China urged to help African social development
Updated: 2012-05-11 07:32
By Shan Juan in Taicang, Jiangsu (China Daily)
Alasan Senghore, director of Africa zone at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
"There are a lot of Chinese investments in Africa nowadays, and when they profit, they should take on corporate social responsibilities as well, especially at the community level," he told China Daily in an interview on the sidelines of the Sino-African Red Cross and Red Crescent Forum.
The forum was held by the Red Cross Society of China to highlight Africa's need for humanitarian aid and the search for new approaches.
By 2011, Chinese investment in Africa reached 92.8 billion yuan ($14.7 billion), covering mainly finance, mining, manufacturing, agriculture and construction, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
At least 2,000 Chinese companies have run businesses on the continent.
"They are contributing to African development in general, but we hope they can go a bit further than that and cooperate more with grassroots level organizations like the local Red Cross," Senghore said.
Over the past 60 years, China's foreign aid totaled more than 256 billion yuan, half of which went to Africa, official statistics showed.
"China helped Africa build roads, railways, bridges and fantastic government buildings. However, it's mainly national and government-level contributions," he said.
"Actually, more community-level aid projects also help Chinese enterprises in Africa and their business substantially as well," he said.
In Africa, local companies actually compete with Chinese businesses.
"We'd like to see more Chinese investment in social welfare issues to help directly improve local people's livelihood," he said.
"If the Chinese better fulfilled their social responsibility, it would help address the tension resulting from business competition, and build African people's trust and confidence in them," he said.
For example, a Chinese construction company working in Africa could also help build a clinic, which wouldn't cost much and would help ordinary people in need over the long run, he said.
Apart from financial aid, "Africa needs skills and experience-sharing, too," he said.
If Chinese volunteers helped train locals, they could enable people to help themselves in the future, he said. "That's what we call 'sustainability', which is highly important," he said.
Zhao Baige, executive vice-president of the Red Cross Society of China, echoed Senghore's views, saying the society will strongly urge the Chinese government to focus more on humanitarian contributions to Africa.
"China's Red Cross will send top specialists in areas such as health and development to help train more local volunteers in Africa," she said. They will probably go in June, she added.
Yves Daccord, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said: "China can still do more to help with the long-term development of Africa, and since development takes a long time, aid in various forms should be well sustained," he said.