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Interview: Africa to benefit from cooperation with China on industrialization: scholar
2015-05-13

China's cooperation with Africa on industrialization development in African countries will have multifaceted benefits to the continent, noted a renowned Ethiopian scholar during a recent interview with Xinhua.

Stating that industry is a very important component of any developmental growth, the scholar hailed China's cooperation and support to Africa in the industrial development of the continent as an important step towards addressing poverty and boosting economies.

Costantinos BT Costantinos, Chairman of Ethiopian Infrastructure & Tunneling Company, and Professor of Public Policy at the Addis Ababa University, said African countries could learn a lot from China's success story of addressing poverty and the country's move to achieve a middle-income status.

With its solid industrial capacity, China is now keen to relocate its capacity and invest on industrialization in foreign markets elsewhere in the world, especially in Africa, a continent where many countries have just embarked upon industrial development to build their economies and create more jobs for citizens.

China's investment on industrialization in Africa can benefit countries on the African continent in enhancing local capacity through improved local skills and technology as well as in tremendous reduction of cost per output, noted Costantinos.

"China now has excess industrial capacity and therefore the move from Chinese companies supported by their government and the Exim Bank is an important initiative to bring production to Africa, " said Costantinos.

"This has several advantages, one to enhance local capacity in the industrial development, which means Africa will benefit from this. The second thing, the labor that is hired in these industrial outfits will be getting higher skills. And thirdly, the cost per output will be minimized tremendously, where local raw materials will be developed, and also local technological development will take place," he said.

China's technology and management know-how for industrial development is very important to develop the sector and undertake massive industrialization in Africa, he remarked.

"This will be important for Africa because what we lack in Africa is a kind of human capital that is necessary to drive industrial and agricultural growth; and the second thing is the management knowhow that is necessary to be able to undertake such massive industrialization. So, I think it is an important initiative."

"There are several examples that I can quote in many African countries where China's move in terms of infrastructural development, industrial development have had positive impacts. Again the capacity of Africans to be able to learn from this process, to be able to replace the Chinese in terms doing things by themselves is an important move," he said.

Stating that the world is interlinked now under globalization, the scholar highlighted the benefits for African countries while cooperating with China in industrial development.

He hailed China's investments in developing mega infrastructure projects and industrial capacity in African countries.

Costantinos said Chinese investment in industrialization and other mega projects in Africa will benefit the continent and the local people in a sustainable way.

"We shouldn't be afraid of China coming into Africa because everybody now talks about China invading Africa; that is the myth that we need to fight because what the Chinese are doing here is, building bridges, building roads, building railways, building dams, and enhancing industrial capacity," he said.

"One of the worst things in terms of foreign direct investment is investing only in areas where it gets quick money," he said. "But, when we invest in building industrial capacity, that industry will be there forever in that particular country, that industry will be able to raise the profile of labor within in that country. And that industry will spin off other industries that can be started by the local private sector."

Recalling the experience of Africa in the past and that the colonizers did not have the will to build industrial capacity on the continent, Costantinos said, "But, when China comes and builds industrial capacity, it is building our capacity to grow into the 21st century, into technology, into the information age. And also to be able to produce much of what we need in our countries for ourselves."

He also stated that China plays an important role in the industrialization of Africa by helping value addition to raw material of the continent, for which he mentioned China's investment in Ethiopia's leather sector.

"Transforming hides and skins into jackets and into shoes is one of the most important added values you can put on your products. So, China is building one of the biggest leather processing factories now in Ethiopia; which means Ethiopia will be exporting shoes instead of raw leather; Ethiopia will be exporting jackets made of leather instead of raw material."

"So, for me, this is a very important move; and African governments have to prepare themselves with the necessary capital, political will and the most important thing is policy. If you don' t have good policy and there is no way even the Chinese industrialization initiative will succeed," he noted.

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