The China-assisted Abuja light rail transport system in Nigeria was commissioned earlier this month. Infrastructure projects by Chinese firms abound in Africa.
A “China-Africa community with a shared future” is the buzzword to describe China-Africa relations. Behind the popularity of the phrase lies the unremitting effort by leaders of China and Africa to forge such a community by deepening political mutual trust and pursuing common development.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a trip to Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa. He will also attend the 10th Brics Summit in Sandton from tomorrow to Friday, and visit Mauritius during a stop-over. This is Xi’s fourth visit to Africa since assuming office as Chinese president in 2013. He has not visited any other region as often.

Many African leaders, including Cameroonian President Paul Biya, Namibian President Hage Geingob, and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, visited China this year, and Cyril Rampahosa will visit for Focac (Forum on China-Africa Co-operation) in September.

China and Africa have always maintained the tradition of close high-level interactions, embodying the brotherly ties between them as well as their determination to promote pragmatic co-operation for mutual gain.

Klaus Schade, a research associate at the Economic Association of Namibia, said the frequent mutual visits by Chinese and African delegations are a result of the historical friendship, which continues today. China’s top legislator, Li Zhanshu and Wang Yang, the chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, have visited Africa recently. Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to four African countries in January followed a long tradition.

For the past 28 years, China’s foreign ministers have always chosen Africa as their first destination abroad. In an interview with Xinhua, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibia’s deputy prime minister and minister of international relations and co-operation, said frequent visits were necessary as they strengthened ties between nations and, more importantly, between governments.

“The last decade has witnessed a highly intensified frequency of mutual visits between government officials of China and a large number of African countries,” said Gerishon Ikiara, an international economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

“This indicates the seriousness with which the visits were taken by both African countries and China.”

Ikiara called the frequency and high calibre of Africa-China interactions a clear indication of the sharp increase in their mutual desire to enhance and diversify Sino-African socio-economic, diplomatic and political relations.

Tarah Shaanika, the former chief executive of Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “For many years, the Chinese economy has been growing rapidly, which fuelled the growth of other economies, especially those in Africa.”

Lauding the China-Africa comprehensive strategic co-operative partnership, he said being the second-largest economy with the largest population, China “has a huge market which no one can afford to ignore”.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up.

The past four decades have not only witnessed China’s economic achievements but also the leapfrogging development of China-Africa economic and trade relations. On July 12, in Nigerian capital Abuja, the China-assisted Abuja light rail transport system, the first of its kind in West Africa, was commissioned.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called it a milestone in the history of the country. “I am very optimistic that a modern rail service would bring about a boost to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) economy and greatly enhance social life,” he said. Abuja is located in the FCT.

In recent years, such infrastructure projects undertaken by Chinese firms abound in Africa and have become symbols of the strong China-Africa economic tie. These include the Nairobi-Mombasa standard gauge railway in Kenya and the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, among others.

Thomas Kwesi Quartey, the deputy chairperson of the AU Commission, said Africa and China had pragmatic and close co-operation in the spirit of south-south co-operation across sectors like health, education, infrastructure development, trading and capacity building. “China remains an example for us China has showed that it has been able to pull its so many millions of people out of poverty,” he said.

A report last year by Ernst & Young said China became the single largest contributor of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa in 2016. It said between 2005 and 2016, China invested in 293 FDI projects in Africa, totalling an investment outlay of $66.4billion and creating 130 750 jobs. Data from the African affairs department of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that China- Africa trade grew from a mere $765 million in 1978 to $170bn in 2017, an increase of more than 200 times. China has also maintained its position as Africa’s largest trading partner for eight years in a row. Cumulative Chinese investment in Africa has grown from none to over $110bn in the past 40 years.

Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China is the largest contributor of peacekeeping force in Africa, with more than 2000 Chinese troops carrying out missions on the continent.

During his 2013 visit to Africa, Xi emphasised in a speech in Tanzania that China and Africa’s similar history, common development tasks and shared strategic interests had created a tight bond between the two.

University of Nairobi economics lecturer Gerrishon Ikiara said since the 1960s, when the majority of African countries became independent, China was regarded as having special ties with Africa..

Raphael Tuju, secretary-general of Kenya’s ruling Jubilee Party, said China had won the hearts and minds of Africans for assisting the continent with loans and grants to improve infrastructure, which remained the biggest challenge to Africa’s development. - Xinhua