By Ai Feizhou
The 8 th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in Dakar, Senegal, from November 29 to 30. We are at important juncture to assess the progress since last conference in Johannesburg in 2018 and design new measures to promote China-Africa relations in the coming three years and beyond.
The first Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC was held in 2000, thus opening a new chapter of China-Africa relations. Over the past two decades, FOCAC has become an important platform for deepening China-Africa cooperation and a model for promoting South-South cooperation.
Guided by the top leaders of the two sides, the cooperation between China and Africa has made great achievements in different fields under the framework of FOCAC. Great Achievements
First, the friendship and solidarity of China and Africa has advanced to a new level. Since the inception of FOCAC, the number of annual exchange visits of the leaders has increased significantly. Africa was President Xi Jinping’s first overseas visit destination after he became President in 2013. Since then, President Xi has visited Africa four times.
In the face of the new international landscape and challenges, China and Africa hold high banner of multilateralism and strongly express opposition to bloc politics, unilateralism, politicization of the epidemic, racial discrimination and external interference.
China firmly supports African countries in exploring development paths suited to their national conditions. Africa supports China’s just position on human rights issue and so-called Xinjiang-related and Hong Kong-related issues and etc.
Second, the multilateral cooperative mechanism between China and Africa has taken shape. The working mechanism of FOCAC involves three layers, namely ministerial conference, senior official meeting and meetings between African Ambassadors to China and the Secretariat of the Chinese FOCAC Follow-up Committee.
The ministerial conference of FOCAC is held every three year. According to the agreement of both sides, three summit meetings have been held in China and Africa on a rotating basis. Under the framework of FOCAC, some affiliated forums have been established on health, poverty alleviation, legislation, think-tank, youth, media and local governments.
China has appointed FOCAC affairs Ambassador of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and most African countries have their coordinators. They are responsible for coordinating the implementation of the forum action plans. The gradual improvement of FOCAC mechanism has played a central role in building consensus, integrating plans and facilitating implementation.
Third, pragmatic cooperation has accomplished fruitful outcomes. China has taken a number of measures to promote trade and investment in Africa. In 2020 China-Africa trade volume has reached close to 200 billion US dollars.
China’s investment stock in Africa has exceeded 43.4 billion US dollar by the end of 2020. Compared with two decades ago, China-Africa trade and Chinese investment stock in Africa has increased by 20 times and 100 times respectively.
China has become the second largest importer for Africa’s agricultural exports.
Tunisian olive oil, Ethiopian coffee and Rwandan chili sauce enjoy a good sale in Chinese supermarkets.The growth of China-Africa trade has helped Africa increase the added value of its exports and transform from a supplier of raw materials to a producer of industrial goods in the global industrial chain.
In recent years, China and Africa worked together to formulate and implement the ten cooperation plans and eight major initiatives. Dozens of China-Africa cooperation zone and industrial parks were set up in Africa, among which Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone in Egypt, Nigeria Lekki Free Trade Zone and Eastern
Industrial zones in Ethiopia are the most successful onesm, thus setting up a platform for attracting investments from China and other countries.
From 2000 to 2020, China helped African countries build more than 13,000 km of roads and railway and more than 80 large-scale power facilities, and funded over 130 medical facilities, 45 sports venues and over 170 schools.
It also trained more than 160,000 personnel for Africa, and built a series of flagship projects including the AU Conference Center. China’s assistance extended to various aspects of the economy, society and people’s lives, and was widely welcomed and supported by governments in Africa and the people.
Most importantly, the Initiative on Partnership for Africa’s Development jointly launched by China and Africa in the UN, the Global Development Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping, along with the Belt and Road Initiative, African Union 2063 Agenda and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development will work in synergy and help to boost strong, green and sound development of world economy.
This will bring benefits to developing countries in Africa and elsewhere.
Fourth, cooperation in fight against COVID-19 is in full swing. China shall always remember the valuable support Africa has provided at the height of China’s battle with the corona-virus. In return, when Africa was struck by the virus, President Xi cared about the well-being of African people.
China was the first to rush in with assistance. We provided batches of emergency supplies to Africa and sent medical expert teams to nearly 20 African countries. In addition, by carrying out cooperation in partnership with 43 hospitals in 38 African countries, China has helped train 20
thousand medical staff.
In the middle of 2020, China pledged that once the development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccine is completed, African countries will be the first to benefit. China has provided 180 million doses of COVID vaccines to 53 African countries and the African Union Commission and started vaccine production cooperation with relevant countries.
China has become largest provider of vaccines to Africa. And we will try our best to contribute to the continent’s early victory over COVID-19 and the post- epidemic economic recovery.
Fifth, China-Africa peace and security cooperation has made new progress.
China has set up the China-Africa Peace and Security Fund and has implemented 100 million dollars in military aid to the African Union in order to help build the African Standby Force and rapid reaction force, and to support the anti-terrorism efforts of Sahel countries.
China has actively participated in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa and is the second largest contributor to UN peacekeeping funding, of which about 75 percent has been devoted to Africa. Among the five permanent members of the Security Council, China has sent the largest number of blue helmets and nearly 2000 of them are deployed in Africa.
We have just held the 6th Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee, during which we reviewed the major achievements and historical experiences of the CPC in its century-long march. China has achieved the first Centenary Goal.
The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has entered an irreversible historical process.
Today, we are embarking on a new journey to fully build a modern socialist country and achieve the second Centenary Goal.
China’s development has brought new opportunities to China-Africa relations and Africa’s development. In the past over 20 years, China’s economy has grown from the 6th to the second largest in the world, for many consecutive years as the world’s main engine of economic growth. China has a population of more than 1.4 billion, among which over 400 million are categorized as middle-income, making China the world’s most promising market.
It is expected that the cumulative import of commodities will exceed 22 trillion dollars in the next 10 years. Especially, China has well-developed e-commerce platforms on which African goods can sell very well. A few days ago, the ambassador of Rwanda to China participated in a live stream broadcast and helped sell 3,000 kilograms of coffee beans in just a few seconds. In next 5 years China will invest 550 billion dollars to other countries and regions.
Also, in the nest 3 years China will offer over 3 billion dollars for developping countries to support the fight against the Covid-19 and the restoration of social economic development.
Under this circumstance, the 8th ministerial conference of FOCAC will be held in Dakar. Ministers of foreign affairs and ministers responsible for economic cooperation of member countries and representatives of the African Union will attend this conference.
The theme of the meeting is: Deepening China-Africa Partnership, promoting sustainable development and building China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. Both sides will assess the implementation of the follow- up actions of the FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2018 and China-Africa cooperations against the Covid-19 to make further plans for the relationship between China and Africa in the next three years and beyond.
At the FOCAC Dakar conference, China and Africa will send a strong message of solidarity and cooperation. In the spirit of extensive consulation, joint contribution and shared benefits,the two sides will have in-depth discussions on building China- Africa community with a shared future in the new era and charting the course for a higher level of development. Both sides will stress the need to uphold the International system with the UN at its core and international order based on international law.
Each country’s independent choice of path of development suited to its national conditions should be respected. And new block-confrontation with all forms of power politics should be opposed to defend the common interests of developing countries, we should practice true multilateralism.
China and Africa will further synergize their development strategies and open up new directions for cooperation. China will align agenda 2063 of the African Union with the development strategies of African countries, build new consensus on China-Africa cooperation, and define new paths and measures for the China-Africa relations in line with its vision of 2035 and the building of a new development landscape.
The new measures will not only cover traditional areas of China-Africa cooperation, but also focus on health, poverty reduction and trade and investment.
A new round of vaccine assistance will be provided to support Africa in bridging the ‘’vaccine gap’’ and building a defense line against the epidemic. At the same time, China-Africa cooperation will be expanded in emerging areas such as digital economy and green and low-carbon cooperation.
China and Africa will further improve cooperation mechanism and open up new prospects for cooperation. The Forum will encourage and support more local governments, enterprises, financial institutions and other diversified entities, as well as commercial credit and enterprise investment, to participate in China-Africa cooperation and boost China’s cooperation with Africa.
The FOCAC meeting will not only adopt the Dakar declaration and action plan, but also jointly release the document: The Vision For China-Africa Cooperation 2035, which will map out the cooperation between the two sides in the next three and 15 years and further enhance the forward-looking, systematic and continuous cooperation measures of the FOCAC.
We believe that this conference will elevate China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership to a higher level.
Rapid Actions China-Africa cooperation enjoys bright prospects. The two sides are expected to continue to actively promote friendly exchanges to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between political parties and young people of the two sides, ensue that bilateral friendship will be passed on from generation to generation and contribute to the building of a China-African community with a shared future.
Specific proposals on implementing the outcomes of the Dakar Conference of the FORUM are urgently needed. The conference will adopt four outcome documents to make comprehensive plans for China-Africa cooperation in the next stage.
We need to read and study the documents and assess the conditions on the ground and the national economy as well, and put forward proposals for implementation, so as to ensure that the results are delivered as soon as possible and benefit the people of both sides.
A good atmosphere for implementing the outcomes of the Forum shall be created. China and Africa shall actively brief the public the outcomes and new measures of the FOCAC conference, share the stories of China-Africa cooperation and strengthen the consensus for further cooperation.
At the same time, we need to guard against and refute the smears and attacks from western countries and media on China-Africa relations, especially the so-called ‘’neo-colonialism’’, ‘’debt trap’’ and other false statements aimed at driving a wedge between China and Africa.
We need to encourage media and think tanks to have a more objective and comprehensive understanding of China-Africa cooperation and better build consensus for it.
Despite the changes in the international landscape and the pandemic, China will firmly work with Africa to deepen traditional friendship and practical cooperation across the board, jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, and make its due contribution to the noble cause of peace and development of mankind.
*Author is a scholar based in Beijing