People to people exchange; The pivot for a sustained Africa-China cooperation – Timothy Karikari
Co-Founder of 360 Degrees Management, a management consulting start-up specialized in matchmaking for African and Chinese businesses; Timothy Karikari has advocated for increased and coordinated people to people exchanges between Africans and Chinese.
Speaking at the 3rd China Africa Stories (CAS) event in Beijing; China , he cited cases of African students and migrants who have experienced cultural insensitivities that constraint their ability to collaborate with Chinese colleagues and partners and also cited examples of Chinese investors in Africa who continuously face management and human resource hurdles due to cultural barriers and stereotypes from their African employees and themselves as investors.
Using his bittersweet 2018 first 24-hour experience in China as case studies for the conference, he explained and took participants through how being culturally intelligent can improve the relationships and dealings between Africans and Chinese.
Trade between Africa and China continues to grow after China surpassed the US in 2009 to be Africa’s largest trading partner. Despite the increasing growth in trade, whereas China exports value-added and manufactured products including machinery, communications equipment, and transportation, the same cannot be said of Africa. Africa’s export to China is dominated by the exportation of raw materials with little or no value added.
Despite this gloomy picture, efforts are being made by leaders across the continent to reverse this unacceptable trend. The “One District-One Factory” (1D1F) an initiative by Ghana’s President; Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo aimed at industrializing Ghana one step at a time stands a chance of developing the country into an industrial hub in Africa to capitalize on China’s aging population development into a technological economy. The 2018 Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) which aims to allow free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent is also an initiative to reverse this anomaly by placing Africa as the next global industrialization and value addition hub.
Ghana’s 1D1F and Africa’s CFTA is projected to increase FDI into the region but in the words of Karikari, “if we do not improve on the people-to-people engagement, the positive growth and projections could be marred with unsubstantiated suspicions and hurdles. He added “we hear of big contracts and deals signed between African countries and China, we see impressive data showing improved bilateral relations but at the people-to-people level, there seem to be huge disparities.
Organized by Kente & Silk, The China Africa Tech Initiative and the Global Shapers Community in Beijing, China Africa Stories is a platform which gives both African and Chinese students and young professionals a platform to brainstorm ideas, explore partnerships and develop practical roadmaps to make contributions to the Africa-China relationship. Themed, Partnership for Digital Future, the 3rd edition was held on 25th May 2019 and focused on how Africa and China could both learn from and collaborate to shape the digital world.
Other notable speakers at the event included Nadia Uwamahoro (CEO & Founder Rwanda based Data Systems Ltd; the Keynote Speaker), Eric Olander (Co-Founder & Managing Editor of China Africa Project website and blog), Dr. Ding Yu (Digital Economy expert at UCDF), Lily Kang (Consultant at Boston Consulting Group and Global Shaper in Beijing) and many others.