Poverty alleviation has been a crucial part of China’s economic growth. South Africa, which has a serious unemployment pandemic, would do well to draw invaluable lessons from its biggest trading partner.
Since 2015 Chinese president Xi Jinping has pledged to improve the lives of 70 million poor people. This staggering figure is the size of the population of some African countries and 15 million more than our own population.
The World Bank’s director for China Bert Hofman believes that the number of “extremely poor” people has been whittled down to 55 million. The country’s premier Li Keqiang said China reduced poverty by 10 million people a year.
This is an ambitious goal which China’s cities and counties are making efforts to meet.
Hanzhong city in the province of Shaanxi is one such success story.
The China Africa Press Centre, host to 33 journalists from Africa, visited the city, which boasts newly constructed homes dotted along freshly paved roads, altering the rural landscape.
A study delivered at the Belt and Road Forum for International Reduction held in the province’s capital of Xi’an showed in Hanzhong city, “more than 1100 poverty reduction co-operatives had been established, covering 800 villages”.
In a press conference with the African press group, the city’s executive deputy mayor Chen Xiaoyong said poverty alleviation in the region was dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
“Different families require different measures,” he said.
“A significant element is industrial development to increase revenue.”
He explained that factories or companies partner with families who own the land to create businesses and share profits.
Besides increasing family income, the poverty alleviation schemes include health and education benefits.
“We have people in poverty because of education and diseases like cancer. Our compensation rate for hospital care is 90%. Compulsory education is free We help people rebuild homes.”
A tea farm in the region is an example of how a co-operative farm project has created jobs through tea production and tourism.
Ningqiang County tea farm is an interesting story. More than 600 families transferred their land to the “agricultural park”.
This “provincial modern, agricultural tea park” now produces 300 tons of tea a year, which is sold in stores in China’s bigger cities and online.
The tea park has provided 191 families with share dividends. The families who work for the farm collect 7560 RMB a month.
It follows a model of tea manufacturing, training and tourism recreation. Visiting the tea farm offers an opportunity to taste tea and learn more about how it is grown.
The Qiang ethnic minority, in their colourfully stitched fabrics, are another example of poverty alleviation through a co-operative.
Not far from the tea farm, in the same county, a group of Qiang women creates handcrafted needlework at a small government-run factory.
The women cut, stitch and sew at the cultural preservation centre. The group works flexible hours. Between handcrafting floral artwork fabrics from their imaginations, they are able to fetch children from school and do some needlework at home while earning an income to help support their families.
As China uplifts its poor, there are many opportunities for Africa to learn and improve the lives of people on the continent.
* Wendyl Martin is a participant of this year’s China Africa Press Centre.