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China's development path viewed as lesson for Africa

(Xinhua)

08:49, October 03, 2012

KAMPALA, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Over the past 40 years, policies that have failed to promote progress in Africa by some donor countries and international organizations have prompted the continent to look for the other way for inspiration.

African academicians and development experts are now turning their eyes to China, a country that used only 30 plus years to become the world's second largest economy.

There is a debate now going on in Africa that whether China's development path could provide lessons to developing economies, especially those in the Sub-Saharan Africa.

When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, China's economic conditions were similar to those in most of the African countries. The government inherited a war-torn agrarian economy, and poverty levels were high.

In 1978, China embarked on a reform process that has facilitated more than 30 years of rapid economic and social development, and that brave adventure started with agricultural reforms to jumpstart poverty reduction.

While China's poverty reduction is often associated with growth in the industrial sector fuelled by foreign investment, trade liberalization and expansion, it is in fact that much of China's poverty reduction occurred in the early phase of China's reform, prior to the influx of foreign direct investment and trade reforms.

Through implementing household responsibility system in the early 1980s, China has greatly improved its agricultural productivity. The policy has also given farmers the freedom to experiment, research and plan for future production based on local differences.

Although most of the countries in Africa have a different land tenure system from that of China where the state owns the land, they can still learn from the Chinese experience of the 'from bottom to top' approach rather than the 'from top to bottom' approach, where government institutions dictate what policies local farmers should follow.

The rural communities should be seen to own the policies, which in the end allows stainability.

Elly Twineyo, a development consultant with the Uganda Management Institute, one of the country's major academic bodies, told Xinhua in a recent interview what Africa needs to learn from China's reforms is the role of the government.

Twineyo, who recently authored a book titled Why Africa Fails, said that like China, Africa must have its priorities right if it is to embark on a long trail of joining the rank of developed economies.

He said all the developed economies have overtime sustained economic growth.

While it took western powers over 100 years to develop their economies, China fast tracked its economic development within 30 years.

A high level of rapid economic growth that could be sustained over a long period of time is very important. And that is how the United States managed to get rich, he said.

He said the state bares the greatest responsibility in guaranteeing sustained economic growth through promoting transportation, energy infrastructure, credit facilities, and boosting investment.

Unlike in most African countries where the state is not actively involved in business, the Chinese government has been and is still playing a critical role in facilitating its economic growth.

Most African countries, including Uganda, have been advocating for private-sector-led growth where the government would only serve as a supervisor or a regulator.

The Chinese practice over the last 30 years has shown that public enterprises can engage in business side by side with the private sector and still remain profitable.

Offshore state owned Chinese enterprises are competitively engaged in businesses ranging from oil, road construction to telecommunications worldwide.

Governments of some African nations have started to learn from the Chinese way in which they are now encouraging a partnership forged by government and the private sector so that they can work together, especially in big projects like building dams and roads.

Some experts have argued that while Africa can draw lessons from the Chinese model to fast track its economic development, it still needs to have a home grown pattern. Most viewed commentaries

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