Chinese Training Courses for African Agriculture: Transformational Knowledge?

Future Agricultures Working Paper 122
Henry Tugendhat
July 2015

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has launched one of the largest training course programmes in the world as part of its international cooperation programme with Africa. In these training courses, China’s foremost universities, state bureaux, and private companies transfer their knowledge to 10,000 African government officials per year. The courses cover everything from the management of health epidemics to customs office administration, all drawing from China’s most recent socio-economic development experiences. In 2013, agriculture-related topics made up a significant 15 percent of total training courses, covering courses on both policy and technology.

There has been a strong narrative, from Chinese government officials and their African counterparts alike, that what is particularly appealing about China is that its agricultural sector has similarities with that of many African countries. They talk of China’s diversity of climates to match the many African environments, as well as China’s dependence on smallholder farming. The logical conclusion from such narratives would appear to be: what worked for China, must work for Africa. In this context, the MOFCOM training courses consist of one of the most direct forms of knowledge transfer from Chinese experts to African state leaders and policymakers. Many of the Chinese experts involved are not just qualified in the theory of what they teach, but have had first-hand experiences of effecting the change that brought about China’s own agricultural achievements.

As such, this paper seeks to understand how China’s agricultural training courses have affected agricultural practices in the African countries where they train. This looks at how the training courses work, how transferable this knowledge really is for African agricultural contexts, and finally, what these training courses really achieve in the broader context of China-Africa relations. Ghana and Zimbabwe are focused on as key case studies for this paper, and fieldwork was also conducted with training institutions and lecturers in China.

This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture



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