By David Musyoka
NAIROBI, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Relations between China and Africa will continue to expand, depending on the people-to-people understanding and the sustained government-to-government contact, an African policy expert says.
Executive Director of Institute for Democracy and Leadership in Africa Denise Kodhe told Xinhua in a recent interview that Africa has a lot to learn from China's experience, especially in ways to promote economic, innovation and infrastructure development and political stability.
"China-Africa relations is a two-way traffic and therefore it is an opportunity for the two partners to benefit from each other, " he said in Nairobi on Tuesday.
Kodhe said issues like the widening trade imbalance between China and Africa need to be addressed urgently by creating an understanding among African business people on the export market opportunities available in China.
"All countries with well developed middle class like China believe a lot in quality and therefore Africa must thrive to ensure that they offer quality products to China," the expert insisted.
African leaders, he said, also should ensure that they have a clear agenda when dealing with China, so as to get the maximum benefits from the relations as China is doing.
"This need for clear agenda is not restricted to China but how Africa deals with other partners in Europe, Americas, Asia and the Middle East," he said.
There are many low hanging fruits African countries should pick in their relationship with China, according to the expert.
"As I have mentioned China has a lot of opportunities for Africa. It is a new market that has extreme interest in cooperation so it is upon Africans to exploit such opportunities," he said.
"China should not be seen as a scapegoat or an alternative for African leaders still leaving in the past without respecting human rights, practicing bad governance and with no respect to democracy, thus running away from the pressure from the Western nations," said Kodhe.
Africa should treat China with respect because Beijing has created a niche for itself by becoming a world power, he noted.
"China has its own democratic system, cherishes good governance practice and therefore should not be seen as the softer alternative by African dictators," said Kodhe.
Regarding the visit by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta later this week, he said he should persuade Chinese business people to invest in Kenya by establishing joint ventures in industries to facilitate employment, especially for the youth.
"China has a big population of over 1 billion people. President Kenyatta should strategize on how to tap this market for tourism business in Kenya. He should also engage with the Chinese government on how to improve the relations and to create a better understanding between Chinese and Kenyan peoples."
He added, "China is a world leader in ICT envelopment. Kenyatta should be able to exploit this to see how Kenyans can benefit in a big way and not just laptops for school children next year. As an African leader Kenyatta should also discuss with the Chinese authorities how to counter negative image about China in Africa."
He said African governments have a duty to guide the Chinese on how to invest in Africa, understand the African culture and deepen personal relations between Chinese and Africans, including encouraging intermarriage.
African leaders should help their people identify opportunities, especially those that can be taken up by the small and medium scale enterprises oriented for export to China.
They should also put mechanisms to help such enterprises improve the quality and packaging of their products, he said.
"Africans and Chinese should embrace each other as brothers and business partners to bridge the gap. There should be no attitude of 'them and us' in the China-Africa cooperation," he suggested.
"The media has a significant role to place to enhance China- Africa cooperation. Both Chinese and African media should be able to provide information necessary for creating business opportunities and informing and educating people on cultural differences, business rules and industrial relations," said Kodhe.
"Already China has about five media outlets in Africa. It should use them to provide information and also to create a better understanding with other African media," he said.
"The Chinese should employ African journalists to work in their media houses so that as indigenous, the African journalists will be able to articulate African issues effectively and efficiently," he said.