China is currently the largest single bilateral investor in Africa as well as Africa's largest trading partner. Recent visits by Chinese leaders to Africa have re-confirmed Chinese commitment to the continent and signaled a pragmatic approach to cooperation, grounded in the priorities at the national and regional levels. China is keen to pursue balanced and accelerated investment in African countries, and new investment partnerships with investors from both OECD countries and other emerging sources of finance, including Africa itself.
The Government of the People’s Republic of China, the World Bank Group (WBG), the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (GoE), and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) believe that increased investment and industrialization would help to unlock the potential for sustainable and inclusive growth, job creation and poverty reduction in African countries. They therefore agreed to have the China Development Bank (CDB), WBG, GoE, the China-Africa Development Fund (CAD-Fund) and UNIDO to organize a Forum to promote engaged and informed dialogue among stakeholders - policy makers, development partners, foreign and local private investors – on how investment could be encouraged and industrialization accelerated.
Objective and Theme
The objective of the Forum is to promote accelerated and responsible investment and investment partnerships in African countries, from China and elsewhere, particularly for the light manufacturing sector. As much recent literature has recorded, there can be substantial advantages from developing certain kinds of light manufacturing activities in African countries, given the availability of local resources and relatively low labor costs, as well as the rapidly rising wages and land costs in the current hub of light manufacturing industry in East Asia. However, neither the current scale of such manufacturing, nor the rate at which it is increasing, meet expectations, and recurrent implementation problems have emerged.
In this context, the conference will consider the role of business climate, trade logistics and regional initiatives in Africa, and seek to identify a forward time-bound action agenda. Existing and potential modes of collaboration between China, African countries, development partners, and the private sector will be considered.
The Forum will be structured around sessions covering: (i) accelerating industrialization and manufacturing; (ii) making special economic zones (SEZs) and industrial parks work; (iii) infrastructure and trade logistics, including regional integration; (iv) creating the conditions to accelerate responsible private sector investment, (v) skills development for competitiveness and job creation, and vi) improving agricultural productivity and expanding agribusiness opportunities. An important aspect of each session will be to have the benefit of Chinese experience on the topic as they relate to specific national and subnational settings in Africa. The WBG will bring the perspective of its analytical work and ongoing programs.