Chinese funding for African science: a partnership takes two.

in Blog
July 1st, 2011

Nature recently featured a compelling series of articles about “Science in Africa”.  An eye-opening one entitled “Enter the Dragon”, addresses China’s investment into African countries’ science industries.

Why eye-opening?

It was news to me that a significant amount of Chinese funding exists for young African scientists and research institutions.

Yes, there are (as usual) protests about selfish motivations behind all this money.

But, bottom line: China is not only bringing Africans to study in its home institutions through initiatives like The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), it is also teaching Africans on their own turf, in projects like the Agricultural Technology Resource and Transfer Centre in Mozambique.  Ironically, it was not too long ago that foreigners were in the fledgling economy of China, training the Chinese in newly-established factories and laboratories, and helping it become the powerhouse it is today.

So there may be some not-so-altruistic incentives behind this aid (as is the case with other nations’ investment in Africa), but the Chinese are doing what they seem to know best: making money, and doing so quickly.  Although there does need to be some emphasis placed on the quality of their projects, China is giving African countries what they need: an influx of money, training, and projects to help stimulate growth.

Despite any complaints one may have, as the article says: this relationship is based on mutual interests, and the Chinese cannot be expected to bring about major change without some cooperation from the other side.  Now, it is up to the African nations to capitalize on this partnership and take leadership: channeling the funding into areas they see as priorities, and not letting this effort go to waste.

By Shahar Torton

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