The Chinese development model is wholistic. It does not just emphasise strong work ethics, but also encourages home-grown solutions.
By Justine Ojangole
KAMPALA – A high-level delegation of Ugandan political, government and private sector entrepreneurs is set to travel to Beijing, China.
The Ugandans will join other delegates from across Africa at the annual Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) that will be held from September 3- 4.
FOCAC is the biggest annual summit in the world that brings together Chinese and African leaders.
This year, the theme of the summit is “China and Africa: Towards an even stronger community with a shared future through win-win co-operation.”
The summit will feature high-level dialogue between Chinese and African leaders, business representatives, the sixth China-Africa entrepreneurs’ conference and round-table meetings between Chinese and African leaders.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently visited Africa, will chair the summit. He is expected to brief his African counterparts about his new plans to strengthen relations and deepen co-operation for the mutual benefit of the Chinese and African brothers and sisters.
Unlike many meetings of this magnitude, FOCAC is not just a talking shop. Among other activities, 14 sub-forums and side events are planned before and after the summit.
While the opening day will be dominated by speeches, including a keynote address from President Jinping, there will be plenty of learning opportunities for African delegates.
Two rounds of discussions are planned for the second day, at which President Jinping and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, will lead an interactive exchange of ideas on China-Africa relations. This will be an opportunity for leaders to share experiences.
Uganda is sending a 100-strong delegation to the meeting. President Yoweri Museveni will lead the delegation. I am informed that the delegation was carefully selected and includes persons who are well placed to come back and implement ideas picked up from the summit.
Solidarity is two-way. In recent years, relations between Africa and China have grown by leaps and bounds, anchored on solid mutual benefit. As the Chinese ambassador to Uganda, His Excellency Zheng Zhuqiang, likes to say: “Co-operation between China and Uganda is based on a win–win situation. Brothers [and sisters] should work together for mutual benefit.”
China has recorded phenomenal economic growth to attain the status of the number two world economy, within a short 40 years.
There are several questions that Ugandan delegates to Beijing should ask themselves every single minute of their stay there: How did China do it? What lessons can we learn as we aspire to transform Uganda to a middle-class economy? How can we implement these lessons?
The Chinese development model is wholistic. It does not just emphasise strong work ethics, but also encourages home-grown solutions to development challenges.
Uganda could borrow examples from China on rural transformation, infrastructure improvement and agricultural modernisation.
Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy, yet the majority of Ugandans are subsistence peasant farmers.
Where a few farmers have broken through into the realm of modern farming, like in areas of western Uganda, the trickle-down effect is yet to be felt.
We cannot modernise agriculture without adopting modern farming methods, including the widespread use of technology.
China has done this by investing massively in agricultural research, encouraging farmers to adopt modern methods, providing social amenities and improving infrastructure to ease access to markets.
In Uganda, the average farmer is largely on his own. Often a small-scale peasant, she or he has no knowledge of modern farming methods and is at the mercy of the elements.
This farmer uses rudimentary tools, cultivates without knowing whether farmland is exhausted or not and will suffer substantial post-harvest losses.
This Ugandan farmer is not assured of a market, as can be seen from the current glut in maize prices, which has made farmers to incur substantial lessons.
There are no farming co-operatives that could cushion farmers from price fluctuations in the market. Poor social services mean that the little that the peasant farmer earns will be spent on basic needs. The farmer has no savings.
China was in the same situation a few decades ago. Today, China has lifted 800 million people out of abject poverty and is on course to eradicate poverty by 2020. Just how did China achieve this?
This is the question that I hope the 100 Ugandans travelling to Beijing can answer when they come back.
The Chinese say: ‘If we want to get rich, let us build the roads. If we want to get rich quickly, let us build the motor roads.
If we want to get rich immediately, let build the internet road. If we want to get rich together, then let us connect the roads’.
Uganda has taken some steps to improve its economy and the well-being of its people. The economy has registered remarkable growth in recent years, infrastructure is improving and social service delivery is getting better.
There are plans to establish 22 industrial parks in different parts of the country, which spread economic growth far and wide.
However, we still have a long way to go. I expect that the delegates going to China will return with some concrete ideas to help us.
Apart from the discussions on the big issues, there are small things that the delegates will appreciate.
One is the Chinese attitude towards work and the constant desire to implement activities with integrity and within agreed timeframes.
I have had an opportunity to interact and work with Chinese people and learnt that the rate of implementation of a given activity is critical.
Unlike many Ugandans, the Chinese prefer not to spend lots of time on paper work, planning seminars, workshops and conferences.
Instead, the Chinese prefer to concentrate on getting the task done on time.
Our delegates will see that in Beijing, everybody takes his work seriously – from the taxi driver to the hotel doorman to the leaders.
Our leaders will notice that while the Chinese enjoy elaborate cultural entertainment, the approach to work is totally business-like.
I wish the Ugandan delegation a safe journey to China, a fulfilling experience and a return with planet of implementable lessons for our country.
Most importantly, I look forward to concrete outcomes and ideas that can strengthen the solidarity between China and Africa, for the mutual benefit of our peoples. May FOCAC 2018 be a great success.
The writer is the publisher of the China Uganda Magazine.