Africa Can Benefit from China’s Experience in Abolishing Poverty

There is no doubt that China has set a global record in the fight against poverty which offers Africa an opportunity to learn and to build a strong socio-economic foundation for the future prosperity of its people.

Poverty entails more than just the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. It manifests itself in aspects like hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Statistics from the UN indicate that five years ago, more than 736 million people lived below the international poverty line of $1.9 a day. It also observes that nearly 10 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty and that they are struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, access to water and sanitation, among others. Additionally, there are 122 women aged between 25 to 34 living in poverty for every 100 impoverished men of the same age group, and more than 160 million children are at risk of continuing to live in extreme poverty by 2030. Most people living below the poverty line in the world come from Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Lessons for Africa

The poverty alleviation fight has taken an international perspective, with nations coalescing around each other to deal with challenges that stand in their way of obliterating extreme poverty. In 2015, the UN General Assembly designed Sustainable Development Goal 1, called No Poverty, whose major aim is to eradicate poverty in all its forms everywhere in the world. The Chinese Government took up an ambitious plan aimed at eradicating poverty throughout China, which has ultimately paid off. The plan has born fruit with more than 70 million people being lifted out of extreme poverty in the last five years.

In fact, this year marks a key milestone for China in its journey to achieve its first centenary goal. According to the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), China, with its population of 1.4 billion, will, in 2020, meet the goal of lifting its people out of absolute poverty 10 years ahead of the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ target of eradicating global poverty by 2030. This is a no small feat.

So, what lessons can Africa learn from the Chinese experience in the fight against poverty?

Africa must learn to adopt progressive economic reforms and an opening-up policy, decentralize governance, scale up the anti-corruption war and foster urbanization, which were the main tools used by the Chinese Government as a roadmap for achieving its anti-poverty development goals. First and foremost, African countries require robust and long-term economic reforms that will sustain growth momentum akin to China’s, and that will drive the policy agenda in fighting poverty on the continent by creating jobs for the youth, women and the unemployed. This will increase household incomes that will help the poor earn a decent living and move up the poverty line.

In order to draw useful lessons from China’s fight against poverty, African countries must decentralize their governance, which will open up space for public participation in decision making. The local population, especially those in rural areas where the rate of poverty is high, will have an opportunity to be involved directly in the governance process. This will definitely give local governments greater powers to identify projects that speak to the development needs of the locals.

For example, in Kenya, the concept of decentralization has been amplified in the Constitution that was promulgated in August 2010 in chapter 11 on devolved governments. What this means is that the Constitution of Kenya in article 174 (c), has given “powers of self-governance to the people and enhance the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them.” Just as in China, decentralization of governance gives local governments greater powers to make swift, people-centric and impactful decisions to attract and stabilize investments that generate income for the poor.

There is also a need for African countries to borrow a leaf from the Chinese experience on fighting corruption, which denies the poor an opportunity to receive services from the government. To ensure that resources meant to finance programs for uplifting the poor are not embezzled, misappropriated or mismanaged, African countries must follow the Chinese example of fighting corruption through sensitization campaigns and punitive legal enforcement mechanisms, that will act as a deterrent for the would-be corruption perpetrators.

A corner of a street of Mombasa, Kenya, on June 22. (Photo/Xinhua)

Integrated policy needed

With 60 percent of the African population concentrated in rural areas, the development and urbanization of villages is another important way to achieve a rapid surge in the war against poverty in Africa. This rapid urbanization must accelerate development of infrastructure and other social amenities that will dignify the lives of the rural poor. This strategy was able to lift 13.86 million Chinese out of poverty in 2018 largely attributed to the 208,000 km of roads that were either built or renovated. Additionally, new progress was registered in modernizing the Internet networks in rural areas, covering 94 percent of the poor villages.

Just like China, African governments must stick to the government-oriented method of integrating poverty alleviation into specific country’s overall development strategy, promote it as a strategic task, concentrate on large-scale special poverty alleviation actions and implement specific development plans for women, children, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

There is also the aspect of fiscal and budgetary support. To lift millions out of poverty, African countries must offer tax relief to the poor, increase investment and strengthen financial support to the vulnerable groups, especially the old and those in rural areas.

There is no doubt that China has set a global record in the fight against poverty which offers Africa an opportunity to learn and to build a strong socio-economic foundation for the future prosperity of its people.