China, South Sudan scholars share ideas on poverty reduction

Photo shows Meshack Malo, FAO Country Director (L) and Hua Ning (M)Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan attending the second South Sudan-China Think Tank Forum at the Chinese Embassy in Juba.
By Denis Elamu
Agriculture, poverty reduction and food security are among the top priorities for the future of South Sudan’s development and stability, revealed scholars at the second South Sudan-China think tank forum held in Juba on Friday. Gert Grobler, senior research fellow at the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University (IASZNU) said via video-link that poverty due to years of conflicts, climate change and COVID-19 pandemic remains the major challenge facing the youngest nation. He recommended investment in agriculture, saying it will reduce prevailing poverty and in turn boost development of the impoverished country. “South Sudan has potential to become the food basket of the region,” said Grobler. He noted poverty reduction and agricultural development are among the key issues mentioned by Chinese President Xi JinPing at the recent eighth China-Africa ministerial conference held in Dakar. Meshack Malo, Country Director of the Food Agriculture Organization in South Sudan said that close cooperation between China and South Sudan is urgently needed in the agriculture and fisheries sector to reduce over dependence on food aid. “We need about 1.4 million metric tons of food in this country. Just before the crisis this country had reached a situation in which they were producing over one million metric tons of food, but due to the crisis that went down, and last year there was an increase due to peace and the country was able to produce about 700,000 metric tons of peas,” said Malo. He added that insecurity remains the major driver of food insecurity in most parts of the country. “In the fisheries sector South Sudan remains among two or three countries where fish is dying out of old age that is another sector in which China and South Sudan can cooperate,” said Malo. Tang Lixia, Deputy Dean of the College of International Development and Global Agriculture, China Agriculture University said South Sudan could learn from China’s poverty reduction strategies that saw poverty eliminated by the end of 2020. “Decades of sustained economic growth have contributed to ending poverty in China. By the end of 2020 china announced eradication of poverty and this is meaningful for other developing countries,” said Tang. He added that China invested over the years in agriculture development, infrastructure and subsidies to end poverty. John Morris Togo, Head of Department of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Juba said South Sudan needs to work with China to help commercialize it’s backward agricultural sector that is heavily rain fed. “When we compare this with what China has achieved shows that we are still very behind from reaching that level,” said Togo. He suggested collaboration between the two countries in the fields of education and research, agriculture, and trade and investment. “We really encourage the two governments to reach an agreement for investment in agriculture because we have seven national projects which are pending from rice, sugar and other crops. It is also very important for our products to have access to the Chinese market,” added Togo. Zhou Deyi, Professor at College of Economics and Management, Huazhong Agricultural University observed that South Sudan is endowed with natural resources and water but lacks labor, capital and technology necessary for developing it’s agricultural potential. Zhou added that China and South Sudan can complement each other, thus benefiting from a win-win cooperation. He noted that under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) South Sudan could benefit from barter trade with China by exchanging it’s natural resources like oil for infrastructure development from Beijing. Chinese companies like Shandong HiSpeed are already constructing roads under such initiative in South Sudan. “I think this model might be useful for South Sudan as well, Juba can export it’s agricultural products in return for manufactured goods from China,” said Zhou. Deng Dau Malek, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs said the relations between Juba and Beijing are historical, strategic, excellent, promising and cemented by strong political will and mutual understanding in different fields. “In today’s world strengthening cooperation in the areas of research is very important and this will for sure support domestic policies whether including economic and political reforms. We are here today to share views, explore and establish the platform for our existing young relations,” said Dau. Hua Ning, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan hailed the success of the forum, saying it is part of efforts in implementing recommendations made at both the recent China-Africa ministerial conference e and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. “China and South Sudan should well plan and implement the outcomes of the FOCAC conference in accordance with the actual conditions and development needs of South Sudan by expanding the exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in the fields of agriculture, trade and investment, peace and security, and people-to-people ties,” said Hua. Hua disclosed that the China -South Sudan think tank forum has built a bridge for communication between experts and scholars of the two countries. “Today’s forum has played an active role in promoting our intellectual and cultural exchanges, enhancing mutual understanding through mutual learning, and serving the overall development of our bilateral relations. It’s hoped that we could continue to well organize the think tank forum in the future,” he added.

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