China and Africa should strengthen exchanges in education, science, and technology transfer, President Hu said
[NAIROBI] The Chinese president has promised to increase science, technology and innovation (STI) assistance to Africa, although experts from the continent warn assistance will only work if it is Africa-led and promotes sustainable development.
President Hu Jintao has pledged to expand China-Africa collaboration in science, through maintaining successful research programmes and supporting new initiatives in agriculture, health, water, forestry and meteorological technologies, as well as capacity building.
"China will implement the 'African Talents Program' to train 30,000 personnel in various sectors for Africa, offer 18,000 government scholarships, and build cultural and vocational skills training facilities," Hu told the fifth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), in Beijing, China, last month (19–20 July).
He said that medical and health cooperation will also be enhanced: "China will […] send 1,500 medical personnel, and continue to carry out 'Brightness Action' activities in Africa to provide free treatment for cataract patients."
He highlighted existing initiatives, such as the China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Plan for which he pledged continued support, adding that China would "sponsor 100 programmes for research, exchange and cooperation by academic institutions and scholars of the two sides".
"China has trained close to 40,000 African personnel in various sectors, and provided over 20,000 government scholarships to African countries […] Twenty pairs of leading Chinese and African universities have entered into cooperation under the 20+20 Cooperation Plan for Chinese and African Institutions of Higher Education," Hu said.
African experts have welcomed the pledges and see China as potential science partner. But they warned that mere technology transfer using traditional models of aid will do little to help the continent develop sustainably.
"We have known China as being strong in [creating] infrastructure development in Africa, but there is little data to show they have cooperated with the continent in areas of STI," said Eric Aligura, programmes coordinator at the Kenya Institute of Public Policy and Analysis.
He pointed out that Africa still relies on traditional western partners in the field of science collaboration, but said China could become an important new collaborator.
Others questioned whether the new pledges would have a lasting impact and were sustainable in the long run.
"For [China] to support the continent fruitfully, it must prioritise 'socio-technological transitions' — for example building African capacities in STI for sustainable development," said Kevin Urama, executive director of the African Technology Policy Studies network (ATPS).
In contrast, business-as-usual models for transferring knowledge, skills and funds could lead to continued dependency, he added.
"While the Chinese initiatives are welcome, we must realise that they will only be successful if they are Africa-led and designed to build ownership by African countries."
For example, Urama said, "while sending medical personnel to Africa will provide short-term welfare benefits to patients, a more sustainable strategy would be to engage these experts in the development of African [medical] knowledge".
Countries "cannot be developed from the outside", and solutions lay with African countries rising to meet their development needs and working with partners, including China, to develop indigenous STI capacities, Urama added.
Lucas ( United States of America )
6 August 2012
I am EXTREMELY skeptical when the Chinese government is offering so much to African governments because the return is COMPLETE EXPLOITATION of the FEW remaining resources that we OWE our children and their children, when we are GONE. Where is the outrage and DEMONSTRATIONS in African cities to STOP this MENACE!!!?? What ever was NOT taken by the Western world will now go to China. The rich TROPICAL forests that once covered DRC and Cameroon are being felled in the name of Africa's development. I am sure NO TREES are being replaced. Desertification will join Sahara and Kalahari then devastation will become the order of the day!!! Africa is the only continent that still relies on Agriculture as a main sources of income! As I watch climate change causing problems now, I cannot imagine what it will look like without the forests that help regulated the water-cycle!!!
Africans MUST wake up and rescue the continent from this senseless RUIN.
Roy ( United Kingdom )
14 August 2012
China is building the infrastructure that Africa needs. Other countries are not. If China says it will put money into science and technology then it will. The challenge is to monitor and manage it. Agriculture can benefit just as much as other sectors. Sure there's a risk - limited numbers of Africans just getting trained to be technicians in Chinese-controlled hi-tech firms, or the investment being in high-yield crops that will just get exported back to China. But the solution is to monitor, manage and debate openly about the investments. And so what if the Chinese build a university and half the students end up learning Chinese instead of English? At least it might start to break down some of the cultural barriers.
Lucas ( United States of America )
16 August 2012
Roy, I welcome your comments but they strike me as being based on negotiation from a position of weakness rather than strength. Our resources exist to benefit us as Africans. They are NOT for any exploitation by anyone. Telling me that China can build better science and universities in Africa is naive on your part. There are better and more qualified people (Africans) who can be given the challenge and will produce better outcomes!! The model that Africa should adopt to give them a position of strength on any bargaining table is to ask the Chinese to give them a loan or buy these local goods at world market prices. In this way if they are not getting enough then the Chinese can buy it from anywhere else. A case in point is the diamond business in Botswana. That government has turned the country's resource into a commodity that can benefit the local government rather than outsiders. I am sure we have experts in Africa that can help us develop science at a cheaper PRICE than what we will get from China and when you tell me about hi-tech things from China I may want to ask you if this technology is being produced in China. The last time I checked, the Chinese were pirating all these technologies from the West. Do not tell me we in Africa cannot do the same. Another good example is trade. South Africa at one time offered to supply cheap goods at 50% lower prices, but the Eastern African governments ONLY wanted goods from Europe, which were priced twice higher!! Before we go outside to look for the Chinese to come and exploit us, let us exploit local talent(s). We have talent that can build better universities and train better science at a much lower price and without loss of our valuable resources. We can send students to train in China and anywhere in the world, but let us use our resources for our own good. There is NO known technology that does not exist in Africa. Let us start to show the world we are also HUMANS, this is the 21st century!
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