What is the greatest takeaway for Africa amid the fanfare and reassurances of renewed pledges and friendships during the “Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against Covid-19”?
Africa needs to acknowledge that China is not responsible for the upkeep of the African continent and its people. Africa ought to use spaces provided by its relationship with China to formulate its own brand of political and economic systems.
Africa needs to rid itself of the history-long ideological conservatism of Western political and economic systems.
However, Africa should not attempt to use China as a replacement of Western political and economic systems.
Instead, Africa ought to establish an environment that allows it to present a better image of itself than that of misrepresentation designed and spread to the world by the West.
There is no justifiable reason for Africa to cling to weakening colonial political and economic designs. Africa has until recently lacked opportunities for developing home-grown solutions to eliminate its pervasive social, political and economic problems.
Pervasive also were demands to prove itself loyal to its former colonial masters or risk being sunk into an even deeper spiral of debt.
However, a stronger China-Africa relationship is set to remove many a hurdle that stood in the way of an African renaissance and its forward march towards self-realisation.
The rise of China as a global economic giant has ushered in a new era for Africa to redefine itself. China-Africa commonalities born of anti-colonial struggles and membership to South-South co-operation nations ought to serve as a platform for Africa to learn, emulate and in the process implement goals of the “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want”.
So, instead of Africa hoping that China may serve as a perpetual saviour, it ought to hit the ground running and search for possible solutions within its own value systems and experiences.
Africa ought to make use of its closer relationship to China to fast-track systems that are meant to empower the entire African population. Now that the knee is temporarily away from its neck, there is room to breathe.
African governments need to prioritise the following: i) delivery of common goods (water, sanitation, health, education etc); ii) mass mobilisation of all government departments and private sector towards a common purpose; iii) public awareness of their rights to access public goods; iv) unleash progressive movement around the globe where African voices matter.
These transformative times that have landed upon us coupled with spaces provided by close ties to China are optimal for Africa to engage in the design of a future that has for long evaded the continent.
Diligence and solidarities demonstrated by African governments in the fight against the Covid-19 ought to constitute a norm on how Africa goes about to better its image to the entire world.
African nations need to have a coherent game-plan and policies on what it seeks to gain from its relationship with China. A strong and successful Africa will be a useful ally to China as both move towards a community of a shared future.
- Tembe is an associate professor at the Institute of African Studies Zhejiang Normal University in Jinhua, China. He is also based at the Thabo Mbeki African School of Public and International Relations.
OPINION: Paul Tembe