The head of a major African organisation tasked with protecting wildlife has said China’s own rapid development model should not be replicated on the continent.
Speaking to EUobserver in an interview last week in Brussels, Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation, said China’s model for Africa would be “a catastrophe in terms of environment”.
“China is now paying the price, luckily that they have come to that realisation and perhaps not too late and they are fixing things,” he said.
Sebunya was referencing coal-polluting plants in China, which Beijing says is now shutting down. He was also referring renewed efforts by China to restore its protected wetlands.
China and Africa since 2015 have been working on intensifying the production of energy and natural resources throughout the continent. Last year, at a summit the two sides agreed to figure out ways to make it more green.
But Sebunya said Europe stands out more as a natural partner with Africa in terms of shared culture, language, history and religion, when compared to China.
“How many Europeans are Africans on the continent? What a huge advantage compared to China who is coming to the continent with no ties,” he said.
Ultimately, Sebunya said it was up to Africa to determine its own path, noting that some 70 percent of the population is under 30 and that investment in its leadership is paramount.
His comments hinge on a renewed emphasis from Europe to engage with Africa, amid global jockeying of the continent.
EU-Africa meets in Brussels
They also follow a two-day ministerial meeting in Brussels between the EU and Africa as part of larger effort to further secure a continent-to-continent partnership.
That meeting was a follow-up of an Africa-EU summit some 14 months ago in the Ivory Coast’s capital city, Abidjan, where youth had been a central theme.
Youth organisations that at the time had been scheduled to talk at the summit were sidelined, prompting rounds of criticism from civil society.
The biggest outcome in Abidjan instead appeared to have focused on migration and joint-efforts to evacuate trapped migrants in Libya following TV reports of open-air slave markets.
“Migration is probably the field where our cooperation has produced the most striking results since last year,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, also last week.
The EU wants cooperation with Africa to expand beyond migration in what it describes as a partnership of equals.
“We are ready to work together to turn all of our bilateral agreements into a continent to continent free trade agreement,” said Mogherini.
Part of those EU efforts is to make private investments in Africa less risky.
Africa has since announced its own efforts to create an African continental free trade area before the end of the year.
“It is a continent that has come of age and partnership that needs to come of age,” said Richard Sezibera, co-chair of the African Union.