Looking East, looking South

For sure it is hard to miss the growing relationship between China and Africa. Be it for natural resources (oil, copper or agricultural land) and infrastructure (construction of highways or railways), Chinese firms are now a common sight across the continent – part of the success of these partnerships is attributed to the fact that, unlike aid from the West, no particular conditionalities are attached to the deals.

According to Nature, China is now adding scientific collaboration to its vibrant trade relationship with Africa. An ambitious scheme launched in 2009 set the ground for scientific exchange, including funding for scientific projects (e.g., solar lighting in Tunisia, biogas in Ethiopia or hydropower in the Central African Republic) and scholarships for African students.

So far not all the objectives have been met but that shouldn’t be a real problem given China’s track record to plan and deliver. Like with any technology transfer (soft or hard) the real success will lie with the beneficiary’s capacity to appropriate the knowledge and make it work in a domestic context over the long run.