According to a Xinhua report dated 14 October, which has only now been circulated on International Rivers’ mailing list, a “China-Africa NGO seminar” has been organised within the FOCAC framework, to which “20 persons in charge of NGOs and ambassadors from eight African countries and more than ten Chinese NGOs” had been invited. (According to People’s Daily, only diplomats from Ethiopia and Sudan actually attended, but there were officials from NGO councils of Botswana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia.)
The non-governmental communication is expected to be an important part of the Sino-African relations, and contribute to building the strategic partnership between the two sides, said Li Jinjun 李进军 [“Li March-in-the troops”], secretary-general of China NGO network for International Exchanges (CNIE), the organizer of the seminar.
The event confirms the shift towards greater social engagement in China’s African activities (whether cosmetic or substantive) that several authors — such as Chris Alden — have commented on. A number of international NGOs, such as Oxfam, have been banking on the strategy of bringing NGOs from China and the investment recipient countries together with the idea of sharing the latters’ concerns with the former. The prominent liberal economist Qin Hui has similarly expressed hope that Chinese civil activists might learn from their counterparts in Africa and Southeast Asia, and press Chinese companies to operate more responsibly at home as well as abroad.
This was not quite the idea of the organisers of this seminar, though. On the contrary,
“I found the African NGOs have a strong will to learn from China,” said Jiang Bo, secretary-general of China Education Association for International Exchanges.
His view was echoed by Ntobeko Melvin Gotyana, president of South Africa National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO). (…)
Peter Oloishura Nkuraiyia, executive director of NGO Co-ordination Board of Kenya, said that both Kenya and China are developing countries and China is more developed so that Kenya NGOs would like to learn from China from many aspects, especially on how to regulate the funds and how to seek help from the governments.
A book named Africa NGOs Studies and Sino-African Relations [非洲非政府组织与中非关系] was launched at the seminar. The book was written by experts of Zhejiang Normal University [沈蓓莉 and 刘鸿武, apparently CNIE staff] as a result of a project launched by the Chinese government.
These individuals sound like important people within Africa’s NGO circles. I wonder whether this account does reflect the sentiments of African NGOs, which have so far been largely negative on the Chinese presence (if one is to go by Western reports, that is). I am also very curious about this new publication.