The South-South Cooperation bringing together Africa and China will reconfigure the balance of power of global trade in the coming years. This will happen as third world economies redefine how they relate with the West, following the global financial crisis.
The China-Africa summit in November 2006 set the tone of this potential reconfiguration.
During the 2006 summit, where over 40 African Heads of state met in Beijing, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao predicted that the China-Africa trade will grow to US$100 Billion by 2010 up from US$3 Billion in 1995.
The global implication of such cooperation means that China will emerge as Africa’s largest trading partner overshadowing both Europe and the USA.
The second Africa-China summit, held in Egypt this month, has lent credence to this assumption. The summit has exposed the fact that the massive Chinese investment is extremely welcome.
President Paul Kagame said, in his address in this summit, that Sino-Rwandan trade had quadrupled in recent time; showing the growing importance of fostering ties with China.
I had already said before that South-South cooperation is being seen as an alternative to the status quo i.e. the North-South arrangement, which is skewed in favor of the north.
What is apparent is that African policy makers see more parity when doing business with China as compared to doing so with the West. This is due to the fact that western involvement in Africa has been seen as exploitative. And there is a perception that western aid granted to Africa quite often comes with strings attached while doing little to assist the long-term sustainable development of Africa.
South-South cooperation, in which China will no doubt take a leadership role, is seen as a credible alternati ve for Africa. This new arrangement within the South is seen as a sure way of exerting pressure on the current western aid programs to bring forth what is called ‘good’ aid to the south.
More so, the relationship between Africa and China is bound to solidify as Africa is known to supply nearly 30% of China’s oil and other resources it needs such as copper, iron, zinc platinum and others.
During the summit Africa’s importance was reflected by the pledges China made amounting to $ 10 Billion in form of investments and trade to Africa.
What is apparent from the summit is that there is definitely some sort of recognition on both sides of the growing need for mutual inter-dependence.
What is even more refreshing was the announcement by premier Wen Jiabao that he would also cancel debts of African countries. China confirmed that its efforts are sincere and selfless, without political strings attached.
This arrangement will signal the beginning of a shift by Africa from relying on the west for trade. Africans want a relationship with other regions based on mutual respect rather than the patron-client arrangement that the west has been thrusting onto Africans for the last 200 years. China provides the basis of this new move.
Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah is a journalist with The New Times