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Ethiopia: AU seeks Chinese backing for expanded industrialisation goals

The African Union (AU) has sought China’s support towards its push for the inclusion of trade and industrialization agenda in the future UN plan to fight poverty, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), at talks with visiting Chinese officials.

AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Fatima Haram Acyl, said at the start of a China-Africa poverty eradication meeting Tuesday that while the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) helped some countries to achieve growth, the gains were too small and they excluded trade and industrialization.

Acyl said the AU’s Common African position on the SDGs addresses the unfinished business of the MDGs by focusing on trade diversification, industrialization and value addition through the strengthening of productive capacity and the manufacturing of raw commodities across sectors.

Chinese officials, attending the Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference 18-19 Nov, which is mainly focusing on how to kick-start Africa’s industrial development using lessons from China, said industrial growth in Africa should focus on developing local populations.

The AU official said the conference was an important platform redefine Africa’s own path towards industrialisation and trade. Trade between China and Africa hit US$210 billion, making China the biggest trading bloc with Africa, compared to the European Union, whose trade volumes stood at US$137 billion and the US at US$96 billion in 2013.

Chinese Vice Minister Si Shujie, said China was keen to promote economic development in Africa using its own lessons and through rapid investments in creation of the special economic zones in Africa.

Shujie said investing in the creation of the special economic zones would create more jobs and help facilitate the goal of achieving “inclusive development”.

Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, said during a visit to the AU in May this year that China plans to relocate some of its most labour-intensive industries to African countries to help create jobs.

Shujie said fighting poverty was one of the “most challenging issues facing the world” which is the basis of the talks with the AU and other African countries to make industrial development an important pillar of the talks. “Industrialisation is an important engine for development of our region,” Shujie said.

The Chinese official said African countries should follow China’s policy of ensuring poverty is not passed on to generations and fighting it and drastically reducing it would be “our main battlefield.”

Critics of Chinese interests on Africa say the Asian nation is mostly interested in minerals and is more about creating room for Chinese firms to engage in profit-taking in Africa.

Experts say with a fifth of the African youth unable to find paying jobs, the issue of job-creation and the designation of policies that promote economic growth in Africa remain urgent. African countries, should therefore target the relocation of Chinese industries to build people-focused economies.

Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome, hailed China’s readiness to cooperate with African countries by offering to share key lessons on economic growth and industrialization with Africa.

“Ethiopia has become a viable developmental state that is on the route to join middle income states by 2025,” President Mulatu said. “Our quest for equitable growth is high on our agenda.”


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