- Published on Thursday, 09 August 2012 02:59
- Written by DEOGRATIAS MUSHI
- Hits: 819
EARLY last month I was invited by the greatest newspaper in China – the ‘People’s Daily’, to take part in the 21-day programme that involved journalists from different parts of Africa. After being briefed about my travel to that Asian country by an official at the Chinese Embassy in Dar es Salaam, normal logistics related to preparations started.
I processed my visa and after I got it I told my hosts to send me an e-ticket that they sent me the same day. I took the same travelling document to the Emirates office at Haidary Plaza in the city to find out whether there were other things to do before travelling. A young girl working in that office told me the following words with a smile. “Your ticket is valid sir, and just proceed to the airport on Sunday. There is nothing more you need”. I was happy and returned to office to continue working on that day that happened to be Friday.
Then came Sunday morning, and after Sunday mass at Saint Maxmillian Kolbe Mwenge Catholic church, I proceeded to the airport aboard Gongo la Mboto-bound daladala, that left me at Kipawa. At the Julius Nyerere International Airport I met Imma Mbuguni from the ‘Business Times’. Imma had also been invited by the ‘People’s Daily’, so we were in the same trip.
Time to check-in came, and both of us proceeded to Emirates desk where the attendants asked for our passports, tickets and a yellow fever card, which are all compulsory before we are issued with boarding passes. Imma and I had only the valid passports with visas, plus return tickets but unfortunately we did not have yellow fever cards. We had them but we had forgotten to carry them with us.
The Emirates’ officials said there was no way we could travel to China if we had no yellow fever cards, indicating that our health status was ok. This process was going on an hour before boarding the plane. After reflecting for a while, we were told to postpone our journey till the next day, or do all we can to get the yellow cards. Our travelling enthusiasm started fading as we started pondering the next move that could help us catch the flight the following day.
It did not take us a long time before a young man approached us at the airport and informed us that Yellow Fever card were being ‘sold’ at the airport for 30,000/- each. This money assured us that we could get the same documents after 10 minutes, the latest if we could give him 60,000/-. As journalists we wanted to prove whether it was true that the yellow cards were being sold at the airport. We gave 60,000/- and after seven minutes, the boy brought us the signed Yellow fever cards that we were supposed to fill in our names.
We got shocked that such a fake and dangerous business was going on at that international Airport. Whether we used the purchased yellow fever cards to travel that same day, or we became so ethical enough to postpone our journey for one day, that can hardly be said here. The day of our travel we jetted into Emirates Air Bus that took us to Dubai where we had to stay for some hours before connecting with another Emirates flight to Shanghai. The entire journey took us 16 hours.
As we were waiting to board the plane at Dubai for Shanghai, former president Benjamin Mkapa and some government officials were given the priority to board before the rest of us. After arriving in Shanghai, we took a two-hour bus travel to Suzhou city, where we were supposed to attend China-Africa People’s Forum. Imma and I were booked at New Garden hotel, a five-star hotel with nice rooms and good food as well. My room was in the 22nd floor.
It is at this hotel that I met the politician I admire most in Africa. This is none other than former president of Ghana John Kufour.
When I came down for breakfast one day, he was sitting alone at a table, though two of his aides were occupying a different table. I had met President Kufour in 2002, when I was involved in a media training that took place in Tamale, north of Ghana.
I asked him whether he remembered me and he said ‘no’. I reminded him where I had met him in Ghana. He was happy and after a little chart, I left him enjoying his bowl of fruit salad. The meeting in Sozhou was interesting. African former leaders showed how they treasured Africa in different kinds of cooperation. President Mkapa did not murmur his words. He categorically said, “Unlike the west, China was the true friend of Africa”.
In that meeting, President Mkapa underscored the need for countries to maintain global and regional peace, search for international social stability, promote economic development and accommodate cultural diversity. He said African countries are poor and developing, so there was a need to increase the pace at which its people can lift themselves out of poverty. “We can share knowledge, skills, technology and experience in many fields such as agriculture, SMEs, science, infrastructure construction, social service and delivery,” he noted.
China’s entry into the investment and trade market in Africa is much envied and feared by old centuries and traditional partners.
He added: “We welcome China to Africa. We know that your commitment is win-win strategies to partnership. We must reject the notion of containing a rising China.” According to him, there are developed countries which have decided to dissuade African countries from forging close commercial ties with China, by issuing warning against an influx of Chinese immigrants and against trade in inferior goods.
We have categorically rejected their representations, and revile their absurd claims, said the former president. In a globalising world, said Mkapa, nations must be free to form and cement relations in their national interest. China has demonstrated its high friendship in good times and in times of natural disasters.
"It is important to make China-Africa friendship and cooperation a cornerstone of South development insisting that apart from governments, the move should also involve the people’s voices represented by NGOs and professional associations which is both timely and imperative", he added. In Africa, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) keep mushrooming every other day, so there is need to pause and reflect to what extent they are home grown and its commitment to foster national goals.
From Sozhou, we travelled to Chanchan, and Beijing where we participated in other high level meetings. Journalists in trip came from Algeria, Egypt, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central Africa Republic and Kenya. Others came from Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Apart from one journalist from Sierra Leone, who decided to follow her own programme during the entire trip, majority of us established friendships that have improved our profession in one way or another.
The challenge that we brought with us from Beijing is “How can we help our governments achieve high level of development, just like China did in 30 years? In brief, the Chinese put interests of their nation first and something done at individual level is discouraged. That is why China has refused to allow twitter, face book, blogs, and other kinds of social media, only to enable people move as a nation.
That is what makes China (a country of about one billion and three hundred million people) move forward with pride, with foreign direct investments (FDI) in most countries. Pending question is - Can Africa emulate China under the win- win situation approach??