African, Chinese Thinkers Need To Be More Assertive

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By Tichaona Zindoga

THE increased cooperation between China and Africa should be accompanied by greater boldness and assertiveness by African and Chinese thinkers so as to fully articulate the growing relations, enhance mutual understanding between the two sides and buttress China-Africa relations as a global phenomenon.

Thinkers referred to in this article could be government policy-makers, academics/scholars, journalists, researchers, historians, anthropologists, and other players responsible for the production and dissemination of knowledge and information.

Already, China and Africa have some notable frameworks that recognise and bring together people in these categories, for example, the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum, established in 2011 by the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University and incorporated into the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) framework in 2012. It has since become a high-level platform for the diplomatic, academic, think tank, enterprise, and media fields to engage in dialogue and communications.

On the other hand, China and Africa are cooperating in the field of media, developing a network that incorporates the China-Africa Press Exchange Centre programme, training and capacity building of African journalists, exchanges, and mutual visits. Under this media and press cohort, China also actively provides technical support and personnel training for digitisation of radio and television in Africa. Among other things, the two sides have undertaken to exchange and produce content for each other’s national broadcasting agencies while developing longer-term cooperation.

The above are in part the outcomes and commitments of the Focac Summit held in Beijing, China in 2018.

With the 8th Ministerial Summit of Focac set to be held in the African nation of Senegal at the end of the month, it is clear that more needs to be done by African thinkers to truly assert themselves and gain authority on both the China-Africa front as well as the global stage.

So far, the awareness and consciousness regarding China and Africa’s relations have been cultivated by politicians and states. Politicians and statesmen have always set the agenda for cooperation between the two sides resulting in the primacy of politics and economics as basis and talking points.

Thinkers in academia, history, anthropology, journalism/media, and think tanks also need to be more assertive to curate new ideas and consciousness and lead conversations in new directions.

The facts are that the relationships between China and Africa – which dates back several centuries – are richer, deeper and more complex than common tropes in the media, whose agenda is laid by statesmen.

Thinkers would be more useful to uncover new truths about the two civilisations, how the relations between the two sides have evolved and what it means for the future of humanity.

Of course, Africa is not even a single country, hence the complexity in conceptualising and understanding how China has related to each of the countries on the continent.

As African thinkers understand the complex nature of China-Africa relations, they will be responsible in asserting new thinking that could solve some present and future problems of the globe.

This is especially relevant because voices in the so-called Global South have been on the peripheries. In the context of globalisation, the relations between China and Africa – cemented in part through vehicles such as Focac – need to be asserted fully as a legitimate phenomenon.

Practitioners in knowledge and information are required to add weight to this through the building of understanding, fighting disinformation and increasing consciousness.

This is a thorough process that goes beyond mere events and exchanges.

It will be game-changing to see African and Chinese thinkers grow individual and institutional statures so that they not just become agenda drivers but also authorities within the wider global architecture.