The increasing economic and technical capacities of the South and the emergence of a growing group of Southern countries, such as Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the Gulf countries, as influential stakeholders in international economic relations have created important opportunities for South-South development cooperation as a complement to North-South cooperation.
China, as a large developing country with a great deal of development experience, has always been a champion and staunch supporter of South-South cooperation. Yet, despite this commitment, stakeholders in the Chinese Government recognize that the full potential to share Chinese knowledge and experiences with the world, and to bring Southern solutions to China, has not yet been realized. For example, most SSC activities in China are still carried out on a bilateral basis led by the Government with minimal participation of the private sector. Like many South-South initiatives, funds mobilization and utilization efficiency are limited.
Towards a Solution
The China South-South Development Centre (SSDC), with its secretariat in Beijing, was established in 2008 to address some of these limitations. It is a partnership between the China International Centre for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE), under the aegis of the Ministry of Commerce of China, and the United Nations Office for South- South Cooperation (UNOSSC). The overall mission of SSDC is to promote successful SSC experiences and practices and build development capacity in the global South. It is comprised of a network of almost 30 Centres of Excellence based in China.
The SSDC was designed to:
- Build robust partnerships among national stakeholders, including the private sector, to maximize the potential of SSC resources in China.
- Facilitate the sharing of information and experiences within China and between China and other countries of the South.
- Establish a roster of South-South cooperation experts.
- Provide international exposure to Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through participation in South-South cooperation activities.
- Increase the number of triangular and public-private partnership (PPP) projects.
- Provide small-scale catalytic financing to concrete cooperation activities.
Since its establishment, SSDC has promoted economic and technical exchanges among developing countries through training, workshops and a small grants programme. The secretariat also produces knowledge on South-South cooperation including the China Development Report on South-South Cooperation, which presents systematic 199© SSDC research on China’s South-South cooperation on trade, investment and foreign aid; analyses the impact of China’s South-South cooperation; and identifies real challenges and proposed solutions.
To date, there have been 18 small grants programmes under SSDC, covering a variety of themes including agriculture, forestry, energy, cultural exchanges and informatization. These programmes have benefited developing countries including Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Myanmar, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Vanuatu and Viet Nam. Some examples of the small grants include:
- Sino-Kenya small-scale demonstration project on solar PV systems and solar water heating systems;
- International cooperation of city ICT application promotion for the developing countries;
- Affordable housing technology for developing countries;
- Technology transfer package for commissioning an environmentally friendly pesticide formulation plant in Sudan;
- Promoting Africas broadcast television dubbing skills; and
- Value-added bamboo processing development in Vanuatu.
SSDC assigns great importance to practical cooperation among developing countries. By facilitating experience exchange and technical capacity development workshops, SSDC is building the capacity of partners in other countries, who can then pass this knowledge on to peers and colleagues. To promote sustainability, all partners who receive SSDC small grants are required to at least match dollar-to-dollar funding from parallel resources.
SSDC is currently undergoing a 10-year evaluation. The outcome of this evaluation will be used to scope the next phase of the project, including how to best link SSDC to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Belt and Road Initiative championed by China, and other development frameworks.