- The institute has to help re-engineer an inclusive story of human civilisation at a time when globalisation is erroneously seen as triumph of neo-liberalism, or the end of history.
It has to explore innovative ideas of advancing people-to-people relations and dismantling the extant architecture of global knowledge that divides our world.
The Institute has to unmask and discredit the accepted lazy, unilinear and exclusive history of human civilisation.
We live in the Age of Knowledge where information, big data and innovative ideas form the main source of economic growth—way more important than land, labour, money, or other material resources.
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations is being re-read: Knowledge is the new wealth of nations, and the main foundation of their power.
After all, it is yet another English philosopher and statesman, Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), who told us in his Meditationes Sacrae (1597) that “knowledge is power”.
Inexorably, the rise of China in the age of knowledge as one of the world’s top two wealthiest nations and a superpower in every aspect of the word has set off a new surge of foreign interest in Africa, dubbed the “New Scramble”.
Despite myriad doomsday scenarios woven around the new scramble, the influential Economist magazine (March 2019) recently predicted that the continent could actually emerge the winner in the rush, and perhaps claim the 21st century as pax-Africana (after pax Britannica and pax-Americana in the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively).
It is with this in mind that on April 10, 2019, I joined fellow African academics from across the continent and their Chinese counterparts to inaugurate a new China-Africa institute (CAI) in Beijing, China.
Launched under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), which has working agreements with participating African institutions, the initiative is Africa’s surest pathway to gaining the commanding heights of knowledge—and power in a globalising but turbulent world.
The inauguration of the Institute comes weeks ahead of the Second Belt and Road Forum to take stock of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s vehicle of channelling public goods and remaking the world order.
China’s development assistance is consciously aimed at stemming what American scholar, Joseph Nye Jr. has christened in a January 9, 2017 article as “the Kindleberger Trap”. Charles Kindleberger, one of the intellectual architects of the Marshall Plan— officially the European Recovery Programme (ERP), in which America gave over $12 billion (equivalent to nearly US$100 billion today) in economic assistance to help rebuild Western European economies after the devastation of World War II—argued rather cogently that America’s failure to provide global public goods after it had replaced Britain as the leading power gave birth to the disastrous decade of the 1930s, the collapse of the global system into depression, genocide and world war. China’s academics feel if their country makes the same mistake and ignore the world, their own future is uncertain.