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China’s Been Doing Agricultural Development in Africa For 10+ Years. Is it Helping?

China’s approach to agricultural assistance in Africa differs markedly from those of other donors from Japan, Europe and the United States. While other countries frame their development programs under the larger of “aid,” the Chinese instead go out of their way to insist that what they’re doing in the African agricultural space focuses on technology-oriented market-based solutions. 

In fact, back in 2006 at one of the first Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summits, when former President Hu Jintao unveiled Beijing’s new agricultural initiative in Africa right up front he said it was part of China’s “Eight Non-Aid Measures.”

It took a few years after that FOCAC Summit for China’s agriculture programs in Africa to take shape but by 2008-2009 the first Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers, or ATDCs, started to materialize.

Today there are 14 ATDCs across Africa with 11 more in development.

Whereas much of Chinese engagement in Africa is state-led, the ATDCs are actually quite different in that respect given that private companies play a very important. This is, in essence, a public- private partnership.

The idea here is that the Chinese government provides the financial backing, builds the facilities and manages relations with the host government while Chinese companies engage local stakeholders to deliver training programs, assist with business models and develop partnerships local farmers that hopefully become financially sustainable.

That’s the plan. But does it work?

Celso Tamele says even though it’s hard to measure, there are a lot of merits to the commercial-focus of China’s agricultural development strategy in Africa. Celso is a Maputo-based Program Director at the international non-profit TechnoServe who helps run the ATDC in Mozambique.

He joins Eric and Cobus to discuss his experience at an ATDC and whether China’s approach is more or less effective than those of other donor countries.

Show Notes:

About Celso Tamele:

Celso Tamele is a Maputo-based Country Program Manager for the international non-profit development company TechnoServe and provides technical assistance to China’s ATDC Project Mozambique

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