Can African-Sino Agri-Health Cooperation Champion Green Recovery?

 In analysis, op-ed

For a moment it would seem that climate change has taken a backseat in the midst of a global pandemic, yet we are increasingly seeing the need to make linkages between COVID-19 response and climate action policies. What has been termed as “green recovery” refers to implementing policies that intrinsically are centered on sustainability while mitigating the impacts of climate change. An estimated average decline of 10.6 % is expected for the crop mean yield across the African regions by 2050. With reported higher temperatures, floods, droughts, locusts invasion, Africa is at risk of becoming vulnerable and food insecure.

To understand how to tackle these issues headstrong during COVID-19, The China Africa Project (CAP) Managing Editor Eric Olander spoke with Hannah Ryder, CEO of Development Reimagined to find out how best to conceptualize what a green recovery would look like.

ERIC OLANDER: Despite being in the midst of a global pandemic, why is the conversation on climate change so significant?

HANNAH RYDER: There are two reasons why it is crucial to talk about climate change now, even as COVID-19 dominates headlines and policy.

First, Michelle Wucker has called COVID-19 and climate change both “grey rhinos” – as in, obvious and known dangers that are anticipated but are in reality mostly neglected. She is absolutely right, but I also like to make another analogy. Back in 2006, as an economist and policy maker at the time, I wrote three chapters in the seminal Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, which put forward for the first time the case that the costs of acting NOW to address climate change will be lower than the costs of doing nothing.

Now as head of a consultancy that advises policymakers all over the world, I still believe that assessment is right, and we have seen this analogy play out very clearly with COVID-19. Governments that helped their citizens to act immediately – by shutting down international borders, mandating social distancing and masks – have been able to completely avoid or flatten COVID-19 curves, and therefore resume economic activity faster. Even the poorest countries, including those in Africa, have seen this result very clearly.

Thus, the experience of COVID-19 should encourage us to not only be aware of grey rhinos like climate change, but it should encourage us to be more resolute and assured that taking action is the right, least-cost decision. It also reminds us that countries at all ends of the wealth spectrum – rich to poor – face the same circumstances and fundamental policy choices when it comes to grey rhinos like climate change and COVID-19.

The second reason it’s important to talk about climate change now derives from the first. Right now, governments are spending a huge amount on COVID-19 recovery. Asian and Pacific counties are spending on average 7% of their GDP to counter COVID-19’s health and economic impacts. Even African countries are spending on average 2.6% of their GDP. But money is finite. If we can ensure this money is being directed towards climate-friendly actions now, or what is known as a “green recovery” that will be even better.

ERIC: This is a very interesting concept. In your view, to what degree is Sino-Africa cooperation on COVID-19 – whether in the area of health or any other area – taking account of this “green recovery” idea? Is it happening?

HANNAH: Since COVID-19 erupted we have seen two key trends when it comes to Sino-Africa cooperation.

  1. A continuation of traditional Sino-Africa cooperation on health as well as some new innovations. As reported in our recent COVID-19 infographic analysis, to date China has sent a total of 7 medical teams to 15 African countries. Earlier on in the year, through the partnership between the Jack Ma Foundation, Alibaba Foundation and the Ethiopian Airlines, the foundations made a series of donations of masks, medical use protective suits, testing kits and ventilators through the African Union and the African Centre for Disease Control benefitting a total of 54 African countries.
  2. A willingness by China to support African counties with creating more fiscal space to deal with COVID-19’s financing needs, for example through the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).

But China (nor others) has not explicitly said the new spending should be “green”. Partly this is because China does not impose these kinds of conditions on governments when extending development finance, but it is important to be aware of.

Indeed, China has itself announced a huge new internal policy for net carbon neutrality by 2060 – while the government did not make a direct link between COVID-19 and this policy when announcing, it is clear that COVID-19 has encouraged China to think more carefully about self-sufficiency, especially in energy, and the benefits of green technological innovation which can stimulate its economy to recover.

Now while it is difficult to directly apply “green considerations” to health cooperation, the fact is COVID-19 as a health challenge does require economic responses, as we can see from China’s own policies.  A recent study we did for an agency affiliated to China’s Ministry of Environment suggests that more than any other region in the world, carbon emissions in Africa tend to come from the natural resource base or the manufacturing base of a country, which is how the continent’s economies currently derive the majority of their growth – not population.

The question is to what degree China is now willing to help African and other economies go through their own green recovery, and this is something African governments need to both demand and track.

ERIC: African economies rely on the agriculture sector for a great deal of jobs, and of course it is one of the sectors that is impacted the most due to the consequences of climate change, and has been impacted by COVID-19 too. Have you seen any examples of Africa-China cooperation that help address agriculture, climate change and even health that you think are worth highlighting?

HANNAH: Not yet, but I think this is an area to watch. As you say agriculture is impacted by climate change and it has also been impacted by COVID-19. Over half of the African population (60 per cent) actually depends on agriculture as a source of livelihood.

One study by Ayanlade & Radeny (2020) looked at the linkages between the agricultural planting season in Sub-Saharan Africa and how it coincided with the lockdown measures, posing a major threat to the food security of countries. Furthermore, farmers have had limited access to some agricultural inputs. Agricultural exports are another source of revenue for the continent which the UNCTAD estimates will experience a 3 per cent decline. At the same time, a range of African countries have implemented COVID-19 responses to safeguard the productivity levels of their agriculture sectors.

What we have seen in Asia, for instance, is governments – as part of their COVID-19 response – trying to bring sectors together. For example, there are three countries whose Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) incorporate forestry and have made linkages with COVID-19 responses. Take Pakistan for example whose reforestation NDC was used as a means of creating temporary job opportunities for out-of-work labourers during COVID-19 to plant saplings under the “10 billion Tree Tsunami” programme. As unique as this programme sounds in that it links forestry, climate change and COVID-19, it demonstrates the possibility of implementing more climate sensitive policies during the pandemic. Making it a triple win.

At DR, as you will see if you explore the infographics we have been producing since March 2020 on Africa’s COVID-19 response, we have estimated that African governments have brought in around 245 social and economic support measures to address COVID-19 that could reach over 175 million people – particularly concentrated around cash transfers. In contrast, the Asia Pacific region has brought in over 300 such measures, mostly focused around ensuring people maintain their jobs and new jobs are created. More measures like these should be championed across the continent.

*With thanks to Samu Ngwenya, Policy Analyst at Development Reimagined.

This Q&A was originally published on the China Africa Project Website on 6 November 2020

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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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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 Economics and Statistics and respectively.


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.


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.