade.
Chinese Ambassador Liu Guangyuan observed that for the past ten years since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) a lot has been achieved and new progress made in terms of human relations and trade. More than 200 Chinese companies have set up their branches in Africa with the two way trade reaching USD 127 billion in 2010.
The Ambassador pointed out that in order to promote China-Africa relations further there must be stability, traditional friendship, promotion of all-round pragmatic cooperation and the promotion and enhancement of people's welfare as a priority.
During the conference in Nairobi, the participants debated current state of affairs and how to develop a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges for the strengthening of China-Africa cooperation. The researchers also discussed constraints which may hinder the way of leveraging the joint Africa-China research Cooperation and Academic Exchange program.
In conclusion, the conference resolved to create an African forum for Study and Research on China and Africa relations. The forum to be coordinated by CODESRIA in conjunction with the Steering Committee established during the Beijing Conference of March 2010 will coordinate the responses of African researchers, research institutions, universities and think tanks to the Joint China-Africa Research Cooperation and Academic research program. The forum will also engage with African governments, regional and sub-regional organisations to invest in research and academic exchange in China-Africa relations and cooperation programs.
The forum which is predominantly academic and research oriented is aimed at feeding into political processes leading to provide policy advise to all those involved and also to engage with African policy makers, the African Union, other regional institutions ,sub-regional organisations and people-to people organisations. The forum will also look into knowledge creation and subsequent policy dialogue on issues related to Africa-China relations.
Flashline News Agency.