|BUMPER YEAR OF CHINA-AFRICA RELATIONS|
(This year) 2012 is a bumper year of China-African relations. Firstly, in January, there will be several high-level delegations of both the Chinese Government and of Communist Party of China (CPC) coming to visit Africa, indicating an auspicious start for the new year. Secondly, the Fifth Ministerial Conference of Forum on China-Africa Corporation (FOCAC V) will be held in Beijing this year with the main topics on sustainability of the China-Africa Cooperation and safeguarding of the common interests of Africa and China under the circumstance of globalization.
Let us come back to the bilateral relation between China and Rwanda. As part of high-level exchanges, a high-level CPC Delegation is coming on January 9, and His Right Honorable, Mr. LI Yuanchao, member of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, will be head of the Delegation. He is among the top 20 leadership of both CPC with 70 million Party members and the Chinese Government with 1.3 billion population.
Shortly after that, comes an artist troupe from Tianjin, the third biggest municipality in China, to give a series of artistic performances for both local people and the Chinese living in Rwanda. The Chinese Embassy is busy with preparation for these important events.
We also have several groups of engineers, designers from China this month to make assessment for the second phase of the Masaka Hospital project, which is to build more dormitories for the Rwandan and Chinese doctors working there. In addition, our government will offer an aid to build a vocational school in Northern Province this year.
After the Chinese New Year, which falls also this month, a group of agro-industrialists from Fujian Province in Southern China will come to Rwanda for a site inspect with intentions of establishing sister city or province links with the Rwandan side. Fujian province bears a striking similarity to Northern or Southern Province here in terms of environment and climate, for example, rainfall, temperature, terrain. The man-powered agricultural machinery and tools produced in Fujian are more applicable in the situation of “the thousand hills”, because they do not need electricity or fuel. If they can come to invest here, they could work together with the experts of the Chinese Agriculture Demonstration Center in the Southern Province. Although the Center has not got into operation formally, it has already conducted five workshops last year, sharing with more than 200 local farmers on terracing the slops, irrigation, rice and mushroom growing.
Last year we tripled our aid to Rwanda. We want to make this as a seed to bring more investment into Rwanda. For instance, the China Road & Bridge Corp (CRBC) has been working here for more than 30 years, mainly undertaking contracts to build roads, this year they are convinced to invest in Rwanda for the first time. In my opinion, if they want to have sustainable cooperation with Rwandans, they need to invest locally.
Up to now, I only got the bilateral trade figure for the first ten months of last year, from which we found out that the Rwanda export to China is more than it imported from China, with an export of 70 million US dollars and an import of 50 million US dollars. This is the direct trade, not including entrepot trade via other countries.
More than 40 Rwandan young students got Chinese scholarship to further their high education, while 160 Rwandans from various fields went for workshops in China as well last year.
Last but not least, we are going to hand over the Masaka Hospital soon, together with some of the equipments or materials for running it.
1. I have a few questions:
- How much in financial terms was China’s investment to Rwanda last year? It could be either ODA or the funds that have as China regarding investment in Rwanda in the last one year.
When I borrow the World Bank’s term ODA, it means coming from my Government to Rwandan Government, while investment is coming from non-government entities. For instance, a Hong Kong company, with 100 million RMB Yuan, equal 60 million US dollars, invests this hotel in front of us. Most of the investment is going to be fully realized this year. The STAR TV has invested nearly 29 million US dollars in Rwanda.
2. Ok you said Rwanda increased I mean China increased its ODA by three times from which amount to which amount?
We signed several agreements with Rwandan Government last year, for second phase of Masaka Hospital, for a vocational school in Northern Province, and other projects. These are gratis, however, there are also some concessional loans, therefore, and I would say the total is more than 200 million RMB.
3. Ambassador, I would like to know, the western powers are claiming that China is investing more in Africa especially in Rwanda than they are. So how do you find the competition between China and western powers?
Although the size of Rwanda is relatively small, however, we look at the market, the population, and the integrated market of East Africa, it is rather large, more than enough for all the partners to cooperate here. Especially if you cooperate in different fields, I do not think there is any competition, even if there is competition, I think it is a good thing according to the western philosophy, they say that competition is a basic of market economy and will bring good for the locals. We hope this competition will bring benefits to the Rwandans. If that is true, why not?
4. As I know, you are celebrating forty years of cooperation between Rwanda and China, so what are the main points that China is cooperating with Rwanda?
I would like to put it in this way; we want the socio-economic development of China to create opportunities for Rwandans to develop, and benefit our common development.
For example, in the past 30 years, China’s urbanization has grown from less than 30% to 46% now. More and more young people are going to the big municipalities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou to work, to seek the opportunity for their own careers. Young people fancy coffee houses and those modern things, and this provides an opportunity for coffee export for Rwanda, it is a market of 150 million consumers.
We hope that each side would make her partners’ development as an opportunity for herself.
I would like to stress that our ODA to Africa is only a seed, which will produce much more fruits.
5. So maybe I misunderstood, just now you said that what Rwanda export to China is more than what they import from here, is that true？
Yeah, the balance is 20 million US Dollars for the first 10 months last year.
6. You said that one of the things you are going to do this year, is to push more companies, more Chinese companies to invest directly in Rwanda, can you give us more details.
I hope those companies working here now would put some funds for investments, like CRBC to build an office complex using their own investment. I ask Fujian agro-industrialists and investors to come here to explore opportunities for agricultural and related production, to cooperate with the locals to strengthen weak links of the whole chain of production, so that they can export processed and value added produce, rather than export raw materials.
7. Nowadays everyone in Africa, everyone in Rwanda is running to China for business, but at the end of the day, they are ending up getting sub-quality things from China. because there are a lot of things on the market from China for instance phones, when you go to the market you say I want Chinese phone, they are cheap but not of quality, or of low quality. Therefore, as an Ambassador from China, what are your plans to see that, at least people in this country get things of standard and of value.
It is very difficult for me to do this, because it is a market economy. If I do not allow those Rwandans go to China to buy things, China will be criticized as a none-market economy. China is a market economy, it depends on the retailers to choose good phones themselves. All kinds of goods are there in China, we produce 95% of the phones that used by whole world, very few people complain for they do not go for cheap phones. When you just go and get those cheaper ones, it means you are targeting to a center group of consumers you think it is affordable. What I try to say is, the businesspersons should take up responsibility for choosing certain standard of goods, if they want to make more profits for themselves, or if they want to bring high standard goods with higher cost and foster a mature market. It depends on them, I cannot control it.
What I can help is that, I always explain to them, different prices mean different quality of goods. If they want to have sustainable business, it should be for them to judge whether they just want to bring quick money by ordering those cheaper goods or they want to develop business through introducing high standard goods into this market. I think that is the major question for them, not for me.
8. I have two questions:
1) If China has plans of increasing its ODA to Rwanda in this year or next year or the coming years.
2) And another one is how much has China spent in the construction of Masaka Hospital?
It is very hard to say now. For phase one of the Hospital, it was more than 70 million RMB, including medical apparatus and instruments of 20 million RMB. Phase two is to build dormitories for both Rwandan and Chinese doctors working there, and the road leading to the Hospital. We can only know the amount when the job is finished.
Quite often, when you carry out the plan, it calls for modification. The vocational school in Northern Province, for instance, originally it was earmarked with 60 million RMB. Then the Rwandan side requested to add an inn for students to practice fieldwork, so the sum already increased by one third to 80 million. I really do not know whether it is going to increase as well in future.
It all depends on the needs here. So long as the locals need, we will try our best to meet within our ability.
9. I want to know the areas and sectors where China is investing or helping.
I think I already mentioned it. The hotel in front of us, for instance, you have the plan to grow tourism which already became your number one foreign exchange earner last year, surpassed coffee and tea. There is construction of Kigali Convention Complex, and Star TV, HUAWEI and ZTE, they are here for building an information/service center of the East Africa. We also want to cooperate with you to improve agricultural production, which is one of your top priorities.
10. Many developing countries that have been helping Africa, have been hit by the current economic meltdown and cut the things to Africa. What position does China take in this regard?
I do not think it will hinder our cooperation with African countries. Those newly industrialized countries, not only China, see Africa’s fast economic growth in the last 10 years as an opportunity. As I said before, we make each others’ development as opportunities for their own development.
11. So they are talking about the powerful economic countries, I think now China is the second one.
It is only in the sense of total GDP, not in the more comprehensive sense. In GDP per head, China still ranks around 100 among more than 200 countries in the world, only in the middle, not in the front yet. Therefore, when you judge China you have to remember a simple mathematic equivalent. We have made great achievements, but if you divide it by 1.3 billion, it is still small one; while a small challenge multiplied by 1.3 billion, it will be a big challenge.
12. So how can you explain that goods that are coming from China are cheaper than those coming from western countries?
Because China still mainly relies on labour intensive industries, although we want to upgrade, and labour cost in China is relatively cheaper compared to the Europe and North America. It is growing higher, I mean the cost is higher than in countries like Vietnam and so on. Therefore, it is only a comparative advantage. For daily necessities, even the Americans want to buy Chinese goods, like clothing and kitchen utilities because it is much cheaper. I am told that Americans and Europeans no longer build roads with their own labors, for the wage is too much, so when you need to build roads, you need Asians.
13. I have a request. You know in this country journalism is still growing, so your Excellency, I was wondering whether I can get an opportunity from your embassy to have more training from China.
I try to organize a seminar on 10th when the Party Delegation is here, because the Head of Delegation is in charge of training/ exchange work in China, so that he could be well-informed about the need to improve this kind of cooperation between China and African countries, Rwanda is included. Some local people often suggest strongly having more Chinese experts coming here to share expertise with locals.
Certain training or sharing of expertise needs some equipments. HUAWEI Company here donated an e-learning system to the KIST, students can use the system to have their lessons or contact directly with the teachers, professors in universities of other countries.
14. When are you expecting the Masaka Hospital to be completed?
It has already completed and got into operation. We are now working to build a road, a shortcut linking there. There are quite a lot of patients there, we will start the phase 2 soon to make it more convenient for the patients and doctors.
15. So does exclusively the government of China build it?