Speech: Three proposals for China and Africa to live in peace with nature

Speech by Development Reimagined CEO, Hannah Ryder, at the Nanjing Peace Forum.

Full Speech Below

Distinguished guests, Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning good afternoon dajia shang wu hao, xia wu hao, and a huge thank you to the organisers for the kind invitation to be here today. it is a priviledge and an honour to be asked to join this discussion today.

Before I begin the substance of what I want to share with you today, let me first introduce my own African-led company, which was first established and has its headquaters in China.

Development Reimagined is a private sector company with a mission. Our ambition is to bring new solutions to the global complexity of poverty reduction and sustainable development, drawing from experience all over the world – including China – as well as piloting new ideas. We design projects, we evaluate projects, we help implement them for and on behalf of organisations.  However, while we do this broader international development work, we’ve developed a strong speciality on China-Africa cooperation. Our clients range from African governments trying to get more investors or trade with China, to African businesses and brands trying to enter the Chinese market, and the other way around – helping Chinese organisations deliver their aid better, and Chinese businesses understand and operate better in African countries. 

We are proud to be a diverse team, primarily based in China, but we have members from all over the the world. We aim to be as diverse as the UN, and ideally even more so!

Now, we have three specific core values that we believe are essential to a new approach to development.  These three values are… 

  1. Aid is not the only answer to development. Solving economic and social problems in poor and middle income countries requires structural change – in trade, investment, people = it means we use a holistic approach to development
  2. Development is not about “them”, it’s about “US”. It involves real people who act rationally in the situations they find themselves in and with the information they possess = it means we focus on real, on-the-ground data and real tangible experiences – not ideology or ideal scenarios
  3. Diversity is a strength in helping to “reimagine” development ideas and action in our ever-changing world.

Now, you may ask why DR even exists? What is the point of such a company, and how does it relate to peace? The title of today’s forum is harmony and coexistence: living in peace with nature. This is a crucial topic, especially in the context of the climate change summit which is taking place in the UK at the begining of November, where all UN member states will gather including China and Africa’s 55 countries, as well as the forthcoming Forum on China Africa Summit, expected at the end of November in Senegal.

As we know, African countries are behind in development terms versus China –  close to 400 million still need the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty across the continent. In order to meet the SDGs, African countries on average have to cut poverty at twice the rate of China. China is already entwined with Africa, China is aleady the continents largest trade partner, the largest provides of concessional loans after the multilateral and is projected by 2024 to become Africa’s largest bilateral investor.

Today, we have an opportunity to work together to ensure these links are as peaceful and in harmony with nature as possible, which is a huge priority for African countries. Ethiopia is building a great green wall; Rwanda is at the forefront of eco-tourism; Gabon is trying to keep its forests from being deforested; and so on.

So how can we do that? I have three key proposals to share today.

First, we need new low-interest loans from China into renewable energy production in African countries. Right now, China’s 1.3 billion people are reliant for around 13% of of its energy consumption on renewables, and Africa’s 1.2 billion people are also reliant on 9% of their energy consumption on renewables. But here is the difference Africa is at a very low base – China accounts for 36% of global solar capacity, Africa less than 2%. The capacity is distributed very unequally across the world. Hence, 600 million people in Africa do not have access to energy. However, Africa has plans to become the world’s manufacturing hub by 2063. African school children need energy to study, to turn on lights and use computers. There is no doubt that renewable energy needs to scale up massively in African countries. If China can help with this it will be crucial. 

Second, we need China to help to build local manufacturing of environmental goods -not just to send the goods to Africa. Most African countries already import more goods from China than they send to China. This needs to change, and can be done for example by Chinese manufacturers creating factories in places such as Kenya, Egypt or Nigeria to make solar panels or high standard environmentally friendly products in African countries. These are the types of factories that need to be encouraged to move to African countries.

Third, we need China to invest into value-addition of the minerals that will power the transition to net zero, the future. Global demand for electric vehicles will continue to rise and is key for its transition to net zero. Smart cities and e-commerce across the world requires smartphones – which have crucial ingredients. Many of the materials for all these – such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, gold and platinum – are sourced from mines in African countries. Helping African countries to modernise their mines, process the materials and even manufacture the initial components in country, while making sure they meet the highest environmental and social standards globally. This is crucial and can be win-win for China and African countries, and genrate peace in itself – we know that many countries in conflict are in conflict because of poverty and the poor distribution of the benefits of natural resources. Expanding the “cake” that countries get from their natural resources will create peace.

I hope these three areas can infuse the future partnership of Chinese stakeholders with African countries, including expressed through the climate summit and the future FOCAC agenda. We have an opportunity to create a peaceful world through new partnerships, lets seize it.

many thanks, asanteni, and xie xie dajia.

**The End**

October 2021


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