A Chinese engineer supervises work at a construction site in Sudan's capital Khartoum. File picture: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh/Reuters
A Chinese engineer supervises work at a construction site in Sudan's capital Khartoum. File picture: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh/Reuters

China-Africa co-operation moves forward

By Opinion Time of article published Mar 29, 2021

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Zhongyi Zhao

Strengthening unity and co-operation with African countries has always been an important cornerstone of China’s independent and peaceful foreign policy, and it is China’s long-term firm strategic choice.

No matter how the international situation changes, China has always been united with African countries and moved forward hand in hand to continuously deepen China-Africa relations.

China and Africa work together to overcome difficulties. First, China and Africa worked hand in hand to fight the pandemic and support each other. At the most difficult moment in China’s fight against the pandemic, African countries rendered valuable support to China.

After the outbreak of the pandemic in Africa, China took the lead in providing 120 batches of emergency anti-epidemic supplies to almost all African countries and the AU, dispatching anti-epidemic medical experts to 16 countries in Africa, holding six anti-epidemic expert video conferences with African countries, establishing counterpart co-operation mechanisms with 46 hospitals in 42 African countries.

The Chinese Africa-based enterprises and 46 Chinese-aided medical teams in Africa have actively participated in the local fight against the epidemic.

The construction of the headquarters of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention with Chinese assistance has begun. The Chinese government has also made a solemn commitment that the vaccines will be firstly used to benefit developing countries including Africa when developed and put into use.

China actively implements the debt relief initiative under the G20 framework, has signed debt relief agreements with 12 African countries and cancelled the interest-free loan debt of the least developed countries in Africa by the end of 2020.

Second, China and Africa step their efforts to implement the Eight Major Initiatives. The implementation of the these initiatives of the Beijing Summit of the the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) is currently the main line and top priority for China and Africa to overcome the adverse effects of the epidemic and carry out pragmatic co-operation.

China and Africa have maintained close co-ordination and co-operation, scientifically adjusted the country-specific project pool, adhered to the problem-oriented and result-oriented principles, and promoted the implementation work to achieve good results.

The first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo was successfully held; a number of major projects have been completed one after another or are progressing steadily; a number of face-to-face events of Chinese and African brands have been held one after another; a number of “Luban workshops” have been put into operation in Africa; and 70% of the supporting funds of $60 billion (R898bn) promised by President Xi Jinping at the Beijing Summit has been put into use or well arranged.

Third, China and Africa take multiple measures to deepen co-operation. In the first three quarters of 2020, global trade shrank by more than 10%, and Africa’s total foreign trade and exports fell by nearly 30%.

China is one of Africa’s major trading partners with the narrowest decline in total trade and imports volume.

China has taken active measures to actively expand imports from Africa. It has invited 65 companies from 31 African countries to China to participate in the third International Import Expo, resulting in an intent of transaction of $630 million, helping African countries’ superior products enter the Chinese market through new models such as “online promotion” and “live commerce”. This is speeding up the approval process for access to the Chinese market of the agricultural products such as Nigerian feed sorghum, Zambian fresh blueberries and Tanzanian soybeans.

China and Africa walk side by side to achieve common goals. First, the level of trade has increased significantly. The volume of trade between China and Africa has increased by 20 times in the past 20 years.

In 2019, the total global trade in goods and Africa's total foreign trade both shrank by about 3%. The China-Africa trade volume reached $208.7bn, an increase of 2.2% against the trend, and the growth rate led Africa’s major trading partners.

In 2020, due to the profound impact of Covid-19, Africa’s foreign trade volume declined sharply, and China’s importance as Africa’s largest trading partner became more prominent. China has been Africa's largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years with the proportion of China-Africa trade in Africa’s total foreign trade increasing year after year.

In the past three years, China’s imports of agricultural products from Africa have increased by an average annual rate of 14%, making China the second largest agricultural product importer in Africa. More than 350 agricultural and food products from Africa can be traded with China.

Second, project co-operation has been fruitful. Under the framework of the previous conferences of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation, China has allocated more than $85bn of credit funds for Africa, helping Africa build more than 6 000km of railways and highways, nearly 20 ports, more than 80 large-scale electric power facilities, more than 130 medical institutions, 45 sports venues and more than 170 schools, which have brought significant changes to the economic and social development of Africa.

At the same time, Chinese companies in Africa have continuously improved their localisation level, employing a large number of local employees in the process of project construction and operation, and have created more than 4.5 million jobs for African countries.

Third, China’s investment in Africa has increased significantly. Since official records began in 2003, China’s direct investment flowing to Africa has grown at an average annual rate of more than 25%.

The UNCTAD World Investment Report 2020 pointed out that China’s investment stock in Africa had increased by more than 40% from 2014 to 2018, while investment in Africa from other major investment source countries had instead shrunk.

In order to further guide and spur Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa, China has also set up a China-Africa Development Fund and a China-Africa Capacity Co-operation Fund with a total scale of $20bn.

By the end of 2019, China established more than 3 800 companies of various types in Africa, with an investment stock of $44.4bn, which effectively helped Africa improve its industrialisation level, industrial facilities and export foreign exchange earning capacity.

The world today is undergoing major changes unseen in a century, and the Covid-19 epidemic accelerates the evolution of the changes.

In this context, China is actively constructing a new development pattern with the domestic circulation as the main body and the domestic and international circulations mutually reinforcing each other, and will unswervingly expand its opening to the outside world, and drive the world’s common recovery through its own recovery. All the countries across the world, including Africa, will benefit from it.

In 2021, a new session of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation will hold. China and Africa will once again gather together to discuss plans for China-Africa co-operation in the new era and launch new initiatives for practical co-operation.

China will uphold the principles of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, uphold justice and pursue shared interests to promote the in-depth alignment of China’s second centenary goal with the AU Agenda 2063 and the development strategies of African countries, drawing a blueprint for China-Africa co-operation from a long- term and strategic perspective.

China will continuously consolidate the foundation of co-operation, tap the potential of co-operation, gather co-operation forces, improve the level of co-operation, unswervingly promote China-Africa co-operation, support Africa's development and jointly build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

* Zhongyi Zhao is the Minister Counsellor for Economic and Commercial Affairs of the China Embassy to South Africa.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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