Training, e-commerce can unlock growth in Africa
By Song Wei
Global Times

Since the 21st century began, Africa has achieved rapid expansion and become a new pole of world economic growth. However, problems still exist, such as structural contradictions in Africa's economy. 


(Illustration: Global Times)

Africa has not completely escaped from poverty, and its status in the global economic system has not changed. Behind this "growth without development" phenomenon is the lack of inclusive growth in Africa. Africa's economic growth has not benefited everyone, and nearly half of the African people still live below the poverty line.

As a result, China-Africa development cooperation should do more to promote inclusive growth in African societies so that those at the bottom of society have the opportunity to enjoy basic services, and fair and sustainable modern development can be boosted.

To promote inclusive growth in Africa, we should focus on several areas:

First, we should improve living standards, primarily to benefit the poor. Most Africans are trapped in insecure, low-wage, low-productivity jobs. An abundant labor supply coupled with the lack of a welfare network makes it difficult for these people to meet the basic needs of life. 

Second, we should do more work to benefit low-skilled labor. Africa has the youngest population in the world and most of these people are underemployed. Third, there needs to be care for vulnerable groups. Women and children are in an extremely vulnerable positions in transition economies and easily marginalized amid rapid economic development.

All major aid parties focus their attention on large-scale infrastructure investment, but living standards need the same attention. China-Africa development cooperation should continue to focus on the construction of low-cost housing, schools and hospitals as well as the basic survival and education rights and medical services.

Attention can also be paid to technical training. Cooperation between China and Africa should provide basic labor skills training for socially disadvantaged groups and improve their ability to participate in the job market.

Efforts such as emphasizing vocational education and improving the production skills of the labor force should be made to ensure the smooth development of Africa's economic development strategy. Promoting education and training in line with the needs of the labor market will foster full employment, reduce the gap between the rich and the poor and provide a driver for sustainable economic development.

E-commerce helps to integrate least developed countries (LDCs) into global value chains. Through internet platforms, the intermediate costs of all trade-related parties are reduced, which creates opportunities for enterprises in LDCs. Through e-commerce platforms, small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) can directly and effectively link up with the domestic and overseas markets. 

E-commerce reduces the frequency of face-to-face interactions, lowering the risk of sexual harassment of women, so it partially overcomes the negative factors restricting the business activities of women.

Therefore, China-Africa development cooperation should promote the integration of traditional trade methods with the internet to realize mutual benefits through the development of cross-border e-commerce market connectivity.

More should be done to assist African countries in planning e-commerce development. There are more than 50 countries in the African continent. The level of economic development varies among them and there are obvious differences in industry orientation. Beyond fully respecting the differences and individual aspects of African countries, we can assist them in formulating e-commerce development plans and improving digital interconnection.

Also, there's a need to increase Africa's information and communication technology infrastructure assistance. This can be done by helping optical fiber telecommunications transmission network projects and strengthening the construction of communications infrastructure in African countries. 

In terms of financing methods, ZTE and Huawei can give full play to their technical and operational advantages in the international market, adopting a mixed capital injection approach to promote the participation of African governments and local companies. 

Aid channels can adopt multilateral expansion. With the implementation channels of the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the New Development Bank, we will launch cross-regional digital connectivity projects.

More attention can be paid to the training related to digital technology. In the field of hard technology, efforts should be made to strengthen the vocational and technical training systems in African countries and expand the pool of e-commerce talent. It is also necessary to upgrade the supervision capabilities of front-line customs officials in African countries and promote the application of management ideas like the automation of customs declarations and electronic bills of exchange.

Finally, it's necessary to raise the level of negotiating ability of African officials in charge of foreign trade and enhance their ability to negotiate trade facilitation under the WTO framework so that we can work better together to create more opportunities for cross-border e-commerce.

The author is an associate researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.