China’s modernisation and Africa

“While Chinese modernization is conceived in China, the opportunities it brings, belongs, to the world” – Mr. Qin Gang

In the past few years, China has emerged as the main trading partner of more than 140 countries and regions, and makes an aggregate of 320 million US dollars’ direct investment daily around the world. The simple implication for this is that around the world, countries are improving their national aggregates, enhancing their respective productive capacity and even trading more. It is a long standing assumption and which is considerably true that borders that are open to trade are less likely to be besieged by armies, simply translated that nations who trade goods and services are least likely to exchange missiles and bullets.

In the instance of China-Africa cooperation, China’s modernization has been boon to the trajectories of its comprehensive and strategic development, making enormous contributions to the global profile of Africa as a region of immense opportunities to the rest of the world. Trade volumes between Africa and China has not only remained the largest vis-à-vis, the other countries and regions of the world but has hugely grown in recent times. China-Africa trade has soared to 282 billion US dollars, pushing up trade between the two sides by 11%. Data from Chinese Custom authorities put Chinese exports at 164.49 billion US dollars, while imports from Africa stood at 117.57 billion US dollars. The data further disclosed that while Nigeria is now Africa’s largest importer from China, South Africa, Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in that order are the largest exporters to China. Nigeria with her huge endowments of wide varieties of agricultural produce, if optimally explored has the potential to become Africa’s premium and net exporter to the Chinese huge market. The recent opening of Nigeria’s house in the Chinese city of Changsha, the host of China Africa import and trade expo center is a step in the right direction that Nigeria seeks to explore seriously the Chinese huge market, especially leveraging of its taste for major agricultural produce from Africa. This can realize Nigeria’s protracted effort to diversify her economy and wean it, off the dominance of crude oil.

Beijing in an effort to smoothen the trade gap has enabled several African countries to begin exports of some goods duty free. More than 8,800 commodities are currently identified to enjoy duty free access to the Chinese market, with China aiming to increase African exports to 300 billion US dollars by 2025. Apart from trade, which is phenomenally growing, last year witnessed more China’s involvement in the support for key infrastructures through the mechanisms of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Forum on China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC) and the China International Import Expo. Several BRI-related projects were began, continued or were completed. Among such projects were Nigeria’s first ever deep seaport, Lekki deep Seaport in the country’s commercial hub, Lagos and building of railway line, Bagamoyo port in Tanzania, mining infrastructure in the Democratic Republic Congo, the Chad-Sudan railway, and the Maphanda Nkuwa Dam and hydroelectric station in Mozambique with installed capacity of 1,500MW.

While it is possible to continuously enumerate a broad range of concrete benefits which China’s modernization have delivered to Africa, it is even more vital to reflect on how much, China’s modernization has inspired Africa.

For a start, China is about the few of non-Western countries to have found a path to success on a path to modernization. At a start of the 1990s, when the former Soviet Union collapsed, a feverish text emerged among many others with a claim that history has come to an end, with Western liberal democracy and capitalism proclaimed as the final point of human ideological evolution. The text proved as pyrrhic as its conclusion were short lived. At the same time, China embarked on a socialist modernization with Chinese characteristics and evidence has so far proved that history, far from ending at that time was actually at the cusp of fresh and momentous beginning . China’s modernization driven by enabling domestic political ecosystem provide by a national consensus forged in a United fronted and a coalition of all Chinese people with the Communist Party of China at the core of its leadership was then picking momentum in the reform and opening up, the signature twin policies that drove the modernization endeavor. As the Chinese foreign minister, Mr. Gang said recently, “any country can achieve modernization as long as the path suits its conditions and answers the needs of its people for development.”
The uniqueness of China’s modernization and its success simply means as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and also the President of the country said in regards to modernizations that “there are many roads to Rome.” The path to modernization for Africa which would answer to the needs of the African people would not necessarily be the same as China’s but China’s modernization is compelling enough to rethink modernization in Africa from the path of Africa’s unique conditions which means that Africa’s modernization to be able to answer to the development of needs of the people, should have to be uniquely African, with variations to the specific national conditions of the various African countries. The import of the success of China’s modernization efforts is simply that every country that has exerted herself optimally and imaginatively too, can through her own effort, found a suitable path way to solving problem of the development through modernization. Further elaborating on the success of China’s modernization, foreign minister Gang said it “was not handed down from heaven or just emerged by itself. It has been attained step by step through determined, painstaking efforts of the people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, staying true to its founding mission,” noting that “China has realized in a short span of several decades, industrialization that had taken developed countries several centuries.” This is not empty assertion. In over the past ten years, China has contributed more to global growth than all the group of the advanced Western industrial nations, G7 combined together.

Modern China is a civilizational State with over 5,000 years of history but Africa is even reckoned as the cradle of human race and if China can emerge from the trauma of semi-feudal and semi-colonial society of several vicious imperialist powers to become the power house of contemporary modernization, Africa can leverage its tumultuous history of traumas and triumphs to imaginatively create her modernization that serve development needs of its people. The Chinese modernization is not only a template for assessing the benefits and success of exploring one’s own abilities but brings along the additional support of a historic partner who is not only willing to share its development and modernization experience but is able to bring tangible goods and materials to support Africa’s efforts to own and drive her modernization agenda.

The opportunities of China’s modernization may consist in the essential tangibles, it delivers to the national aggregates of several countries, but its most enduring and valuable impact is the inspirations it elicits and the convictions it forges that modernization is an open high way to be benefitted by any country or people, who genuinely, persistently and forthrightly exert itself. There are very few places where it is more instructive than in Africa, that has been habitually functioned in the past as a vast laboratory for testing policies designed by cadres of international finance capital, seating comfortably far away, from the continent and handing down “sacred text” of economic adjustments that have left Africa in social chaos. Interrogating China’s modernization is no invitation of mechanically copying what the Chinese are doing but to explore our vast landscape on the terms of original thinking and reflection on the unique condition of Africa, and extrapolate a path of modernization that is most appropriate to answering the practical needs of the people. As China’s modernization efforts and its current success was not handed down from heaven, so would any appreciable efforts in Africa’s search for modernization would be the ultimate exertions of the African people .

Onunaiju is a research director of an Abuja-based Think Tank