The ACTION Support Centre (ASC), in partnership with the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO), hosted an informal civil society discussion on the 12th of October 2015, with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS). The discussion welcomed SIIS: Prof. Yang Jiemian, Director, Academic Committee, (Former President SIIS); Prof. Zhang Chun, Deputy Director, Center for West Asian and African Studies. In addition, a range of civil society organisations based in South Africa, which included representatives of the Democratic Congolese Community in South Africa, Botle Ba Africa and students of the University of Johannesburg attended this rich dialogue. All that were present were encouraged to engage on the topic of China-Africa relations.
The format was an informal discussion guided by Richard Smith to ensure civil society was comfortable to engage with the institute and vice versa in an intimate space. This platform was provided to share the ideas and work done by Civil Society Organization (CSO’s) in Africa and abroad. It also sought to acknowledge the work of these individuals and the real positive changes they bring about in their communities.
The discussion was also focused on the concept of self-governance and industrialization and in concluding the dialogue session, it was expressed that although there are diverse views, this should not inhibit people from finding unity in diversity. As such, the world is changing and therefore the need to interact with civil society to understand their opinion, expectations, and express their concerns ahead of the Forum On China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit, remains fundamental for more rigorous engagement in the future.