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Top World Bank And U.S. Officials Highlight The Importance Of Africa-China Relationship In Unique Forum

Three Washington Africa-focused organizations – Africare, Woodrow Wilson Center, and Constituency for Africa (CFA) - joined together February 4, 2011, hosting a Forum to discuss the development, economic, and business issues at stake in the burgeoning Africa-China relationship. Opening the event, World Bank Managing Director Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was clear when she said that “there is no longer a debate as to whether China should be in Africa; it is there.” The question she added is “What should be the nature of the engagement of China in Africa?”

Panel member Florizelle Liser, the assistant U.S. trade representative for Africa, provided a clear direction of U.S. trade policy and trade statistics in Africa and highlighted China’s growing trade relationship with the Continent, but added that “trade cannot be seen in a vacuum.; it includes democracy and human rights.”

Dr. Raymond Gilpin of the U.S. Institute for Peace noted the economic governance was equally important to keep an eye on in the extractive industries sectors, and whether “we really understand what economic expansion means for regional stability.” The Nature Conservancy had its External Affairs and Policy director, Robert Tansey, launch its new Africa-China framework focused on harmonizing economic development and conservation efforts. Dr. Wenren Jiang, former founding director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, provided insights into China’s perception of transparency, underscored that China is only at the beginning of its investment strategy in Africa, and stressed that when China perceives that transparency is in its long term interest – then it will change. There should not be a presumption that China can be changed from the outside, he added.

The Forum also focused on the way forward in these areas and whether the discussions about the Africa-China relationship should or should not include the United States. On steps to take in the future for Africa, former professor and political commentator Nii Akuetteh stressed that Africans need to decided for themselves what is the best model for the Continent, while Dr. David Shinn, adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Elliot School, discussed whether African states wanted U.S. and China to collaborate on Africa. Others such as noted author Dr. Sharon Freeman stressed the importance of both Africa and China developing a strategy to address those at the bottom of the social-economic pyramid. How China’s engagement in Africa is helping African capital markets was addressed by Kuramo Capital Founder Wale Adeosun.

The event was capped off by keynote luncheon speaker Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, acting assistant secretary of State for Africa at the State Department. Ambassador Yamamoto highlighted the ongoing early U.S.-China bilateral dialogue on working together on Africa, and said that the “U.S. does not see China as an adversary, but an important player in the world.” He said the areas of difference were the U.S. approach to free trade, technology transfer, training, and more use of local workers. He informed the invited guest of policy-makers, the private sector, civil society, non-governmental organizations, academics, and representatives of both the U.S. and African Governments of the importance the U.S. places on its relationship with Africa, and underscored the key democracy elements of the Obama Administration’s Africa.

Africare’s President Dr. Darius Mans and Ambassador Robin Sanders, Woodrow Wilson Center’s Director of Africa Programs Steve McDonald, and CFA President Melvin Foote, noted that the Forum was created and developed to have a more positive discussion about Africa and China, to hear views from practitioners, and to underscore ways for Africa, China, and the United States to work together in the best interest of the people of Africa.
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