via Fay Chung: Look East for brains not just US$ – NewZimbabwe 28/11/2015
ZIMBABWE and Africa at large must move away from a donor dependency syndrome and instead seek knowledge and ideas that could help it develop its manufacturing sector and boost its economy, African scholar of Chinese descendant Fay Chung has said.
Launching her new book “Zimbabwe Looking East” this month, the former two-term cabinet minister told Xinhua that Zimbabwe’s “Look East” policy should not just be about getting more money through foreign direct investment (FDI) but should focus more on values, skills, systems and technology transfer.
“Partnerships must be based on knowledge and technology transfer, not merely on FDI,” she said. “The development of the brains and values of Zimbabwe are key to the future.”
Fay Chung is the third generation of the first Chinese immigrants who settled in Zimbabwe, known as Rhodesia then, around 1900s.
She stands out as a two-term minister in President Robert Mugabe’s cabinet overseeing the portfolios of education and employment creation respectively, and later as chief of education cluster of UNICEF in New York, special advisor to the African Union, and founding director of the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa, and etc.
Now in her seventies, Chung dedicates more of her time to the research of her country of origin China, particularly its political and economic development after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.
In her book, Chung raises critical questions to be answered by policy makers and senior advisors how Zimbabwe could get the most from the Look East policy.
President Robert Mugabe promulgated the “Look East” policy in 2002, after the West imposed sanctions on his government over democracy and human rights issues.
The government vehemently denied the accusations and began to form partnerships with economies in Asia, particularly China.
Noting that Zimbabwe had been a major recipient of Western donor aid from independence in 1980 up to the early 2000s, Chung said the country ran the risk of falling into another trap where it would continue to be a primary producer of goods unless it developed the brains to do things better.
Development is about brains
“In other words, development has more to do with the brains and the heart and less to do with just dollars,” she said.
She said Zimbabwe had been favored by Western donors after independence, receiving about 250 million U.S. dollars a year in donor funds from 1980.
This had increased to 400 million dollars after it accepted the Economic Structural Adjustment Program in the 1990s but was cut in 2002.
She said that this “skewed” model of cooperation between Africa and the West was partly to blame for the underdevelopment and widespread poverty in Africa since it focused mainly on the production of primary goods without any interest in beneficiation.
“In contrast, China’s development did not depend on donor aid and China will not replace the Western system of donor aid, which was piled to supporting Western systems and economies,” she said.
It was therefore important, she said, for Africa to avoid the danger of repeating past mistakes of depending on donors and to boost its own manufacturing sector.
Africa’s manufacturing capacity has failed to meaningfully develop over the past decades, contributing only one percent to the global output and resulting in continued heavily reliance on production and exportation of raw materials for its sustenance.
On its part, China can prioritize the manufacturing sector in its industrial cooperation with Africa to help the continent break from the colonial legacy of being a net exporter of raw materials to that of finished products and services, Chung said.
“Zimbabwe must reinvent its manufacturing industries to produce goods needed by Zimbabweans and by our neighbors in southern Africa. It should be manufacturing tractors for the 400,000 excellent small scale farmers in Zimbabwe. Our neighbors also need the very same tractors,” she said.
Low industrialization levels on the continent also present huge opportunities for industrial cooperation between China and Africa, provided China adopted a progressive approach to help the continent develop its industrial capacity through technology transfer, she said.
In Zimbabwe, about 4,600 companies have closed down between 2011 and October 2014 while capacity utilization is at 34 percent, according to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
“It will be positive if China facilitates and supports the growth of agriculture in support of food self sufficiency and the establishment and improvement of manufacturing industries in Africa,” Chung said.
Financial partnerships, technological support and partnerships with indigenous companies would enable African economies to progress beyond being mere primary production economies and become producers of finished products, she said.
Chung said this development would entail a welcome increased market for Chinese goods, which however will now be manufactured in Africa while at the same time providing opportunities for African industrialists to benefit from China’s development experience.
“Such partnerships will also bring about an increase of both agricultural and industrial employment, very much needed in Africa which is under-industrialized with high levels of unemployment,” she said.
It was also imperative for both Africa and China to consider their present and future relationships to ensure that there is a win-win outcome for both sides, she added.
China’s trade with Africa reached 200 billion dollars in 2013, including 44 percent in FDI.