Is your relationship with China better than mine?

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Just a few weeks ago, my sister got married. The wedding was beautiful, her husband is an absolutely wonderful man from Uganda, and my two other sisters and I were bridesmaids. But there was one problem. I found myself comparing her wedding to mine seven years ago. Either thinking “Oh, I wish we had done our flowers like that” or “I wish we had practiced our first dance a bit more”. It was when I turned to my husband to tell him yet another comparison that he reminded me of a famous phrase first coined by Mark Twain in the late 1800’s: “comparison is the death of joy”. And in so many words, he helped me curb my comparative reflection.

But comparison is an easy trap to fall in, whether you’re an individual, group, country – and even a region. Here in China last week, comparison was in the air as the first ever meeting between Chinese government leaders and Ministers of CELAC – a group of 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries formed in 2011 – got underway. The comparison was with another region – Africa.

Indeed, there was and is a lot to compare, starting with the fact that while 2015 welcomed the 1st China-CELAC meeting, and Chile will host the 2nd in 2018, meetings between China and African countries have been ongoing since the year 2000, through the Forum of China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). FOCAC Ministers will meet for the 6th time in the last quarter of this year in South Africa.

The African region also appeared to be ahead in other, more noticeable ways. The 2014 White Paper on China’s Foreign Assistance set out that over 50% of Chinese assistance spent between 2010 and 2012 goes to African countries, while around 8% goes to the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. Of course, this is justifiable. You’ll have to forgive me for some rounding errors (as the country groupings don’t match perfectly) but based on data collected by the World Bank, the poverty rate in developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (i.e. the proportion of people living under $1.25 per day) is 46.8%, compared to 2.2% for developing countries in the LAC region. On average, people in LAC countries have an income around 6 times larger than those in Africa.

But differences in poverty and income don’t explain everything.

For instance, the number of Chinese firms in Africa is estimated to be over 2000, while the LAC region appears to host half that – between 640 and 1100 firms. This may well be associated with the fact that across Africa, there are 30 or so Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) or Trade Agreements (TAs) with China, while across the LAC region, there are just 16 or so. Most BITs and TAs tend to make it easier and more predictable for businesses to invest in other countries.

On the other hand, African countries’ trade with China somewhat lags that of LAC countries (at US$210bn and US$267bn in 2013 respectively). Indeed, China’s targets for trade with LAC announced during last week’s China-CELAC meeting are just as ambitious as those previously announced for Africa. China is targeting annual trade volumes of US$500bn by the next ten years with LAC, and $300bn worth with Africa by the end of this year. The comparison with respect to investment is similar. Currently, investment by China in LAC countries is around three times larger than estimated investment in African countries, but for both regions China has big ambitions. China is targeting investment of US$250bn into the LAC region over the next decade, and US$1 trillion into the African region by 2025.

That said, individuals seem to move between China and Africa much more than between China and LAC. In 2013, the total amount of tourism (i.e. both ways) between China and LAC was estimated at 550,000, compared to over 2.3 million between China and Africa. Migration to and from China also seems to follow similar trends – for instance, this UN report puts migrants from Asia as a whole to LAC and Africa at 0.3 million and 1.1 million people respectively.

But these differences can be justified too. Developing countries in Sub-Saharan African countries house 960 million people, while LAC countries house around half that – around 590 million people. Tourism and migration, in addition to aid, are probably significantly more critical for the African region than they are for the LAC region. Looking even further beyond money and business, around 50% of the members of both CELAC and FOCAC are yet to establish Confucius Institutes.

On balance, like me comparing myself to my sister, comparing what China is doing across regions, and even across countries, is fairly pointless. The fact is my sister and I both had weddings and they were great in their own way. The CELAC meeting in Beijing last week was by all accounts a great success – its’ worth basking in that joy! But unlike me and my sister, I actually think cross country comparisons can be useful for better understanding why China partners in the way it does, and, especially if you live in a recipient country, considering the degree of ambition to aim for when working with China. That’s why, in the coming months, we at UNDP China will be working on a series of briefs to illustrate cross-country or regional comparisons of relations with China – where the information is available.

Indeed, far from being a thief of joy, more comparison in this case could lead to more growth, poverty reduction, and joy for the countries around the world working with China. And in the end, that means more joy here in China!

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EDMOND BOSILONG

Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.

HANNAH RYDER

Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.

LEAH LYNCH

Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.

YIKE FU

China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.

JUDITH MWAI

Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.

OVIGWE EGUEGU

Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.

JING CAI

Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.

PATRICK ANAM

Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.

ROSIE FLOWERS

Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

JADE SCARFE

Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.

ROSIE WIGMORE

Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.

LAUREN ASHMORE

Consultant

Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.

ETSEHIWOT KEBRET

Consultant

Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.

DIBEKULU MULU

Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.

OSARU OMOSIGHO

Research Analyst

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.

PIER FERDINANDO CINOTTO

Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.

DAVID TINASHE NYAGWETA

Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com respectively.

IVORY KAIRO

Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.

JOY ENE

Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.

CHENSI LI

Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.