Optimizing the China-Africa Cooperation on Agricultural Science and Innovation

wirtten by ‘Wole Fatunbi (Ph.D) 

A conference of about 100 high-level scientists and leaders of thought in Africa and China was held between the 12th and 13th of June 2024 at the Hilton Hotel Conference Room in Sanya Yazhou Bay Science and Technology City, China. The two-day conference organized by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the FAO South-South and Triangular Cooperation Division deliberated on the status of African agricultural research and innovation and how to optimize the partnership between China as a large country and the African continent with its 55 independent countries. 

Africa and China have the largest populations in the world, recent estimates place the two continents as having about 1.4 billion inhabitants each, erstwhile both continents have the debilitating problem of extreme poverty and food insecurity. But China seems to have overcome its challenge with over 40 years of effort to become an industrial economy with a mere 0.7% poverty rate representing an unprecedented fall from 88% in 1981. Today China is a major player in the production and export of agricultural commodities and a key source of industrial machinery and lots of domestic products sold across the globe. While China keeps growing, Africa is yet to gain strong traction in implementing its growth pathways or rather yet to bring poverty and food insecurity down to a reasonably low level. Available statistics indicated that the poverty level in Africa was 56% in 1990, it came down to 43% in 2012 and in 2019 33.8%, indicating a consistent reduction and suggesting the need to increase technical and political efforts on the key drivers of poverty reduction. 

China certainly got it right and has a lot of lessons to share with Africa on how it navigates its economic and industrial growth. Its investment into science, technology generation, infrastructural development, right policies, great leadership, and cultivation of loyalty and civility with its citizens contributed to its success. The deep-seated Asian-like politeness and the act of showing regard for others is at the base of China’s willingness to share its scientific breakthroughs with Africa. This is evident in its different cooperation with African countries in the last decade; the most obvious is its finance of different structural projects across African countries; the development of trade treaties with countries and the growing exchanges of technologies in agriculture. 

The central question is “How do we optimize the cooperation to deliver the development outcomes we need in Africa?  

Discussion in the conference pointed out the need for Africa to craft its pathway to development. Africa is unique in many ways and cannot outrightly be compared with any other continent in the world; it cannot copy the pathways of other continents with success. However, it could learn key lessons from the successes of others and adapt it to its socio-economic, political, cultural and natural resource base.  The introduced Chinese technologies need to be adapted to the local context in Africa, recent observations with introduced agricultural processing and industrial machineries from China on their serviceable years or how long they lasts showed the need to run strong adaptation of the machineries to general behaviors of users in Africa. An old slogan of the Peugeot automobile Nigeria limited is instructive, it said “Built for Nigerian Roads”. Machines that will serve Africa conditions must be built for Africa, it must be rugged, use multiple power sources, with less electronics and more electrical and mechanical components, more user serviceable parts etc.  

The Chinese science and technology cooperation in Africa agriculture needs to be coordinated and the focus needs to be defined. A bilateral relationship of a specific laboratory in China with another laboratory in Africa could not be called the China-Africa cooperation. A truly continental effort needs to give cognizance to the existing agricultural research coordination architecture in Africa and uses it as its entry point. This will ensure effective coordination of the efforts, monitoring of progress, lesson learning, and scaling of lessons and proven technologies for broad-based continental impact. 

The upcoming China-Africa Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Alliance (CAASTIA), which was initiated by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the African Academy of Sciences, has huge potential to promote effective partnerships and exchanges between African agricultural stakeholders and that of China. It was advised that FARA would play a constructive role in coordinating and implementing CAASTIA activities, to ensure its effective formation and operation. 

2 Comments

  1. Etin Ogbeide-Reply
    June 20, 2024 at 8:34 am

    This is a very great leap in the right direction to better the future of agriculture in Africa. Kudos to Professor Wole Fatunbi and all other stakeholders piloting this noble initiative.

    ETIN OGBEIDE

  2. Adegboyega Justino Oshinowo-Reply
    June 21, 2024 at 7:19 pm

    This beatiful write up captures it all.

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