The establishment of the Sino-German Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) as a joint initiative between the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of the Federal Republic of Germany (BMZ) and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China (MOFCOM) introduced a new chapter of the development partnership between China and Germany in 2017. One of the tasks of the CSD is the promotion of Sino-German triangular cooperation, especially with African partner countries. Although there are countless opportunities and needs for this cooperation, finding a stringent common focus proves to be a complex task, since China and Germany have very different cooperation traditions and Africa is a large continent with over 50 countries and a great variety of institutional and societal structures accompanied by a multitude of development potentials and challenges.
In order to put efforts in this task on a more solid foundation, the CSD commissioned a multinational study team to carry out a scoping study for Sino-German triangular cooperation with Africa. The study team consisted of researchers from academic institutions in Africa, China and Germany with expertise in development cooperation in general and triangular cooperation in particular.
In the course of the study, it soon became clear some fundamental challenges and questions will need to be answered and addressed in order to achieve the goal of informing the partners with sound joint triangular cooperation opportunities. For instance, the complexity and diversity seen in Africa as an entire continent with 55 different countries and many unsettled visions and priorities. and in the risks of over-generalisations, for instance regarding the comparative advantages of the partners.
Another challenge has been the use of terminology. Despite the basic reference to the same international documents and processes, African countries, China and Germany have established their own development cooperation language regarding terms like “donors”, “aid” or “developing countries”.
Looking into different perspectives on new cooperation forms and triangular cooperation allows to understand why African countries call for new cooperation forms and how triangular cooperation is understood and practiced in Chinese and German perspectives.
Based on study findings and lessons captured since the establishment of the CSD, four key policy recommendations are derived, with the aim of tackling the challenges and paving the way for a new journey in China-Germany-Africa triangular cooperation.
The policy brief is available for download here.