China-Africa Seminar on Economic and Technological Development Zones and Sustainable Development
The China-Africa Seminar on Economic and Technological Development Zones (ETDZs) and Sustainable Development was convened on 16-22 January 2013 in Beijing and Chongqing, co-sponsored by UNDP and International Poverty Reduction Centre in China (IPRCC). 14 government officials with a close mandate on development zones from 11 African countries participated and held discussions with Chinese government officials, academics and practitioners as well as representatives from the China-Africa Business Council and Chinese enterprises active in Africa.
The seminar - designed by IPRCC and UNDP to address the needs of African countries - was composed of themed presentations from Chinese experts and participants’ panel discussions. The two-way exchange provided a platform for both Chinese and African policy-makers and practitioners to share experiences on how to develop and manage development zones and explore the linkages between the development of ETDZs and sustainable economic and social development, geared towards human benefit. Discussions revealed common concerns about financing infrastructure, operational management, public-private partnerships and rationing industrial allocations. It was agreed that follow up comparative analysis and exchange would take place on these topics.
On 19 January the delegates began a three-day field trip to Chongqing. They were shown ETDZs at different development stages. They visited two industrial parks with national ETDZ status focusing respectively on technology and labour intensive industries, an agricultural technical park and local poverty reduction projects. Topics including management modules and financing arrangements for development zones, ways to compensate and retrain farmers as workers and initiatives to attract investment were thoroughly explored. A participant from Senegal commented, “it is amazing to learn and see things can be done from different perspectives.”
Several participants have already mentioned in their feedback that content absorbed from the seminar would be used to make policy recommendations for their government policy-makers. In addition, the participants were also pleased to have had the chance to share experiences with China and other African countries.
As highlighted in its closing remarks on behalf of all participants, Mr. Premode Neerunjun, Principal Assistant Secretary from the Mauritius Ministry of Finance & Economic Development pointed out that ‘we analysed the problems and challenges facing us and explored specific approaches to Special Economic Zones to improve our development and poverty reduction models in a sustainable manner… This initiative from UNDP and IPRCC is just one of the building blocks of cooperation that will be consolidated to create the conditions necessary for the fight against poverty and contribute in further solidifying South-South Cooperation’.