Economic Transformation and Poverty Reduction: How it happened in China, helping it happen in Africa

The experiences and lessons from China’s economic transformation and poverty reduction have been attracting much interest from both African countries and the international development community. To respond to this interest for the exchange of perspectives and experience, the China-DAC Study Group was jointly set up by the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) and OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).1 The Study Group is supported by leading Chinese development research institutions, several DAC members and observers and African experts and institutions.

Through a series of international conferences involving over 500 participants from China, Africa and the donor community, the China-DAC Study Group has, since 2009, focused this exchange and learning on four important topics related to promoting growth and reducing poverty: i) development partnerships; ii) agriculture, food security and rural development; iii) infrastructure; and iv) the enabling environment for enterprise development. Specifically, these events focussed on two themes:

  • China’s experience of economic growth and poverty reduction, including the contribution of international assistance, and its relevance for other developing countries, particularly in Africa.
  • China’s economic co-operation with Africa and the lessons that China and DAC Members can share with each other to increase the collective impact of foreign aid on reducing poverty in Africa.

This note summarises the main lessons learnt through this dialogue on each of these themes. The essential findings are:

  • China’s experience shows, again, that rapid economic and social development in poor countries can happen, in a context of globalisation, when strong development-oriented leadership emerges, focused on development performance rather than on entrenched policies and interests. In such a context, the articulation of a national project for economic transformation within a generation, motivates and activates people across the country in a new national consensus.
  • As in the case of China’s economic transformation, international assistance can support and speed up Africa’s transformation and poverty reduction process, when conceived and designed in this transformation framework.
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