African governments and the private sector should invest more in the industrial and agriculture sectors to create jobs and drive growth, experts attending the 6th China-Africa Think Tank Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia said on Wednesday.
Organised by Zhejiang Normal University, the event attracted more than 500 government officials, academics, economists and business leaders from China and 40 African countries.
The experts argued that without strong industries to add value to raw materials and create jobs, African countries risk high unemployment rates and increasing poverty levels.
Speaking at the meeting, Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, urged governments to develop targeted approaches that will help attract foreign direct investment into the continent.
Wang also called on governments to invest in infrastructure and human capital to accelerate economic development on the continent.
China’s approach of establishing industrial zones for joint ventures between foreign enterprises and state owned enterprises is being experimented all over the continent, according to officials.
However, the Chinese Foreign Minister noted that broader consensus has emerged among Chinese and African academics that African countries must consider their unique socio-cultural issues when setting up special economic zones.
Speaking at the forum, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, urged the continent’s private sector to play its role and ensure proper coordination between farmers, processors and exporters to ensure quality and standards and increase the competitiveness of the continent’s products on the world market.
“This think tank has a role in promoting China-Africa relations…We will work with African governments to cultivate a win-win situation for all parties involved,” Mahamat added.
In 2015, China promised $60 billion funding to promote China-Africa cooperation to support the continent’s development.
The value of Africa-China trade totalled over $200 billion in 2014. In addition, the continent benefits from over half of China’s total foreign aid.
Dr Arkebe Oqubay, the inter-ministerial coordinator in the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, said strong Africa-China economic partnership is vital to achieving desired prosperity on the continent.
Meanwhile, Liu Honggwu, the dean of the Institute of Africa Studies at Zhejiang Normal University, stressed the need for African governments to, individually and collectively, develop supportive policy and investment guidelines that will help reduce poverty on the continent and drive inclusive growth.
He said clear tax policies and regulations and other laws, as well as contract transparency, predictable policy environments, and currency and macro-economic stability, were essential to attract long-term investors.
In a related development, Africa and China have taken yet another step to strengthen bilateral trade relations, a move that could help drive sustainable economic development on the continent. Both parties have agreed to help promote research and share business experience which according to the experts will help reduce poverty and support development efforts on the African continent.