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Africa needs a coherent policy towards China and India

Cape Town, 1 June 2006 – Given its growing relationship with China and India, Africa needs a coherent policy towards the two emerging economic giants of Asia. At a plenary session on the second day of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, participants discussed the possibility of using the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) framework of the African Union (AU) as the platform for shaping such an approach. NEPAD is a strategic framework for African renewal that was launched by the AU in 2001 to address the continent’s development challenges on the basis of the principles of good governance and mutual accountability.

NEPAD’s functions match the aspirations that Africa has in its relations with China and India, panellists argued. China and India should not be viewed as competitors or clients, but as contributors to Africa’s development, said Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania. “China and India give Africa the hope that it is possible to transform our nations from abject poverty to higher levels of development.” Added Mandisi Mpahlwa, Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa: “We need to clarify the nature of our relationship. NEPAD must be the centrepiece of our engagement.” Firminio Mucavele, Chief Executive, NEPAD Secretariat, South Africa, stressed that, given the shift in the economic centre of gravity from the West to Asia, “a new kind of cooperation” is needed. “The platform for it exists. The framework should be NEPAD.”

China and India serve as models for Africa because their experiences hold lessons for developing countries on how to manage gradual economic and political transformation, Kikwete and Mpahlwa observed. “For the first time, there are centres of power that understand our development challenges,” Mpahlwa remarked. Concluded Kikwete: “We also see them as offering opportunities, markets, technology – many things that we need.”

The World Economic Forum on Africa, which opened yesterday, has brought together more than 700 business, government and civil society leaders to discuss how Africa today is “going for growth.” The meeting ends tomorrow.

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