China's President Xi Jinping gives a speech via video link at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, (FOCAC) in Dakar, Senegal November 29, 2021. REUTERS/Cooper Inveen
China's President Xi Jinping gives a speech via video link at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, (FOCAC) in Dakar, Senegal November 29, 2021. REUTERS/Cooper Inveen

The future of China and Africa relations: Unleashing the potential towards a strengthened strategic partnership

By Gert Grobler Time of article published Dec 6, 2021

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THE existing strong relations between China and Africa have been significantly enhanced by two momentous events recently which indeed auger well for future co-operation.

The Chinese government released its first comprehensive and constructive White Paper on China and Africa co-operation, titled “China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals” on November 26 2021, which reflects the successes of China-Africa co-operation over the past few decades and maps out the way forward regarding collaboration.

The White Paper reaffirms an unwavering commitment on the part of China to continue to pursue a strengthened strategic partnership with Africa based on the principles of sincerity, friendship, good faith and real results towards the greater good and a shared future .

This was followed by the productive 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) held in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on November 29 and 30, 2021, which assessed the progress of the implementation of decisions reached at the 2018 Focac Beijing Summit, discussed the China-Africa response to the Covid-19 pandemic and charted the way forward for China-African relations over the next three years and beyond.

These two “game-changing” events will undoubtedly inject new impetus into the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and co-operative partnership. The White Paper, in fact, effectively paved the way for the successful outcome of the Focac meeting in Dakar. A number of key strategic decisions were subsequently taken in Dakar to jointly overcome challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic, poverty and inequality, economic growth and development.

It opened up new horizons for China-Africa friendship, creating new opportunities for shared development that will render new benefits to the Chinese and African people.

It is a credit to Chinese and African leaders that the outcome of the Focac meeting In Dakar with its comprehensive, measurable, practical and forward-looking outcome, was generally viewed as an unqualified success. Not only has Focac withstood the test of time in an uncertain international landscape, it has, In fact, increasingly become a model of international co-operation.

President Xi Jinping’s comprehensive opening ceremony speech, which provided a strategic plan and overarching blueprint for China-Africa co-operation, was widely acclaimed by African leaders and people. President Xi Jinping set the tone by putting forward four proposals towards the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future:

Fighting Covid-19 with solidarity.

Deepening practical co-operation.

Promoting green development.

Upholding equality , justice and international co-operation.

These are all issues on which there is a strong convergence between China and Africa. President Xi Jinping pointedly stated that this year marked the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and African countries. He added that the two sides had forged an unbreakable fraternity in their joint struggle against imperialism and colonialism and had embarked on a joint journey of co-operation toward development and revitalisation.

He announced nine “China and Africa Vision 2035” focused and time-bound programmes for China-Africa co-operation in future in the following sectors:

Medical and health

Poverty reduction with a strong focus on agriculture

Trade promotion programme

Investment promotion

Digital innovation

Green development

Capacity building

Cultural and people-to-people exchanges

Peace and security

What was of significance was that this impressive range of programmes announced by President Xi Jinping was the result of joint consultation and preparation between China and Africa. These programmes are therefore closely and clearly aligned with the key and major objectives of Africa's strategy to accelerate growth, and sustainable and inclusive development.

This also serves as a concrete manifestation of a genuine equal partnership and adherence to the principles of a win-win, mutually beneficial approach and co-operation towards a shared future. This consistent joint approach and building of consensus in the Focac process by the two sides has been one of the key drivers of Focac’s past achievements. This has further enhanced the notion and acceptance on the part of Africa that it is indeed an equal partner and that China “listens to its voice”.

A further positive factor in the Focac mechanism is the inherent continuity as well as the effective follow-up processes that ensure that decisions at summits or ministerial conferences are implemented and transformed into tangible and practical results.

Another encouraging feature of the Focac process is the growing dialogue and consultation at both intergovernmental and non-governmental levels involving a broad range of actors at various levels, culminating in building consensus on key objectives and issues of common concern.

The outcome of the Dakar meeting was highly praised by the African side. African leaders at the meeting including Senegalese President Macky Sall and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Sall said that Senegal highly appreciated China’s selfless help to Africa, which “fully reflects the solidarity, mutual assistance and brotherhood between Africa and China.” Furthermore that China’s remarkable economic and development achievements had provided inspiration and brought hope to African countries.

President Ramaphosa commended the Dakar Action Plan in his speech at the forum, and added: “Over the next three years the Dakar Action Plan will be implemented, and this will require that we recalibrate Sino-Africa relations with a greater emphasis on sustainable development for the benefit of all. We must see the Focac partnership as a vital support for Africa’s industrialisation and for the realisation of the benefit of the AfCFTA. We call on China to continue its work of being supportive of the African continent. A support we do not take for granted, a support that is extended to us in Africa, underpinned by mutual respect and a mutual intention to develop one another.”

He also emphasised that “For us to fully reap its benefits, Focac must be strengthened and enhanced.”

In the wake of the Focac meeting in Dakar there is a growing sense that China and Africa have entered a new era of co-operation, embracing broader strategic and more diversified, but yet focused, prospects and opportunities for common development towards a community with a shared future to mutual benefit.

Focac since it’s inception has thus effectively contributed to the transformation of the long-standing traditional friendship and solidarity between China and Africa into a multi-sectoral, concrete, measurable and mutually beneficial relationship which continues to flourish.

Thus the successful outcome of Focac in Dakar that was given significant momentum by the comprehensive, constructive and incisive Chinese White Paper, clearly illustrates that China and Africa with its strong commitment and solidarity will continue to increase the role, influence and cohesion of Focac, as its platform for collective dialogue and a mechanism for practical co-operation, in its endeavours to escalate its strategic partnership to the next level, towards the building of a China and Africa community with a shared future.

* Ambassador Grobler is a Senior Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China.

** The views expressed here may not necessarily be that of the IOL.

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