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If Africa Builds Nests, Will the Birds Come?

18 December 2015 | United Nations Development Programme – China News Release

December 18, Beijing- Today the report Comparative Study on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in Africa and China was launched to examine the key factors that determine the success of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in China and African countries during the international symposium on “Industrial Parks and Globalization: Experience Sharing between China and Africa”, co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China and Tsinghua University School of Social Sciences.

The report was jointly commissioned by UNDP and the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) and took its starting point as the fact that Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have been a key vehicle for China’s growth and development over the past three decades, although they were introduced a decade earlier in African countries but with much less success. Yet they are now receiving much more attention across Africa. The report thus looked at two contemporary SEZs each in four countries – China, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia. The African case studies included three SEZs that are operated in partnership with China, and three others that were operated independently of China.

“This report was a direct request from African officials we met in 2012 and 2013 during seminars organised by our partner IPRCC. And rightly so – this area is a potential “win-win-win”, said Hannah Ryder, Head of Policy and Partnerships of UNDP in China. “We look forward to collaborating with Tsinghua as well as other partners to help African countries create jobs and grow, China to change its economy from a manufacturer to an innovator, and help all of us deliver the Sustainable Development Goals,” she added.

The study found five common factors that determine the success or failure of the SEZs, whether Chinese-run or African-run: The political commitment and vision of the host government; The existence of a clear legal framework for the zones; The location of the zone – especially infrastructure links; The linkages to local businesses, workers and communities; and the level and type of higher education in the country. The report then went on to make specific “do” and “don’t” recommendations for three sets of actors – African Governments, the Chinese government, and SEZ developers from all over the world.

In this way, the comparative study also highlighted opportunities for future China-Africa South-South Cooperation, especially in the context of the Declaration of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the FOCAC Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-2018) adopted earlier this month. The action plan states that China will continue to support the development and operation of SEZ and industrial parks, including through a new China-Africa Production Capacity Cooperation Fund with an initial pledge of USD 10 billion.

The report was launched during the Industrial Parks and Globalization: Experience Sharing between China and Africa symposium, the first of its kind and the first major event in Beijing after the FOCAC summit announcement.

Tang Xiaoyang, Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University, expressed his views: “Given China’s own successful experience, SEZs have the potential to become major carriers of Chinese FDI in other countries. China’s experience also suggests that industrial parks will not only promote economic growth, but also facilitate societal modernization and policy change. Research on SEZs should continue and cover a broad spectrum of development issues.”

The Symposium attracted over 150 participants from governments, embassies, international and national experts, and representatives from enterprises and civil society organizations to exchange opinions on industrial parks and globalization. The symposium was supported as part of FOCAC commitments to knowledge sharing by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce.
For Further Information Please Contact:

Ms. ZHANG Wei, UNDP China Chief Communications Officer

Tel: +8610 8532 0715, Email:

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