Tue, May 08, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Strengthening ties with Africa

HELP YOURSELF:Taiwan’s development programs in Africa implement a localized approach that seeks to help people help themselves while cementing diplomatic ties

Staff writer, with CNA

After helping its African allies in areas such as agriculture and medicine for decades, Taiwan is now putting greater emphasis on training local people to do the work themselves to foster sustainable development, a government-funded agency said recently.

“We’ve broached the issue of localization for years,” deputy secretary-general of the Taipei-based International Cooperation and Development Fund, Lee Pai-po (李柏浡), said in an interview.

A common problem with many assistance projects set up in developing countries is that they take a top-down approach which often fails to deliver sustainable outcomes because it lacks a local perspective, Lee said.

“A localized project is a must for sustainable development,” he said. “Our goal is to provide training that makes people able to work independently.”

To this end, Taiwan has been implementing assistance programs based on a model that promotes local people engaging in the programs under the guidance of Taiwanese consultants, Lee said.

Examples of this approach include agricultural projects in Burkina Faso, one of Taiwan’s four allies in Africa, which have been in place for more than 40 years, he said.

Taiwan is also helping the Gambia expand its upland rice projects in an effort to address food scarcity in the African country.

Such initiatives echo Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s policy of attracting young adults to return to the countryside and engage in the farming industry to help increase food supplies, Lee said.

Taiwan also offers several medical programs to its African allies.

In addition to providing medical care, another important goal is to train local doctors and other medical personnel so they can operate and manage hospitals on their own, Lee said.

This way, “their hospitals will continue to be up and running after our assistance teams leave,” he said.

Taiwan’s assistance programs to its African allies also include vocational training programs aimed at improving local people’s professional skills and knowledge so they can earn more money.

For example, some women in Swaziland have benefited from sewing classes offered by Taiwan, which equipped them with skills they could use to make a living. The program was cited by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as an example of Taiwan’s successful development projects in Africa.

Ma’s remarks came at a recent news conference held shortly after his 12-day visit in April to three of Taiwan’s allies in Africa -- Burkina Faso, Swaziland and the Gambia.

For several decades, Taiwan has been helping Africa through humanitarian emergency assistance and projects aimed at improving local industrial developments.

Besides helping the countries’ people, the assistance programs have also played a significant role in maintaining bilateral ties between Taiwan and its African allies.

Taiwan was a beneficiary of US foreign aid in the 1950s and 1960s. Helping the African allies is an opportunity for Taiwan to give something back to the international community at a time when its economic achievement allows it to do so, National Chengchi University professor Yen Chen-shen (嚴震生) said.

Yen, an expert in Taiwan-Africa relations, said the assistance programs not only help the countries in need, they also strengthen ties between the countries.

These African allies often stand up for Taiwan, voicing support for the nation’s bid to participate in organizations such as the WHO, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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