Speech: Bringing the “us” to Global Cooperation

 In speech

Thank you so much for the honour and invitation to give the dinner speech today.

This is my third year of joining the Yenching symposium in as many years of being in China, and as always it is wonderful to be in a room with such a diversity of faces and intellects.

I’m sad to have missed the earlier speeches and discussions. But I trust they were all fascinating, as I know Yenching has a great reach and attraction within China.

My speech this evening is all about celebrating “us”. Us as people, us in terms of our diversity. It is more specifically about what celebrating “us” and “diversity” can really mean for global cooperation, and shaping China’s own journey in the rest of the world, the overall theme of the conference.

First, let me introduce myself.

You may have read a bit about my biography. I’m a diplomat, economist and award-winning writer, turned entrepreneur.

In particular, in 2016, after 15 years of working in the government and UN, and becoming a mother, I took the leap to open a new international development consultancy and think-tank in Beijing – called “Development Reimagined” in English, and “睿纳新” in Chinese – meaning far-sighted and innovative.

What might be surprising to many of you is that the consultancy is the first ever Kenyan Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (a WFOE) in China. But most people that come here from developing countries set up as joint ventures, which is a fair choice for many reasons. But I decided to set up as a WFOE to demonstrate that these kinds of businesses can and should flourish here.

Our ultimate aim as a consultancy is poverty reduction all around the world.

But being based here in China, Development Reimagined has built a special niche and reputation in supporting governments, businesses and others from African countries get the most out of their relationship with China. We also help the other way around – supporting Chinese ministries, businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to understand African and other countries better and have a positive impact.

I am proud to be building a diverse team in order to do so, and I believe this is fundamental to our success and unique selling point”.  I love to bring together people from different cultures into an office. Much, as I believe, Yenching does. It’s one of the reasons I really valued working in the UN. Here in China, at the time, our office had staff from China, Nigeria, Canada, Kenya, Denmark… literally all over. And the majority of the staff were women too.

But where our work is different to the UN and the other organizations I’ve worked in is that one of the values I ask anyone working with us to sign up to is all about empowering our ultimate clients – poor people.

I want everyone in our team to recognise that development involves real people, like you and I. Poor people are not “them”. They are “us”.  And diversity – in gender, race, social background, physical abilities, sexual orientation, age – is key to realizing that.

Let me give you two concrete examples. One more related to our daily life and one in the international relations area.

How many of you have seen the movie “Black Panther”?

Well, I think the last time I was in a room this international was at the Black Panther premier here in Beijing, just over a month ago, which was a very special event.

But what I found very special about the movie, especially watching it here in China, was that the storyline was actually quite similar to China’s own rise. Here was a country who had been closed to the international world for a long time, developed using its own natural resources, its own people, educating them and encouraging them to innovate, and only slowly, somewhat reluctantly, opening up to the world.

And it took a black person to write that. Had they not, had a white American written it, maybe it wouldn’t have had the same storyline and the same resonance in China, let alone the rest of the world. The lesson? Having diversity means more global success.

Now, here is the serious part. Here in China, I believe diversity is equally, if not more crucial in terms of international relations work.

Take one aspect of China’s cooperation. For decades, China has advocated a “win-win” approach to cooperation with poorer countries.  Win-win is a key aspect of the Belt and Road Initiative. But the Chinese government is acutely aware that many aid projects have not been as successful as it would have liked. China’s most recent white paper on Foreign Aid, issued in 2014, had few examples with quantitative results. It is forcing China to approach others to see how they deliver results and avoid project failure. Hence, the increasing openness of the Chinese government to trilateral cooperation, and the recent opening up of China’s South-South Aid Fund, announced in 2015, to UN agency applications. The caveat? Chinese aid administrators specify that they need to deliver quick and quantifiable results, leading most UN agencies to submit humanitarian assistance proposals.

That’s fine in the short term, but ultimately what is needed is much more consultation and ownership from the poorer, recipient countries. Despite some progress with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were agreed in 2015, and reflected what poorer countries need a great deal more than their predecessors the Millennium Development Goals, the voice of poor countries and poor people still remains a persistent open gap, not just with respect to China but also with regard to aid from OECD donors.

How would a recipient voice better shape these developments?

It’s not simple but it’s also not that complex. There are procedural shifts that could be made, like untying China’s aid projects from Chinese companies delivering them. There are substantive shifts, like not just installing Agricultural Trade Centers in poor countries but also encouraging value to be added to those agriculture products through industrialization, and making sure that trade tariffs and other non-tariff barriers are removed so that those products can be sold in other poor countries, to OECD countries and even China itself…

Only through really thinking these issues through in a more complex way can we find sustainable solutions.

And that’s why diversity is crucial. No one person can come up with the right solution. No one culture can come up with the right solution. In development and international relations in particular, we need to have conversations where we make links between benefit systems in the UK or China and cash transfers in Bangladesh or Malawi, and use this critical thinking to come up with new innovative ideas and approaches.

Diversity is crucial to having an us not them approach.

The UN SDGs rightly recognised that poverty is not confined to poor countries. It is also a problem and needs tackling in emerging and rich countries, such as the US or Germany. This is a hopeful start, because it encourages empathy in aid.

But whether in Britain or China, aid agencies and other actors working internationally must have diverse – in terms of race, class, sexuality, physical ability, age – staff, consultants and organisations. Of course, as a short-term measure, trilateral cooperation projects can help, as can new joint partnerships between think-tanks, universities or businesses across the world.  But in the end, diversity needs to be embedded, and that’s why I love Yenching so much, and where I want to say something about your special role as Yenching scholars and delegates.

As you listen to the speeches and engage in the discussions over the next few days, as you decide on your careers and shape the institutions you work in… Remember the us not them approach.  Keep your own experiences and cultures in the forefronts of your minds. Because they have value.

Your diversity has value. It should be celebrated, and in particular it should help shape China’s own journey in the rest of the world.

Many thanks.

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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.


    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.


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.


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.


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.


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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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.


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.


Project Manager

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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.


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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.


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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.


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.


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.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst 

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion


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.