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China turns to NGOs to win African hearts  

by Raymond Mpubani

Benon girls pic

Chinese organisations have explored building “China-Africa Hope Schools” in Africa. File Photo.

African governments are tired of Western NGOs, according to Hu Jianlong, a senior investigative reporter for Southern Weekly writing for MqVU. He cites Ugandan officials who were not too happy with western NGOs questioning the anti-homosexuality law signed in February 2014. “Officials in many African countries have grown tired of Western NGOs,” he says. Chinese NGOs entering Africa therefore represent a new hope, he argues, and promise “more choices”.

Chinese NGOs are another dimension of China’s “going out” strategy, according to Hu Jianlong. Whereas China’s aid to Africa has traditionally been characterised by “government-to-government” co-operation, officials think it is time to “infuse the process with new perspectives and forces to be gained from “P2P” (people-to-people) cooperation.”

The strategy most likely has the involvement of China’s Ministry of Commerce, among other departments.

“ …MofCom [Ministry of Commerce], too, has come up with “new thinking.” “Grassroots organisations participating in foreign aid” has become part of the reform agenda. So far, this policy has not been made public. It is hard to say when the proposal arrived on the desk of the minister of commerce, but it must have been pushed by open-minded officials within the CCP system.”

And,

“ …According to an NGO delegate at the Africa Philanthropy Forum, talk of pilot projects financed by MofCom started last year, but it was still uncertain whether the pilots could begin in 2014.”

The hope among Chinese officials is that these NGOs will eventually play the “mitigating role of the Peace Corps [Although China has its own unsung version of the Peace Corps already],” burnishing the way China is perceived on the continent. Of course while leaving their own tangible footprint in Africa too. Read the rest of Hu Jianlong’s article on MqVu.

Hu Jianlong is an alumnus of the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project 2013. 

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