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Development Begins at Home

The COVID-19 pandemic has offered two key lessons for developing countries: They must build on their own endowments and tackle infrastructure bottlenecks in sustainable ways. What will it take to ensure that foreign investment – in particular, Chinese investment in Africa – supports these objectives?

BEIJING – The eighth triennial Forum of China-Africa Cooperation was recently held in Dakar, Senegal. At past forums, China has announced large development-financing packages. But this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the FOCAC by pledging another billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines and more private-sector equity investment to Africa. This is just one sign of how profoundly the development landscape has changed in the pandemic’s wake.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced policymakers and development professionals worldwide to regroup and rethink their approaches. The continued emergence of new variants, together with the increasingly obvious consequences of climate change, has reminded us of how little control over nature humans really have. And travel restrictions and trade disruptions have highlighted the risks that lie in global interdependence.

This brings us to the first critical lesson of the pandemic: Development starts at home. Rather than depending on cross-border flows, countries must recognize and build their own wealth – that is, the assets and endowments that lie within their borders.