President Xi Jinping recently sent a congratulatory letter to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation and the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development on the fifth anniversary of its establishment. CGTN French channel in its forum <South-South Development: Achieving Sustainable Development, Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind>, invited four alumni from the institute to exchange views on South-South cooperation and future challenges, as well as their learning experiences in China.
Dialogue host: MA Jiangying
Dieudonne Ndabarushimana, Burundi's former ambassador to the African Union
Solphi Joli Jamelo, Technical Director, Ministry of Water and Public Health, Madagascar
Abdoulaye Nidiaye, an official in the Civil Defense Department of Senegal's Interior Ministry
Nancy Ahmed Abdelghany, French expert at the Ministry of Commerce in Cairo, Egypt
1: South-south cooperation and exchanges began in the 1960s with the initial aim of seeking independence. So far, have you noticed any new trends?
Dieudonne: Africa attaches great importance to South-South cooperation. From the very beginning we set a common goal to eradicate poverty, which brought us together with other third world countries. We define the 1960s as the era of independence movement. From North-South dialogue to South-South cooperation, southern countries not only needed to eradicate poverty, but also needed economic development. We see this south-south cooperation as close neighbors, growing in cooperation and solidarity, and now we are beginning to see some results.
We are also committed to creating opportunities for south-south business cooperation and development, focusing on some underdeveloped countries, because independence is not enough, we also need the establishment of business systems. It is not only us diplomats who are promoting South-South cooperation, but also the support of the public, which has a foundation because it brings many value-added components. For the people, it's a change from what life was like before.
In the North-south dialogue, we introduced policies and frameworks, it was a difficult cooperation, and it caused some problems, and we saw the debt crisis. But in South-South cooperation we get a break, because many of these projects have real results, they actually happen. There is infrastructure, there is commerce, and we see mutual respect, dialogue and solidarity. This is a win-win cooperation, where there is no unilateral power, but mutual equality, which is very important. We have a voice, and this is the most meaningful part of South-South cooperation. We're seeing a lot of infrastructure gains (roads, airports, etc.) which we haven't seen since we became independent, nor since the North-south dialogue. This is happening at all levels, including agriculture, infrastructure, education and health facilities. The actual results of South-South cooperation are all visible to the people. Therefore, we all strive to benefit as much as possible from such a cooperation framework with future development.
Solphi: We are seeing new actors in South-South cooperation: China, Turkey, Vietnam, South Korea, etc., all of which are doing the right things to finance infrastructure in Africa. As for South-South cooperation, we have seen positive attitudes in every African country. For example, in Madagascar, where I live, South-South cooperation is embedded in the policy level of each country, to support autonomous development and find each country's own path towards economic development, rather than changing the original development strategy.
Abdoulaye: There are a few things to be clear about the South-South concept: 1. From the original geographical concept, it now refers mainly to less developed countries. 2. From the initial cooperation between low-income countries, the relationship between emerging developing countries (such as China) and low-income countries has evolved. 3. What is significant is that among these countries there are emerging countries, such as China, and we should see that their growth rates are excellent even though their GDP is below average.
Another observation that I have made is that this cooperation has helped us to tackle new challenges, for example, the fight against COVID-19. From countries where poverty is gradually being eliminated, we see that the main reason is with the help of Asia. Compared with Asia, Africa has not seen overall prosperity, that is to say, poverty still exists in Africa. We still need to make efforts to catch up with countries like South Korea and China that have developed. So South-South cooperation is really about helping these developing countries that are suffering from poverty and natural disasters.
Nancy: In terms of the new trend of South-South cooperation, we still see the role of southern countries. We see the UN's 2030 Development Goals, which promote the unity and development of developing countries. In emerging and other developing countries, we can see the power of technology, the power of online and offline education being developed. For example, the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development of where we are studying, greatly examplifies a new way of working together. We have a great learning atmosphere where we learn from each other. The important thing is that we can always create a cooperative mechanism for new projects, students unite with each other and work together.
2: All of you have mentioned that you have gained a lot from studying in ISSCAD, especially the shared experience. What do you feel most about studying in China?
Dieudonne: First of all, we would like to thank the Chinese government for the establishment of ISSCAD. The institute is the main line of South-South cooperation, which is to establish a good mechanism for exchanges and cooperation between developing countries. The south is a whole, but its development is very different. We have learned theoretical knowledge at ISSCAD, and we have seen China's development experience, which is a treasure trove of experience. When we look at China and its 40 years of reform and development, we also see that every African country has its own development opportunities.
We studied China's rural reform in ISSCAD, which is something we can learn from. In my village, in the production team and even at the national level, agricultural issues can be viewed more efficiently, as well as the concept of township enterprises.
In addition, we have seen administrative reform in China, urbanization reform, and other reforms, which are a good model and reference for the African continent. Because the African continent, especially my country Senegal, is a typical agricultural country, we have a lot to learn from China's experience. Many people say that China's experience and development is so great that we should copy its entirety. Copying only is not the most important thing, the most critical aspect is to find valued lessons, where it did well, where it did not do well, and then step by step build our own. The key point of the theory is that China has been going for 40 years and not all African countries can replicate directly in just a few years. In Senegal, agriculture is the foundation of our economic development, and modernization of agriculture is something we can learn from China. That's what we learned at ISSCAD. We have organized field trips, from the government level to the community level, all levels of the country are working in the same direction, and I see the combination of these factors creating the Chinese miracle.
Now China can proudly say that lifting 800 million people out of poverty is very important. We in Senegal can also learn from this, from institutional reform to agriculture to support for small and medium-sized enterprises. We can also start with exchanges between the two countries. I think China's experience can be used for reference by the African continent to find its own development path.
In Senegal, I worked on economic policy reforms, including economic cooperation, such as the creation of different industrial parks, which are very important in Africa right now, and we saw the opening up of jobs for young people and the corresponding increase in income. What we can see from China's experience, step by step, will give advice to the government to see what steps can be taken to create new opportunities for economic reform in Senegal.
3: What impresses you most during your study in China Nan nan College? Do you have any new ideas about the development of your country?
Abdoulaye: First of all, I would like to say that the curriculum of South-South College is excellent. The learning is very rich, including courses, lectures, study Tours. Einstein said, "The theory is known, but nothing works." But in fact everything is spinning, but we don't know how. Theory should be combined with practice. The curriculum of South-South College helps us to have a deeper understanding of this level. I learned about the micro and macro reasons for China's growth. About the understanding of the role of the state, Adam Smith's theory, that's why we come to China to study, to study the law of China's growth and the reason behind it, we need rapid economic growth, but also expect the snowball effect. At the micro level, from Adam Smith's mechanism of encouraging individual producers, small and micro producers play a positive role in the social economy. After our field trips to Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai, we gained a deeper understanding of these theories. These examples are also used in Senegal, my country. Here, I would like to say hello to Yifu Lin, Fu Jun, and all the other administrative teachers. Justin Yifu Lin once talked about Senegal's economic revitalization plan in class. I was very excited. We have a village in Senegal, and we have an industrial park, which is the influence of the Chinese model on us, which is the concept of special economic zones. Like China, we create a new city, a special economic zone, we don't copy and paste, we adapt to our own local conditions.
4: What have you learned from your studies in China? Do you have new thoughts about your own country?
Nancy: It's a rich learning experience. The best part is that our study is a combination of theory and practice. I'm finishing my PhD thesis on rural development. Theory is not easy to learn, of course, there are practical experience. China's reform, which began in 1978, is a uniquely Chinese experience. It is a two-track system, with both flexible opening-up and conservative planning. China's growth in the past 40 years is obvious to all. We cannot directly copy China's experience, but the gains and losses are the most valuable experience. After three years of study, I have learned my experience in The Special zone of China, which takes cultural and social issues into full consideration while developing. I saw women working in shenzhen's industrial park, which was equipped with dormitories as well as supporting kindergartens. I am glad to have learned many of these experiences in China. When I returned to Egypt, these ideas applied to my work.
5：You all mentioned the concept of South-South, so maybe we need to update the concept, because south-south has been given a new meaning. Here we find an independent, autonomous and unique economic system. So what are the future challenges for South-South cooperation?
Dieudonne: In a concept, what you actually summarize is important. What we often say about third world countries is that compared to northern countries, the concept is derogatory, so the idea of South-South is more equal, it's built on the idea of mutual respect. What are the challenges? Historically speaking, Africa started from the Berlin Conference in 1884. At that time, countries talked about Africa. Africa was a cake for many countries. Northern countries used to joke that Berlin had reshaped the African continent. They also think of Africa as their "fief". I regret to say that even now the Continent still needs to be liberated. As South-South cooperation deepens, the challenge is first of all public opinion, negative public opinion, especially on the topic of China-Africa cooperation.
There has been a series of claims that China is bad for Africa, including some on social media. There is a historical reason for all this, because the northern countries in the past were always taking, without equal conditions or cooperation with us. But that's what we're seeing in South-South cooperation. This cooperation has resulted in improved living standards for local people. We have seen the development and improvement of infrastructure, as well as reciprocal economic and trade exchanges. We are now seeing new members including China, Turkey, India and so on, and their actions tend to generate negative comments, African governments are not the governments of the 1960s, they are the governments of the 21st century. Our partners have changed. Our ambassador spoke to President Macron and said that if hegemonism does not change, if their attitude towards Africa does not change, they will lose. Their attitude towards Africa is changing because China's cooperation with Africa is leading the way. It is a win-win cooperation, one based on mutual respect and understanding, which has helped Africa in a range of development. So south-south cooperation brought about a change in the attitude of the North towards the South.
We have seen progress in the industrialization of agriculture, which was not seen before. The defeat of 1970-80 was what we used to call the white elephant. What is a white elephant? It was the people from the north who brought the factories and industries that had been built, but they didn't bring the technical support, they couldn't guarantee the normal operation, and then the factories closed down, so the Europeans proposed privatization, and as a consolation, they said they were going to buy the factories. Privatization means they all take over, and they know that Africa doesn't have the technology and the knowledge.
Now South-South cooperation has solved this problem. We put training ahead because we understood the importance of human capital in development and trained engineers of all kinds in mining, petrochemicals and forestry. The cultivation of engineers is the foundation and future of the development of the whole continent and the source of industrial development, which can refute negative public opinion. On top of that, we need to develop our own social networking tools. We don't have a voice to talk about the benefits of South-South. To give you an example, Tanzania's plan to build a railway, many years ago we asked the Europeans if they would help us build and provide financial support. Eventually, with Chinese help, these railways were built in Tanzania, Zambia and connecting cities to other countries. In contrast, before that, the northern countries thought there was no point in building these railroads, these railroads were not important. As a result, we have seen the improvement of people's living standards. This is a practical example.
I went to a meeting somewhere and saw China's railways and facilities, which is the strength of China's infrastructure. Should be carried out according to the actual situation of the local conditions. So South-South cooperation has very good prospects, and we should build on that by strengthening scientific and technological progress, strengthening innovation, strengthening progress in the environment and in health.
6: At present, western countries have discourse hegemony in mainstream media, so does this ignorance of southern countries pose a challenge to future cooperation?
Nancy: Also speaking of social media voice, the challenge might be cultural communication.
We need to know about China and the best way is to go to China. The same is true for Africa. So the challenge of South-South cooperation is likely to be in cultural exchange. Some people look at Turkish and Chinese projects in Africa and say they are not for cooperation and development, but for other ideas and plans. The solution to these problems is new dialogues and conferences that allow us to see new things and that Africa can benefit from a policy of South-South cooperation. We need to see a real shot of how China actually operates. The same is true in Africa. This is different from the Western perspective.
The pandemic, we saw that the Hegemony of Europe or the United States was not successful in fighting the virus. But China has done a good job in fighting the epidemic and has helped many African countries. Now, what we should advocate is the emergence of an objective media. I think CGTN is very good to use other languages (English, Arabic, etc.) to spread the true situation of South-South cooperation.
7: So what we see is not one system, one voice, but a wealth of diversity.
Solphi: The challenge for me is to break the monopoly of western voices in the media within the framework of South-South cooperation. As long as western hegemony exists in the media, south-south cooperation will not be easy. We in Madagascar and Mauritius worked together to set up special economic zones. The monopoly interests of traditional and established partners have been affected. New cultures have to be established, technologies introduced, and innovative ideas introduced.
The development of a country must first be independent and then it can have equal opportunities for dialogue. Otherwise, traditional partners always have a say in different fields, and the country cannot develop independently.
Abdoula: The influence of established international systems such as the Bretton Woods system is still there and is not easily changed. But what we can see is that as south-south cooperation deepens, it's slowly changing, though not at all levels. The most important challenges are still related to local economic and social development, such as the epidemic crisis, which has caused unemployment, especially among young people. Other challenges are closely related to population; There are also sustainable development challenges; Third, human capital depends on the development of science and technology; There is also the challenge of breaking down social class inequality. As a student ambassador of South-South College, I would like to say to President Xi: We hope That China can help Senegal to better respond to the epidemic. New virus mutations and changes in health care are also a challenge. As for the negative public opinion I just mentioned, it is through programs like ours that we will face and fight against it.
8: Please share your expectations for the future of South-South cooperation and development.
Abdoula: The future is very good. China is the continent's first big economic partner. There needs to be a tilt in public policy making.
Nancy: To improve the legal system for educating people in southern countries.
Dieudonne: Right now the most important thing is to fight the epidemic. At present, the most important thing is people's health, then the environment, the third is infrastructure construction, industrial parks and special economic zones are still very promising.
Translation FR-CH: TANG Xiaobei
Translation CH-EN: Olivia LOU