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Africa extreme poverty figure rises from 278m to 413m: UN’s Amina Mohammed, AfDB outline what Africa can learn from China’s success

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By Wang Xiaopeng and Naftali Mwaura 

The charitable activities of a Chinese humanitarian group CFPA in Ethiopia, including support for school feeding programs, women empowerment and provision of clean water to households, mirror the view that China has bolstered efforts to eradicate poverty across the African continent.

African leaders, policymakers and scholars said the continent is leveraging on robust cooperation with China to acquire capital, skills, technology and best practices required to back the war against deprivation.

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob said in a statement in early April that Namibia would like to draw lessons from China in poverty eradication, through closer bilateral cooperation and support.

Geingob said the eradication of poverty and hunger in Namibia is a key policy objective of the Namibian government.

“The Namibian economy has been severely affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus, which threatens our socio-economic stability, and the gains we have made to reverse poverty,” Geingob added.

   The World Bank said in a report titled “Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa” that the share of Africans living in extreme poverty has fallen substantially, from 54 percent in 1990 to 41 percent in 2015, but due to high population growth during the same period, the number of poor people in Africa has actually increased from 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015.

According to the African Union, the COVID-19 crisis has increased poverty with the African Development Bank estimating that the pandemic will push between 28.2 million and 49.2 million more Africans into extreme poverty.

China’s development experience over the past decades offers key lessons to Africa, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said at the sixth African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in Zimbabwe in February 2020.

“Just as China’s remarkable achievements in lifting its people out of poverty contributed to major advances under the Millennium Development Goals (SDGs), so can Agenda 2063 have similar impacts on SDGs,” said Mohammed.

   Agenda 2063 is Africa’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development.

   Zimbabwe’s Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing July Moyo said China’s success in poverty alleviation offers valuable lessons for Zimbabwe as the country aims to attain a middle income status by 2030.

   “They (Chinese) were able to lift themselves out of poverty by using their own resources, by mobilizing their people, by using organizational methods that make sure that there is cohesiveness, that there is a sense of direction and strict adherence implementation guidelines,” he said.

   The Nigerian government in 2019 set a 10-year target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the most populous country on the continent.

   For Efem Ubi, a senior research fellow at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Nigeria can learn much from China in the process of poverty alleviation.

   Ubi said the question for African countries is how they can achieve Goal 1 of the SDGs, which aims to end poverty in all its forms by 2030. One way is to find out what lessons African countries can learn from China.

Ubi said Africa can benefit from the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, because it will provide African countries with great opportunities to build their infrastructure as well as develop industrial capacity.

Inspiring Africa

African officials hold that the phenomenal success of China’s poverty alleviation initiative that hinges on political goodwill, reform and opening up to the outside world, inspires the continent.

   George Kwabena, a liaison officer at Ghana’s Northern Development Authority, felt inspired during his visit to poverty-stricken areas in southwest China last year.

   “Actually, I was shocked by the infrastructure there, especially the transport connectivity, and the way the government resettled poor people is quite impressive,” said Kwabena.

   “Through my trip, I learned grassroots officials in China have established standard databases for poor people, and that allows them to take targeted measures to alleviate poverty, which is a useful lesson for Ghana to learn,” he said.

   The Ghanaian government has rolled out “One district, One Factory” policy in recent years, which aims to further open up its rural areas and woo more investors there.

   He praised China’s innovative poverty alleviation efforts in developing rural communities through the use of e-commerce platforms.

   Raphael Tuju, secretary general of Kenya’s ruling Jubilee Party and minister without portfolio, said he was impressed by China’s achievement in lifting more than 700 million Chinese people out of poverty over the past few decades.

   “There is no precedent in the history of mankind. If China can achieve that, it gives us a flicker of hope and light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

   According to Tuju, his first encounter with China was when he was a child. He said, “The enduring image of China was mostly about the Chinese with straw hats in the rice fields.”

   Afterwards, the picture about China was about streets with thousands of bicycles, he said. “But now, if you ask any Kenyan about China, the first thing is about the Standard Gauge Railway linking Mombasa and Nairobi, and Guangzhou, where the Kenyans go to buy clothes and other things they need.”

   “There are problems of disease, problems of infrastructure and problems of poverty. Africa is just overloaded with problems,” he said, adding that one of the biggest slums in Africa is in Nairobi.

   “But if you look at what has been achieved in China,” Tuju said, “it gives us hope that something can be done in our lifetime.” 

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