-A conversation with prospective UN Secretary General: SIMBARASHE MOYO-
On the final day of the Yenching Global Symposium (YGS) I had the pleasure of interviewing Simbarashe Moyo. The ever vibrant Simbarashe hails from Zimbabwe. He is currently a Teaching Assistant at the University of Zimbabwe where he also holds the role of Vice Chancellor’s Ambassador. His main professional goal is to become the United Nations Secretary General. Simba co-founded AGRINEXUS, a social enterprise that is aimed at promoting food security in Zimbabwe. Inspired by the “clean state of Beijing” on his first visit to China in 2014, Simba founded the ‘Let’s Green the Future’ (LGF) project which seeks to achieve environmental sustainability through empowering children to become environmentally responsible.
Simba is one of five African YGS delegates that were selected from a pool of 1800 applicants from across the world. This is the first of a five-part interview series that will capture the perspectives and insights of the five African YGS delegates.
Nothando Khumalo (NK): What value did you gain from attending the Yenching Global Symposium?
Simbarashe Moyo (SM): There was so much enlightenment in all the topics discussed during the symposium which I feel will be very beneficial for my research work. I gained a better understanding of the international perspective on climate change. The insights gained will positively affect how I proceed with ‘Let’s Green the Future’ and climate change-related discussions in my research. An added benefit of the symposium was the opportunity to network with delegates and speakers of such a high calibre, forming friendships and bonding with my fellow Africans. My network is my net worth – so this was very important to me.
NK: How does China factor into the work that you do?
SM: ‘Let’s Green the Future’ was a critical link to my growing interest in China. During that first visit in 2014, many of those that I asked about the clean state of Beijing insisted that “it’s a matter of culture”, the people’s culture. So I took this model and used it to instil the same sense of environmental responsibility in the Zimbabwean children involved in my initiative. Although it is still the same concept, LGF actually focuses more on planting trees and ensuring that people have the right mentality about environmental responsibility. From my experience as a social worker I found that orphaned children and vulnerable children are often left out of development programs, and because of that, LGF primarily targets orphans and vulnerable children. So, at the moment, I am training children in children’s homes, but I also plan to go into schools to train more children. The project’s model is based on the conviction that a culture of environmental responsibility, like any other way of life, can be inculcated from a tender age.
As a person who is involved in public service work, I am inspired by China’s rapid development both economically and politically. There are key lessons that developing countries can glean from the rise of China.
NK: Clear skies, warm smiles and good company apart from this fabulous synergy, how has your experience in Beijing been this time around?
SM: China’s levels of hospitality and orderliness are striking. When I visited Beijing for ENACTUS World Cup Championships in 2014 that is the kind of impression I got. This time around it is even better; which is a reflection of how the local people constantly thrive to give a warm reception and companionship to foreigners. This may vary with the place you go to in China but for the places I visited, I can confirm that the attitude of the people I met was positive.
NK: What else has inspired your involvement in Sino-Africa affairs, and to what degree are you involved?
SM: My involvement is currently at an academic level which includes research and teaching. My goal in this role is to explore and disseminate information that is contemporary and valuable, in a bid to promote active citizenship in Zimbabwe and across the international divide. I believe that keeping up to date with contemporary issues is fundamental for national and global development. Nowadays, it is close to impossible for anyone to think of sustainable development without thinking of China. This applies to both developing and developed nations.
In my opinion, China’s magnetic force lies in its distinct culture. A culture that is characterised by a deep need for achievement, continuous improvement, unimaginable discipline and a great sense of sovereignty. These qualities have left a strong impression on me, as the Chinese have used them to optimise on international relations, technology, mass production, strategic planning, education, military, sports and recreation.
NK: Over the years, China has been rapidly increasing its investments in Africa. In spite of its developmental work in Africa, its involvement hasn’t been without its fair share of opposition. Some view this as a sort of neo-colonialism while others view it as a blessing for the continent. What are your views on this subject?
SM: I believe the relationship with China is largely a blessing for Africa because in many ways it represents a partnership for development rather than a scramble for human and material resources which Africa endured during the colonisation era and slave trade epoch. Like any development focused investments or partnerships, it requires continuous cultivation and commitment from both China and Africa with more emphasis on capacity building of citizens in both countries. Africa should reach a point when it is self-reliant like China. China should, on the other hand, be able to gain strategic assistance from Africa where necessary. Such is the mark of a win-win partnership.
NK: What role do you think young Africans should play in the Sino-Africa relationship? How do they contribute and position themselves in order to ensure that this relationship is equally beneficial for Africa and, in fact, win-win?
SM: First and foremost, I would suggest making an effort to understand the Sino-African relationship in its essence. It is not only the responsibility of government officials to learn about China’s extensive presence in Africa, but that of its citizens too. That said, there is a great need for further Sino-Africa research and provision of discussion platforms to equip people with the necessary knowledge to move forward as a nation and grow. Knowledge is power. Additionally, it is important that we take the initiative to integrate ourselves, build relationships, with the youth in China because, together, we are the future that will carry on the relationship that is being forged by our leaders today. Being development focused on all aspects of engagement is a crucial element of growth for our African states. If we understand our developmental needs, then China will not be the only benefactor of the Sino-Africa relationship at the cost of us being left out.