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浙江师范大学非洲研究院

Young entrepreneurs can help end poverty

2017630日,非洲研究院索马里籍研究员和丹在中国日报网发表文章:Young entrepreneurs can help end poverty

 

Africa can learn valuable lessons from China's remarkable success in reducing the hardship that once ravaged the country

When Deng Xiaoping introduced agricultural reform in 1978, more than three-quarters of all Chinese rural people lived in poverty. One of the most important policy objectives was to raise the living standards of the people so that no one would suffer hunger or malnutrition by the end of the 20th century.

These reforms fostered China's entrepreneurial spirit, which manifested itself through a pioneer generation of entrepreneurs who started their own ventures, regardless of their limited knowledge and lack of experience in running sustainable businesses. Their success inspired more to continue to innovate in the internet era of late 1990s, creating world-famous brands such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. Although for much of the past century, entrepreneurship and China were hardly ever mentioned together, people like Jack Ma changed the global dynamics and established China as an influential global presence in entrepreneurial innovation.

Entrepreneurship is significant in the way it creates wealth: for the entrepreneur, for the people who are employed as a result and for the local and national economies in the form of taxation that is then redistributed to the services and communities that need it the most. Entrepreneurship is a key driver of growth and development. According to a recent study from International Finance Corp, small and medium-sized enterprises account for more than half of all formal jobs worldwide. SMEs play an important role in addressing urgent development challenges and contribute significantly to sustainability and service delivery, providing effective solutions to critical development issues like access to clean energy and water, health services and education.

Entrepreneurs continue to change the face of the world. In the past decade alone, an estimated half-billion people or more have been raised out of poverty, not by aid but rather by small businesses and entrepreneurial activity.

In the case of China, since the inception of reforms and the liberalization of trade, the country has been able to reduce the number of people in poverty by over 700 million, decreasing the incidence of poverty from 97.5 percent in 1978 to 5.7 percent in 2015. This record of poverty reduction is unprecedented in world development history, and this experience is of great contemporary relevance to the world we live in today. It is proof that, through self-tailored social and economic reforms, transformations can be fostered to eradicate the effects of poverty worldwide.

At the onset of China's reform period, the country had a far higher poverty rate than Africa as a whole. In a mere four decades, China was able to reverse that situation, while most African countries remain besieged by dismal conditions. While acknowledging the disparity within the contexts of Africa's and China's developmental journeys, China's domestic policies in fighting poverty remain relevant for contemporary Africa. The experiences of emerging countries such as China provide useful lessons for Africa because they show the wisdom of pursuing development agendas centered in economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The failure of African countries to meet the millennium development goals led to the adoption of new continental and global sustainable development goals, including Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, development, in all of its forms, is impossible without the participation of youth, and their participation, in turn, is difficult to achieve without providing an enabling environment.

Of the 1.2 billion people who call Africa their home, over 60 percent are under 25, creating an unprecedented youthful population. Having a young population is often viewed as positive for unlocking growth and development potential. However, as Africa struggles to provide opportunities for its youth, their agitation and frustration continue to manifest themselves in migration from the continent through hazardous life-threatening means, and the global appeal of terrorism and violent extremism. Both have led to catastrophic consequences on the continent and around the world.

China has been one of the most committed partners to African countries when it comes to the issue of poverty reduction. At the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 2015, President Xi Jinping reaffirmed his country's support for poverty alleviation in Africa under the plan for 2016-2019. In the three-year plan, China pledged $60 billion to support the continent of Africa in its quest to alleviate poverty from a perspective that falls parallel to the World Bank's target and the African Agenda.

However, in order to achieve the goals of China-Africa cooperation in eradicating poverty and boosting shared prosperity, the potential of private-sector-led growth must be realized.

For decades, Africa continued to be pushed toward development through aid and structural adjustments, as if development was a nearby shoreline and, if we just pushed hard enough, the continent would finally reach it. However, as experience shows, development is a mindset, not a destination.

For too long, Africa's youth have been excluded from its developmental agendas for lack of education, training and opportunity. Fostering a mindset of self-driven development among Africa's youth and endearing the spirit of entrepreneurship is key to achieving continental development and worldwide prosperity. Judging from the deposits of valuable resources beneath our lands, and the great cache of vibrant youth in our midst, we can conclude that poverty was never Africa's destiny.

Future cooperation between China and Africa must place at its center the development of entrepreneurship among African youth, in order to realize true and sustainable development. Furthermore, this mindset must be supported by government-to-government cooperation, through the creation of programs and initiatives that provide enabling environments and encourage young people to innovate and engage in entrepreneurial activities. There is great potential in fostering China-Africa entrepreneurial education and scholarship, by which African youth can benefit from the experiences of China's four decades of entrepreneurial innovation and excellence. Moreover, there is great potential for cooperation in regulatory reforms across the continent to provide a healthy and nurturing ecosystem for the development of a vibrant entrepreneurial society. Initiatives such as Belt and Road provide solutions for the logistical and infrastructural challenges that hinder entrepreneurial development. However, more attention should be given to areas of financial support that pose the greatest challenge to entrepreneurial development on the continent, through the establishment of support funds and accessible loan systems.

In conclusion, I'd like to point out that the launch of President Xi's book Up and Out of Poverty that summarizes China's experiences in poverty reduction is more evidence of China's dedication to share its experiences in poverty alleviation with the continent, and the appreciation of the importance of this experience by African nations. However, getting the message to the youth, and instilling the mindset of self-driven development, is the most important step toward eradicating poverty and achieving common prosperity.

 

全文请见:http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2017-06/30/content_29943801.htm

 

作者:和丹

发表时间:2017-06-30

浙江师范大学非洲研究院

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