A promising future for post-Covid co-operation
Chen Xiaodong, Ambassador of China to South Africa
Pretoria - Covid-19 caught the world by surprise in 2020. It has dealt a severe blow to the world economy, the global industrial chain and people-to-people exchanges. China-Africa co-operation has also been affected by the virus.
However, some forces have recently taken advantage of this situation and hyped up the claims that China is placing less importance on Africa and that China-Africa co-operation is going backwards.
It goes without saying that none of these claims are in line with the facts. China and Africa have joined hands to fight the virus, and the China-Africa community of health for all has emerged stronger.
As of early December 2020, China has sent eight medical expert groups and teams to 16 African countries to share experience in fighting Covid-19, established pairing-up co-operation mechanisms with 46 hospitals in 42 African countries, and provided urgently-needed medical supplies to almost all African countries.
The construction of the headquarters of Africa CDC has also kicked off on schedule. China is committed to ensuring the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries once they go through the research and development process and are put into use.
We will actively consider providing vaccine assistance to African countries in need to help Africa win the battle against the virus at an early date.
China-Africa trade and investment co-operation is resilient, and the China-Africa community of development for all achieved further growth.
Although with Covid-19, the trade volume between China and Africa dropped by 12.17% and 10.6% year-on-year in the first 10 and 11 months of 2020 respectively, the decline is narrowing month by month, and China is expected to become Africa’s top trading partner for 12 years in a row.
With a population of 1.4 billion and over 400 million middle-income earners, China’s total import in goods is expected to exceed $22 trillion (about R329.4 trillion) in the coming decade, and Africa will benefit even more from China, which is the world’s most promising large market.
It is worth noting that during the pandemic, Chinese enterprises used digital platforms such as online promotion activities and live streaming to help Africa export more of its speciality products to China.
Cross-border e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba Group’s World Electronic Trade Platform (eWTP) has given products from Ethiopia, Rwanda and other countries direct access to Chinese consumers.
Purchases from developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America totalled an intended turnover more than double the amount of the second CIIE, among which South Africa also signed a new record high amount of contracts, with a total value of more than $210 million.
China and Africa have jointly pursued high-quality Belt and Road co-operation with fruitful results in various fields. China has built more than 6 000km of railroads and 6 000km of highways, nearly 20 ports, more than 80 large-scale power facilities, more than 130 medical facilities, 45 stadiums and more than 170 schools in Africa.
A co-operation plan between the government of the People’s Republic of China and the AU on jointly promoting the building of the Belt and Road Initiative has been signed recently, which injected fresh impetus for high-quality Belt and Road co-operation between the two sides.
To help African economies address the impact of Covid-19, China has signed debt relief agreements with 12 African countries, exempted interest-free loans to 15 countries due at the end of 2020, and actively encouraged the international community, especially the G20, to further extend the debt relief period. The Export-Import Bank of China, as the bilateral official creditor, has signed debt relief agreements with 11 African countries.
President Xi Jinping also proposed during the 75th UN General Assembly that China aims to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
China-Africa peace and security co-operation has been further promoted to help in “silencing the guns” in Africa. China has established a “3+1” co-ordination mechanism with three African members of the UN Security Council, including South Africa.
We actively support South Africa’s rotating presidency of the Security Council and firmly support Africans morally and politically to address African issues in the African way. China is making good on its pledged free military aid of $100m to the AU.
We supported the building of African permanent and rapid response forces and provided free military aid to the Joint Force of the Group of Five of the Sahel through multilateral and bilateral channels to help maintain stability in the Sahel region.
More than 2 100 Chinese peacekeepers are performing duties in six UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, making an important contribution to maintaining security and stability on the continent and enhancing Africa’s security capacity. The high-level FOCAC meeting in 2021 is on track to open a new chapter of building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future post-Covid-19.
This year is the opening year of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan. China will step up efforts to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. African countries will officially launch the AfcFTA and make every effort to implement the first 10-year implementation plan of AU Agenda 2063.
China and Africa face new and significant opportunities to deepen co-operation. China is ready to work with Africa to prepare for the coming FOCAC session, better plan the outcomes, further promote China-Africa co-operation in health, resumption of work and production and improvement of people’s livelihoods and expand co-operation with Africa in the digital economy, smart cities, clean energy, 5G and other new industries.
We are ready to continue our support for Africa’s infrastructure development and industrialisation, support the building of AfcFTA, deepen free trade co-operation and connection between our industrial and supply chains. Nothing and nobody can erase the achievements of China-Africa co-operation or denigrate China-Africa relations.