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Africa can learn from China
2009/10/27
I was one of the 30 African journalists invited by the Chinese government for celebrations on October 1 to mark the 60th an­niversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. My 12-day visit was an eye opener and Africa indeed has a lot to learn from China whose eco­nomic growth, particu­larly in the past 30 years, has been described as nothing short of a miracle.
 
Basking in the in their lofty achievements in the past 60 years, Chinese of­ficials do not need much prodding to dole out the impressive figures high­lighting the remarkable success this Asian giant has scored in so short a time.The figures speak for themselves. China's Gross Domestic Product has been grow­ing at an average of 9,7 percent every year since 1978 and its import and export trade has grown at an average of over 18 per­cent, making it the fastest growing economy in the world, by far exceeding the world average.By the end of the year China will be the second biggest economy in the world, having knocked off Japan into third place. It will then be a question of when the Asian giant will be perched at the top as the world's largest economy ahead of the United States. China's output of grain, meat, cotton fruit and tea remains among the top in the world. The same with industrial products steel, coal, cement TV sets and cotton textiles. With a population of 1,3 billion - the world's largest - spread over 9,6 million square kilometers metres of land and with at least 15 million Chinese babies born each year, the Chinese govern­ment surely has a lot on its hands.
 
That is why with all the successes it has recorded, China still carries the label of a developing country. More than 200 million of its 1,3 billion still live on less than US$1 a day. But by and large the Chinese administration is surely marching towards its goal of giving its people a better life and satisfying a growing export market from virtually anything from a packet of rice to cars. My stay in China taught me many things but two distinctly stand out from which Africa can draw in her pursuit for economic development. Hardwork and unity of purpose. These two personify the Chinese people and have by and large contributed to the economic success story that this country is today despite, or maybe because, of its huge population. Says economist and writer Dr Tian YingkuiIn: "In such a diverse country with a huge population, things would be unwork­able without a unified will along with individual crea­tivity." He adds: "Without a uni­fied will, any government decrees and directives could not be truly carried out, and people would com­pete in (a) disorderly envi­ronment."
 
China's success story is rooted on its ideology, which President Hu Jintao simply describes as "Social­ism with Chinese charac­teristics." And hard work is one of the "characteristics". The Chinese put so much hard work in everything they do projects are com­pleted in record times.And there is always a singlemindedness of pur­pose in everything they do. That is why they have achieved so much in so lit­tle time. It is said there is strength in numbers, but if the num­bers are pulling in different directions, nothing will come out of it. The Chinese pull in one direction and Africa can draw lessons from this.
 
Of course noises have, and continue to be made about China's human rights record, alleged lack of free speech and freedom of association from the West but these do not appear to be China's preoccupation right now. The attitude seems to be: "We have more pressing things to do than expend our energy on that." The collective national goal is to turn around the economic fortunes of this giant for the betterment of its people and to take its place among the strongest economies of the world. This national goal has been drilled into its citizens repeatedly since that day on Tiananmen Square on October 1 1949 when Mao Zedong founded the Peo­ple's Republic of China, set­ting the country on a new path of agriculturalisation, industrialisation and tech­nological advancement. Successive leaders who have come have been ham­mering home the same message. Let us know where we came from as a nation and where we are going as a nation.
 
To China its history plays a key role for citizens to draw inspiration and work hard to achieve the eco­nomic success that it so much cherishes. That is why China's his­tory is so meticulously recorded and passed on to generation after gen­eration. This is another important lesson for Africa. Countries like Namibia, which has a rich history, can draw from the Chinese handibook. I am reminded of what President Hifikepunye Pohamba said on Au­gust 26 on the occasion of Namibia's Heroes' Day commemorations at Omu­gulungwoOmbashe, the launchpad for Namibia's war of independence. He said: "The history of this place must be told by those who were there for future generations to know. "Let them hear the his­tory of men and women who vowed that death and slavery were the same things, and who had a vision for an Independ­ent Namibia." Namibia's founding President Dr Sam Nujoma, has been at pains to hammer home the same point every time he gets an opportunity to speak. It is no coincidence that Dr Nujoma was there in Beijing on October 1 for the celebrations having been a frequent visitor to China, he knows how history has played a part in making China what it is today. Such knowledge em­powers a people to remain focused, knowing where they came from and where they are going. It helps to foster a unity of purpose in a nation.
Living heroes like Dr Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, Hifikepunye Pohamba and Rtd Col. John Otto Nankudhu can provide a fountain of informa­tion on Namibia's war of independence for his­torians to work on and record for posterity. It came as no surprise a few days into my stay in China seeing a five-year old Chinese boy declaring on television: "I want to be a soldier when I grow up because I want to defend China's borders."
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