China-Africa ties grow stronger amid Covid-19 challenges
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AFRICAN ministers and their Chinese counterparts will gather in Senegal of West Africa later this month for the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC).
The ministers will gather at a time when the world is still grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged many economies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, rolling back some gains, according to economic experts.
Chinese Ambassador to Uganda Zhang Lizhong, while briefing local media Tuesday about the forthcoming meeting scheduled for November 29-30, said that challenges like Covid-19 have tested the China-Africa relations and made the ties grow stronger.
“Solidarity and co-operation are the most powerful weapon to defeat Covid-19, and the sunshine of co-operation will surely dispel the haze of the pandemic,” the Chinese diplomat said. “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, in response to African needs, China has urgently provided various kinds of assistance including materials, vaccines and expert teams to 53 African countries and the African Union.”
The strong relations will provide the support for economic reopening and recovery in Africa, according to Zhang.
The ministers, while meeting in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, will chart a joint response to Covid-19 and also the course for China-Africa relations for the next three years and beyond.
On the sidelines of the meeting, with a theme of “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era,” the Seventh China-Africa Business Conference will be held.
“Since its establishment in 2000, Focac has upheld the principle of extensive consultations, joint contributions and shared benefits, and become a forum featuring equality, practicality and efficiency,” Zhang said of the 21-year-old co-operation framework. “Focac has spearheaded international co-operation with Africa and become a golden brand for South-South co-operation."
Since the inception of Focac, trade between China and Africa and China’s investment in Africa have expanded by 20-fold and 100-fold, respectively, according to figures by the Chinese embassy in Uganda. China has built and is building in Africa more than 10 000 km of railway lines, nearly 10 000km of roads, 120 000 megawatts of power-generating capacity and 150km of backbone network lines.
The Asian country has also built more than 400 medical facilities, 1 200-plus educational institutions, and 400 000 tons of annual clean water treatment capacity. Over the years, more than 4.5 million employment opportunities have been created in Africa as a result of the co-operation.
The figures given by the embassy also show that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, China has remained Africa’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years. In the first nine months of 2021, the bilateral trade volume between China and Africa reached a record of $185.2 billion (about R2.9 trillion), up by 38.2 percent year on year.
In the first nine months of 2021, China’s direct investment to Africa across all sectors registered $2.59 billion, an increase of 9.9 percent year on year, which outpaced China's overall outbound direct investment by 3 percent and exceeded the pre-pandemic level in 2019.
These successes will serve as a springboard on which the ministers will deepen the Sino-Africa co-operation, according to Zhang.
Several African countries are facing peace and security challenges, which threatens gains made in pursuit of fast-tracking development, Zhang warned, noting that the Ethiopian crisis, Sudan crisis, fighting in Mozambique, terrorism in West Africa are major highlights on the continent.
Zhang said while China does not support interference in domestic affairs, it will support bilateral and multilateral efforts aimed at creating peace and security on the continent.