By staff reporter JULIEN BUFFET
By staff reporter JULIEN BUFFET
IN the embassy district in Beijing, on Guanghua Avenue, it is pleasant to take a walk among the imposing buildings of diplomatic missions of the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Greece, and Colombia. This is also where Simon Pierre Adovelande, ambassador of Benin, lives. He had quite an extraordinary journey before setting foot in China.
Possessing a deep belief in universal humanistic values and in solidarity, and with an expertise in economy, Adovelande has devoted 25 years of his life to the development of Benin. He has worked with the most prestigious international organizations and has witnessed the development challenges of Benin.
Deepening Bilateral Relations
The partnership between China and Benin is a special one, but needs to be deepened.
China has emerged on the international stage with a new approach to development in Africa, embodied by the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative. The nomination of Simon Pierre Adovelande as the Ambassador to China is doubly significant. First of all, the ambassador considers China a privileged and strategic partner. Second, these powerful words are linked with a positive perception of Chinese presence in Benin. As a matter of fact, with its anti-hegemonic stance and its traditional policy based on South-South solidarity, China is a unique development model from which Benin endeavors to learn. Benin considers China one of the greatest powers of the world, however, it doesn’t associate China with the traditional Western cooperation model of the past. According to the ambassador, China shares with the world what it has taken time to build in China. But this new international situation isn’t always accepted by political leaders or people. Adovelande deplores that China is not well known either in Africa or in the world; and that knowledge about China hasn’t evolved at the same pace as the dynamic transformation of this country.
What’s more, there are always things to improve in this relationship. According to the ambassador, the Fair of Chinese Products in Benin from August 25 to 28, 2017 was, for example, a very good initiative, but suited the need of the situation 10 or 20 years ago. “Our country has changed a lot. This fair needs to be adapted to the current situation, which means that it is not only Chinese products that are shown at this fair, but more importantly, the exchange of African products with value-added worth brought about by Chinese technology. The objective of a greater partnership is to be reached and can be met, according to the ambassador, “by holding in China a fair of African products made in Benin.”
The Belt & Road Initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative embodies the all-round opening-up of China towards the world and offers a wonderful win-win method of development. “It is a new financing mechanism for China in foreign countries, financing being the driving force for development,” said the ambassador. “I think we will grasp this opportunity, and the embassy plays an important role between China and Benin, so that our country will benefit most from this initiative.” It is true that the Maritime Silk Road passes East Africa and the port of Djibouti serves as the anchor. But the ambassador believes that the benefits of the initiative will also be useful to West Africa, one of the historical centers of international trade routes in Africa. For Adovelande, the diplomatic card Benin can play with the Maritime Silk Road is that it is well positioned to welcome transit trade, towards its neighboring countries in West Africa like Niger and Nigeria, which are rich in oil reserves; and its privileged role as a buffer between English and French speaking Africa.
From this point of view, the Chinese initiative serves as “an example but also a platform for the evolution of classic aid towards a cooperation which favors sharing and responsibility.” The ambassador associated the sharing of values with humbleness, another Chinese value on which the community of a shared future for mankind, mentioned by Xi Jinping in the report delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, is built. These values form the basis for a good relationship between Benin and China; for they let the Africans speak their mind and avoid awkwardness.
Adovelande emphasized the fact that, “the West and China don’t have the same understanding of the notion of aid. After all, it is for African countries to do their job by defining the framework and content of the aid that they want from their partners. So leaders need to change their way of thinking.” This observation results from the reasonable policy that China has towards the African Continent, which consists in developing various frameworks for cooperation on an equal basis, especially with Benin, which is a pragmatic approach.
A Bright Future of Cooperation
Apart from funding, China brings expertise in a framework that respects the culture of others, and Benin can find new solutions to take on development and social challenges. China’s own success brings new hope for the development of Benin and the whole African continent.
For example, the ambassador believes China’s efforts to build an ecological civilization based on green growth are the best illustration of new global governance. “China now wants to theorize what it has done in its own country and share it with the world.” Wherever Benin faces consequences of climate change, coastal erosion, advancing desertification, and conducts research on and uses clean energy, China emerges as a strategic partner in the long term with the construction of hydroelectric power stations financed by Eximbank and Sinohydro.
In this respect, the confirmation of Benin’s participation in the 2019 Beijing Horticultural Exposition is the expression of its wish to contribute to an ecological civilization model driven by China.
In a larger sense, the similarities between China’s new era led by President Xi Jinping and the era of change that was proposed by Benin President Patrice Talon open up perspectives of new dynamics in international relations for Benin and development of the African Continent. According to Adovelande’s analysis, a future with clear horizons seems to be unfolding.
He concluded: “Today we are lucky, since our leaders, President Patrice Talon and President Xi Jinping share similar views on important issues and major challenges of the world. This forms the basis for the new cooperation that we are going to develop since establishing diplomatic relations 45 years ago. We have very good prospects because we are at a new starting point for the cooperation between China and Benin with a new era opening up for us.”