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China's key to sustainable development
Date:2018-08-10 Readers:

Investing in special economic zones can help transformation of Africa, experts say

Riding on its deepening relationship with China, Africa should eagerly engage the Asian country on trade and investment in efforts to realize the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, experts say.

The goals aim at ending poverty, hunger and inequality, as well as tackling climate change and building resilient infrastructure by 2030.

Moritz Weigel, the founding director of consulting company The China Africa Advisory, says China is well positioned to help Africa to realize the sustainable development goals as well as the African Union's Agenda 2063. This is because the two aides have a strong political commitment and China has the experience, knowledge and technology that Africa requires, he says.

Weigel also says African countries should take a leaf from and work in partnership with China on investing in special economic zones, which he says played a key role in transforming China's economy.

"We are working with UNDP China(United Nations Development Pro-gramme-China) on developing a framework for sustainable SEZs. We are looking at the existing examples from zones in Africa and Asian countries on how they have incorporated sustainability aspects successfully from a business perspective," he says.

Weigel says planning and institutional arrangements must be in place to support the development and operation of special economic zones.

"It's not an easy task, because it involves various ministries. Hence coordinating them toward delivering successful programs has been a challenge to many countries. There is also need for sustainable financing to ensure that other supporting infrastructures are also in place for the SEZs to be effective," he says.

Meng Guangwen, a professor at the College of Geography and Environmental Science at Tianjin Normal University, describes special economic zones as platforms for structural reform, noting that the zones have played a crucial role in China's economic growth.

As part of its economic reform and policy of opening up to the world, China, between 1980 and 1984, established SEZs in Shantou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai in Guangdong province and Xiamen, Fujian province, and designated the entire island province of Hainan as a special economic zone.

To date, the zones have transformed China into one of the largest foreign direct investment recipients, exporters and foreign exchange reserve holders globally.

Buzuayehu Tedele, chairman of East African Holding Group, says that while foreign companies such as Chinese enterprises can develop master plans and infrastructure designs, it's important for African countries to localize the knowledge.

Nabil Mohamed, the Djiboutian minister for higher education and research, says that for Africa to succeed and generally meet the sustainable development goals, it must create industries and attract foreign investors like Chinese enterprises. Creation of industries should also lead to job creation, especially for youths, he says.

Mohamed adds that African countries should also work on peace and security in order to attract foreign investments, as well as realize sustainability.

Tegegnework Gettu, a UN undersecretary-general and UNDP associate administrator, says multi-stakeholder partnerships and regional collaborations such as the one between China and Africa provide many opportunities for promoting economic growth, industrialization and investment for sustainable development.

"China's Belt and Road Initiative is an important example of enhanced regional cooperation, aiming to promote the connectivity of the African, Asian and European continents through better infrastructure connectivity, closer trade relations, financial integration and policy coordination," he says.

He says Africa is still extremely rich in natural resources, but only structural transformation, diversification and a transition toward labor-intensive manufacturing will enable African countries to chart sustainable development pathways.

"The aspiration of the 2030 agenda to leave no one behind can only be achieved with a combination of effective social protection and improved creation of decent jobs, especially to generate sustained income for the large and growing segment of young people," he says.

http://africa.chinadaily.com.cn/weekly/2018-08/10/content_36740466.htm

Back:  Reflections on the Belt and Road Initiative
Next:  The road to Africa's industrial future
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