By Zeray Hailemariam
Tigrai Online Feb. 01, 2013
Africans are not comfortable about the way the west perceive China-Africa friendship:Former Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin
China is playing constructive role in Africa to transform African economic development by increasingly engaging in physical and human development, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to China, Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin said. In his exclusive interview he held in his office Beijing with Zeray Hailemariam, Seyoum indicated that China is continuously playing transformative role in manufacturing, infrastructural, agro processing, and in harnessing natural resource sectors which Africa badly needs to boom its economic development to reduce poverty.
“China is reliable partner in political and economic cooperation to Africa”, he added.
Asked why China is labeled as new colonizer because of its engagement in Africa, Ambassador Seyoum rejected the accusation as unfitting misleading citing examples that China’s huge involvement in Latin America (200billion dollar worth Chinese investment), USA, Europe and Australia than in Africa but he said china is not accused in this regard. He argued that the accusations are illogical.
“Europe approaches China to solve the debt crisis and USA owes trillions US dollars” he revealed adding they see China as a solution but standing to oppose China’s relations in Africa which he said is demonizing Africa.
So why are so concerned about China’s presence in Africa, Seyoum exposed that the west are only fearing about their core interests as Africa’s’ abandon natural resources are critical to their economic development.
The west, Seyoum added, are trying to cover their robbing natural resources crimes they committed in Africa for hundreds years while China is rectifying it in a very short period of time through treating Africa as strategic partner unlike the west treats Africa as their own private hunting garden (object). What China is doing is not at the expense of our traditional partner, Seyoum stressed. They cannot be more than Africans.
”Africans are not comfortable with the way the west perceives China and Africa friendship” adding they should recognize China in doing the same; he recommended they have to correct this way of perceive. They are insulting African intellectuals by saying China bashing Africa, however, said Seyoum African knows what it is doing with China.
Of course China is renovating Africa from agrarian based to agro processing, light manufacturing and industry based sectors which can assist Africa to process its raw resources in the long run thereby helping Africa to have sustainable developments, he concluded.
He admitted that the trade balance between Africa and China is distorted in favor of China which China must think of it, he advised Africans must adapt clear and sounding policies to balance it.
Asked about Chinese are taking African local job opportunities, he stressed that it is common to see Chinese nationals engaged in micro business activities (retailing business which can be covered by local people) in some African countries but he said it is up to Africans to identify areas where foreigners can engage, adding China must be careful in this regard.
Asked if Chinese are taking Ethiopian job opportunities, No! the Ambassador said we have clear directions for foreign investors where to engage, we do not allow them to participate in micro retailing activities which can be done by Ethiopians.
China must focus on manufacturing sectors which can create millions of job opportunities instead of taking natural resources as raw they are. China is taking measures on those complains seriously, he added.
Africa, he said, had learnt from China's development experience, noting that many developing nations including Ethiopia had been inspired by China's experiences and the way by which it had pulled 400 million people out of poverty in such a short period which it took the west hundreds years to do so.
The trade volume between China and Africa has soared from a little over US$10 billion in 2000 to US$166.3 billion in 2011. China’s investment in Africa of various kinds exceeds US$40 billion, among which US$14.7 billion is direct investment. There are over 2,000 Chinese enterprises doing business in nearly 50 African countries, covering a wide range of areas such as mining, financing, manufacturing, construction, tourism and agriculture. So far, China has offered more than 20,000 government scholarships to African students, trained over 30,000 African professionals and sent to Africa, and More than 350,000 technicians, young volunteers and agricultural experts. With Chinese language enjoying rising popularity in Africa, Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms have been set up across Africa. In South Africa alone, there are 3 Confucius Institutes and 1 Confucius Classroom, China global times reported.
China has pledged $20bn (£12.8bn) in credit for Africa over the next three years, in a push for closer ties and increased trade. President Hu Jintao made the announcement at a summit in Beijing with leaders from 50 African nations. He said the loans would support infrastructure, agriculture and the development of small businesses. The Chinese leader also called for better co-operation with African countries on international affairs, according to China daily newspaper.
Ambassador Seyoum said the all rounded bilateral relations of both countries are getting momentum since both are registering faster economic growth. He said China is performing tremendous share in pushing the country’s efforts to reduce poverty.
China is engaged in manufacturing, agro processing, industry, infrastructural developments, RAILWAY CONSTRUCTIONS and youth professional training creating massive job opportunity accompanied by technology transfer and human capacity which are core interests of Ethiopia to realize the set policies.
Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin was interviewed on CCTV at the weekend (January 13th) in which he indicated the growing bilateral relations between China and Ethiopia which Seyoum stressed Ethiopia had benefited a great deal from cooperation between the two countries.
Ambassador Seyoum noted: "The agricultural technical cooperation centers and the manufacturing technical centers established with [the support of] China are hugely transforming our human capacity building," underlining the importance of introducing modern agricultural technology to boost Ethiopia's agriculture.
Ambassador Seyoum also praised Chinese assistance in harnessing Ethiopia's water resources, pointing out that Ethiopia has taken tremendous strides in utilizing its water resources over the last decade and citing its effort in building one of the biggest dams in the world- the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - mobilizing its citizens at home and abroad.
The Ambassador emphasized the centrality of ensuring participation of the people in political, economic and social transformation in democratizing institutions. He noted that the idea of universality might be intrinsic to democracy but each country had its own peculiarities in application; democracy, he added, was a property of this or that country.
Had not been for China, the so far achieved economic development would have been insufficient, he admitted.
Asked about the basis of Ethio-China all rounded relations, Ambassador Seyoum indicated that China supports Ethiopia’s legitimate sovereignty so does Ethiopia respects one China policy, cooperating in rising the voice of developing countries internationally, global climate change, the agenda of promoting Africa’s voice, stabilizing regional peace and economic integrations, sustainable cooperation in Ethiopia’s development direction, mutual respect and benefit are the core interests for the basis of the bilateral relations.
“We have clear policies and development directions that identify where foreign investors can or cannot invest, he said responding to the question if foreigners are taking local job opportunities” he stressed.
The trade exchange between china and Ethiopia exceeds 2 billion USA dollars as of October 2012 while Chinese direct investment has reached 576 million dollars and Ethiopian companies have invested 5.31 million dollars in China, according to the data obtained from Ethiopian embassy in Beijing. There are more than 200 Chinese invested manufacturing companies and 629 Chinese businesses and more than 50 Chinese EPC enterprises operating in Ethiopia, the date gained from Ethiopian Embassy indicated. The overall China-Ethiopia economic cooperation value has stretched about 10 billion dollars.
This project is one of the hundreds of projects China is doing Ethiopia/Africa.