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South-South Cooperation Transcends Sharing Technical Knowhow

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 10 2012 (IPS) - When the United Nations commemorated the Day of South-South Cooperation last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon singled out a new development that transcends sharing technical know-how: coordination of government policy among developing nations.

The Chinese government collaborated with Madagascar in establishing a centre for hybrid rice development, where the average yield per hectare is two to three times higher than the average output of local rice Credit: Charlie Fong/public domain

Citing one of the most successful examples of South-South cooperation, he cited the Chinese government’s collaboration with Madagascar in establishing a centre for hybrid rice development.

The centre has succeeded in growing about 34 strains of Chinese hybrid rice in the African island nation, which sits on the Indian Ocean.

And most importantly, the average yield per hectare is two to three times higher than the average output of local rice, he said.

In the past, Ban pointed out, the bulk of South-South Cooperation involved the sharing of technical knowhow, including improvements in livestock breeds, health, food processing and efficient water use.

But today’s cooperation, he said, includes the coordination of government policy among developing nations.

The more advanced developing countries, including China, India and Brazil, have steadily increased their partnerships with countries in Asia, Latin America, and primarily Africa, over the years.

“Apart from countries in our neighbourhood, we have a rich agenda of technical cooperation with Africa, a continent with which we have age-old ties,” Ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri, India’s deputy permanent representative, told IPS.

India’s current initiatives, he said, include the establishment of an India-Africa Virtual University, with 10,000 new scholarships for African students.

India is committed to provide more than 22,000 scholarships to African students to study in India over the next three years, Ambassador Puri said.

India has also set up a Pan African E-network project and a Team-9 initiative focused on West Africa that aims at bridging the digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world.

At the India-Africa Forum Summit held in Ethiopia in May last year, India announced an additional five billion dollars in loans to help Africa achieve its development goals over the next three years, and 700 million dollars to establish new institutions and training programmes, in consultation with the African Union (AU).

“Our cooperation with fellow developing countries is premised on the principles of voluntary partnership and are based on national ownership and in line with the national priorities of our partners,” Puri said.

This is in contrast to official development assistance (ODA from Western donors), with its attached conditionalities, he added.

As with India, Brazil, another emerging developing nation, continues to increase its partnership with countries of the South.

The Brazilian government, through the Institute of Drug Technology (Farmanguinhos), a unit of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, is producing antiretrovirals and other pharmaceuticals at a factory in Mozambique.

This initiative, launched last July, has been described as part of a cooperation agreement between the two countries and is expected to benefit about 2.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Mozambique.

The Brazilian government is providing about 23 million dollars, which includes spending money on all stages of development and implementation, plus feasibility studies, acquisition of equipment, technology transfer, technical training, validation and registration to submission of national and international certification.

Meanwhile, the trade between Brazil and Africa has skyrocketed: from 4.3 billion dollars in 2002 to 27.6 billion dollars in 2011.

Marco Farani, director of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (BCA), was quoted as saying that Africa now accounts for about 55 percent of disbursements from BCA.

China, an economic powerhouse in Asia, has also been strengthening its relationships with the developing world.

Speaking at the 17th session of the U.N.’s High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation, Ambassador Wang Min of China said, “China is faced with many challenges in its own development, but it has all along highly valued and supported South-South Cooperation.”

China has not only established a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, but also a Forum on China-Arab Cooperation to foster trade, technical knowhow and investments.

Additionally, it has set up a China-Africa Development Fund to provide debt relief and preferential trade concessions, and also a China International Poverty Reduction Centre in Beijing.

And last July, Chinese President Hu Jin-tao announced 20 billion dollars in loans to African governments for agriculture and infrastructure building.

In turn, Chinese companies have received attractive contracts in African countries. These companies, including China Petrochemical Corp., and China National Petroleum Corp, are involved in oil and gas investments in Angola, Sudan and Libya.

Addressing a group of visiting African leaders early this year, Hu said China plans to train 30,000 Africans and is offering 18,000 scholarships.

Additionally, China is sending about 1,500 medical personnel both to work in hospitals and train Africans.

Addressing a forum in Beijing last year, the secretary-general said that China has cancelled significant amounts of African debt.

“Much of its development assistance goes to Africa. And China continues to provide much-needed financing to meet the very large demands for capital investment, especially for infrastructure,” Ban said.

Africa, for its part, is investing in China, on a smaller scale, he said, and this deepening partnership is bringing gains to both sides.

As South-South cooperation continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, the 193-member General Assembly last month decided to upgrade the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation into a full-fledged U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation.

At a ceremony to mark the Day of South-South Cooperation on Sep. 12, the President of the General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said: “I wish to commend the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation for diligently and effectively championing the South-South development agenda throughout the U.N. system and the world.”

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