China’s Poverty Alleviation: A Lesson for Africa



    The African continent enjoys a long and rich history of friendship with the People’s Republic of China.

    China has accompanied Africa on its road to economic prosperity for over 50 years, dating back to when a good number of African countries attained their independence.

    As the world’s largest developing country, China has scored remarkable achievements in poverty alleviation.

    Sinologists often attribute that the success behind the emergence of China’s economic achievement is due to the unity in the Communist Party of China (CPC) and its leadership.

    The 3rd plenary session of the 11th CPC Central Committee, held in December 1978 with a focus on economic development, established the basic road map for China and marked the beginning of the famous reform-and-opening-up efforts.

    At that time, China launched the institutional reforms in the ownership of rural farmland, market reforms, and reforms in the employment system.

    With a total population of 1.3 billion, today the country still struggles to transform the lives of about 70 million people who are still living in poverty. But efforts are being made by the government to eradicate poverty completely by reducing the impoverished population by at least 10 million every year.

    “Between 1981 and 2004, China went from more than two-thirds of the population living on less than $1 a day, to fewer than one person in ten living in poverty,” according to Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region.

    opinion-2According to the World Bank, from 1981 to 2010 the global impoverished population dropped by 723 million, 94.2 percent of which has come from China’s poverty alleviation push.

    A recent analysis – comparing China, India, and Brazil – of the impact of growth on poverty found that China’s growth reduced poverty at a rate 50 percent higher than that of Brazil, and even higher relative to poverty reduction in India.

    In China, this has held especially true for progress in agriculture, where growth has had four times as great an impact on reducing poverty than growth in manufacturing or services.

    However, in contrast to the major strides taken in China, growth in Africa has been accompanied by much slower poverty reduction.

    Africa should be looking to change the course of its history as China did in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping assumed power and introduced major reforms, most notably perhaps was the shift from a planned economy toward a market economy.

    In fighting poverty, the Chinese government and its people have come together to alleviate poverty by improving the infrastructure and trade networks; investing in human capital; encouraging in-depth financial reforms; and reducing barriers for both industrialization and the entry of new products.

    With little prior exposure to or knowledge of the fruits of Chinese people’s labor and unity,  most first-time visitors to China are stunned and deeply impressed by the skyscrapers and architectural designs permeating the country’s cities .

    But one need look back only some 30 years prior to see a completely different China from that of today: The country was very poor, and the infrastructure had been developed to merely a fraction of what it is now.

    The government and people of China have shown the world that they are still true partners of Africa by supporting Africa’s commitment to its own path of growth and development.

    The newly founded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which was officially launched in December 2015, marks the recent rejuvenation of the long-established relationship.

    The people of Africa should look to follow the footsteps of China in alleviating poverty and should look to emulate China in opening up the economy and embarking on economic reform to embrace strong, new trading partners – like China itself.



    With the majority of its population still making a living from agriculture, Africa has been highly dependent on exports of raw materials and commodities.

    However, many Africans have unfortunately shifted to working in services, in which much of the growth is restricted to low-productivity activities, such as the informal sector, trade, and production.



    Industrialization is a key outlet for advancing poverty alleviation on the African continent. Among its many advantages, industrialization helps impoverished African farmers adjust their production structure and increase their income by establishing agricultural product bases.



    When it comes to education, Africa should learn from the experience of China, where more than 40 percent of all tertiary degrees are awarded in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

    Africa needs more graduates from these areas in order to improve productivity and infrastructure.

    Africans can also glean key takeaways from China’s achievements in poverty alleviation by implementing some of China’s strategies. Perhaps the most significant of which is establishing a well-functioning market economy capable of generating large financial returns.

    However, there will always be a relatively large number of people whom the market inevitably bypasses; and here, genuine political will to alleviate poverty is arguably the most important ingredient of all.

    China has been extending support to Africa to help boost its economy; and these efforts in assistance have strengthened the relationship between Africa and China – if not led to a cordial Sino–African friendship.

    The collaboration offered by the government of the People’s Republic of China is sustainable based on win-win cooperation and common development.

    Therefore, Africans should make good use of the opportunity to transform the lives and living conditions of its people: The resources are available.

    Since opening up, China along with its achievements in poverty alleviation have accelerated global poverty alleviation efforts and have helped reverse the rising trend of the global impoverished population in the past 50 years.

    by Mariatou Ngum