Ten lessons from China that can transform Africa.

Author:Kangai, Manyika
Position::FEATURE: Africa/China

China's transformation from a poor developing nation 65 years ago into an economic giant today, offers great lessons for Africa. Manyika Kangai studied and worked in China and has distilled 10 lessons that Africa can learn from China. Here is his choice, as adapted from his new book, "Ten lessons from China that can transform Africa".

China is still a developing country and is by no means perfect. However, what it has managed to achieve in about 30 years is very impressive and can provide lessons for African nations. China's transformation is inspiring and teaches that a nation that truly believes in itself and has the right mindset can overcome any challenge and achieve greatness.

As a proud African who lived, studied and worked in China for 5 years, I saw many lessons that African nations can learn from China. Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that African nations should copy China but rather, they should learn from China's experiences and adapt some of them to their realities. So here are the 10 lessons that I think Africa can learn:

LESSON 1: A nation that was once colonised can rise to become a superpower.

China has a history of being colonised, as the USA once was. Among the dynasties that ruled in China, two were foreign--the Yuan Dynasty from 1271 to 1368, which was established by the Mongols; and the Qing Dynasty, which was the last dynasty, from 1624 to 1911, established by the Manchus. Besides this, in 1842, the British colonised Hong Kong; and from 1931 to 1945 Japan also occupied various parts of China. Colonisation can make a nation lose its pride, dignity, identity and self-belief, but China has managed to regain all these and even overtake its former colonisers to become the world's second largest economy today.

Colonisation and slavery robbed Africa and took away its pride, dignity, identity and self-belief. China has taught us that a nation can go through such a dehumanising experience and still regain what was lost and rise again.

In Chinese universities, Chinese history classes are compulsory for all students. The same happens in American universities. The same has to happen in African universities. From Africa knowing its history, it can connect with its roots and regain a sense of pride.

African nations can also learn from how China has used language to foster national pride. The Chinese have made Mandarin the standard language in China. Everything has been translated into Mandarin and Chinese leaders, regardless of where they are in the world, only use Mandarin for speeches and statements.

Despite being colonised from time to time, the Chinese never lost their language and this is a source of pride for them. As African nations seek regional integration, a Bantu language such as Swahili (since it is already spoken by about 130 million Africans) can be selected as the lingua franca for the continent and taught in African schools in the same way that the colonial languages, English, French and Portuguese, are taught.

Only when Africa has changed from the colonial mindset and regained her pride, dignity, identity and self-belief can it attain greatness.

LESSON 2: A nation must create its own economic and political system guided by its national interests.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the country became a one-party state and initially adopted communism but later changed to what they call "socialism with Chinese characteristics".

China's economy has been defined as a "social market economy", and does not fit into any one system. Rather, it takes various parts of other systems and combines them to create a system that best serves its national interests.

The Chinese realised that they required stability to develop and therefore adopted a political system that is a one-party system with intra-party democracy. Without the political stability that came from having a consistent government, the Chinese would not have been able to develop the way they have, and as quickly as they have.

The Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which is currently made up of seven leaders, runs China uninterrupted for 10 years and after this, there will be a leadership change for the next 10 years.

Economically, the Chinese have adopted some capitalist policies in parts of the country even though they are the biggest opponents of capitalism.

Africa has tried to be communist, socialist, and capitalist over time and has failed. Africans now need to be pragmatists. We must now do whatever is necessary to serve, further and protect our national interests.

A political and economic system with ubuntu/hunhu, that ensures that African interests, such as food security, good quality healthcare, education for all, and access to opportunity for all, are met, is what Africa must create at this stage.

LESSON 3: A nation must always have clear programmes that are bold and have vision.

Throughout China's history, there have been bold programmes with vision such as the "Great Leap Forward" (1954-1964), "Cultural Revolution" (1966-76), "Open Door Policy" (1978) and the "Go Abroad Policy" (2000).

These programmes had clear...

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