On the afternoon of September 15, the first China-Africa Future Youth Leader Forum was held in Beijing. The forum was themed “Young People Innovate Africa and Promote Shared Prosperity” and sponsored by the China Social Entrepreneur Foundation (YouChange), the Finance Center for South-South Cooperation (FCSSC) and the Made in Africa Initiative (MIAI). The attendees included more than 100 young representatives who play an active role in China-Africa cooperation, Africa’s sustainable development and South-South cooperation. Through keynote speeches and panel discussions, they shared their stories and experience in industrial construction, agricultural innovation and financial and technical development in the fourth industrial revolution and economic restructuring in Africa.
More and more Chinese and Africans young people participate in China-Africa cooperation and development, and according to the eight major initiatives announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China will support innovation cooperation and exchanges between young Chinese and Africans. Hence, it is believed that it is necessary to build a platform for exchanges and interactions among young people playing an active role in China-Africa cooperation and development and make their voice heard. This forum expects to be that platform, and also allow innovative young people to promote China-Africa cooperation in response to the Belt and Road Initiative.
The forum started with keynote speeches on topics as the process, challenges, and prospects of industrialization as opportunities for investment in Africa. The speakers were Dr. Yu Jia, Director of International Development Cooperation at the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University, Dr. Cheng Cheng, and Chief Economist of MIAI and Asia-Pacific Senior Consultant of the United Nations Development Programme, Mr. Zhang Xiaochen, Founder of FinTech4Good, and Stephany Zoo, Founder of an African E-business website bundshop.com
Dr. Yu believed that cooperation with China in labor-intensive industries would help Africa realize economic restructuring and rapid development since Japan, the Four Asian Tigers and China had broken the bottleneck in their development via labor-intensive industries. She also told a story in which a hydropower plant project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was delayed because the local industrialization is at such a low level that the investment for the project would be lost. That shows industrialization in Africa is still a massive task that requires significant efforts from young Chinese and Africans.
Dr. Cheng said it was most important to enable the government and young people of Africa to understand well how to develop Africa soundly and rapidly, using the metaphor of the fish, meaning how better is to show a man how to fish than to give him a fish. His comments are based on his industry surveys in 10 African countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Djibouti, the Ivory Coast, and Togo, and his rich experience in analysis on policies of African countries.
Mr. Zhang talked about how to effectively cooperate with African countries and about ultimate beneficiaries who need aid, from the perspectives of assistance to Africa, climate change and new and advanced technology popularization discovering and supporting most potential financial technology and blockchain technology throughout the globe.
Ms. Stephany Zoo, Founder of FinTech, developed in her twenties with her Bitpesa, a blockchain-based payment platform that is built on the Bitcoin network and allows users to send and collect business payments between Africa and the rest of the world. That indicates the feasibility and operationally of application of new and advanced technology in Africa.
After keynote speeches, Mr. Zhang Xiaodong, Head of the Promotion Association of Belt and Road in Zhongguancun, said “the exhibition themed “New Image of China and Africa” presents the real Africa regarding the government, energy, water conservancy, talent, etc.” He also invited four African university students who had worked as volunteers in the exhibition to share their ideas on China-Africa development and cooperation.
The panel discussion was presided over by Joyce Zhang, Deputy Director General of FCSSC. The panelists included Jane Xing, Deputy Director of China Office of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Peng Bin, Beijing Representative of Mercy Corps, LINA Getachew Ayenew, a social entrepreneur and writer in Ethiopia, and Gao Zhan, President and CEO of Grameen China, among others. They talked about opportunities, challenges and young Chinese’s role in the fourth industrial revolution in Africa, and shared their ideas on how to advance technology in Africa, promote China-Africa exchanges and encourage the private sector to take an active part in China-Africa cooperation.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Li Jiachen, Deputy Secretary General of YouChange, detailed how young people are critical and how do they play a much better role in China-Africa cooperation, and proposed the China-Africa Future Youth Leader Initiative to call upon young Chinese and Africans to join the initiative and make contributions to China-Africa cooperation.
This event was sponsored by YouChange, FCSSC, and MIAI, and supported by the Global Shapers Community Beijing Hub, the Promotion Association of Belt and Road in Zhongguancun, Development Reimagined, Qinghe College and the China-Africa Development Fund.