South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, FOCAC co-chairperson, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, chairperson, flanked by other heads of African states at the start of a summit of High Level dialogue between Chinese and African leaders and business representatives at the China National Convention Centre in this 2018 file picture. Picture: African News Agency
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, FOCAC co-chairperson, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, chairperson, flanked by other heads of African states at the start of a summit of High Level dialogue between Chinese and African leaders and business representatives at the China National Convention Centre in this 2018 file picture. Picture: African News Agency

China’s Foreign Minister visits five African countries to further cement ties

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 4, 2021

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Helmo Preuss

Johannesburg - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will pay official visits to Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Botswana and Seychelles from January 4-9.

The visit to African countries at the start of the year is a tradition that dates back to January 1991 and is aimed at cementing ties between African countries and China. Wang’s trip is a striking example of a relationship built through constancy.

This kind of constancy counts in Africa, and China is well aware of its worth. The Beijing-based consultancy Development Reimagined estimated that senior Chinese leaders have made 79 visits to 43 African countries over the last decade. In addition, the reverse flow is equally important as Beijing has rolled out the red carpet for the leaders of African countries on numerous occasions.

China’s support for the liberation Struggle in South Africa is even older as Mao Zedong met with South African Communist Party members Jusuf Dadoo and Vella on November 3, 1960.

The strong ties between China and South Africa were entrenched when South Africa hosted the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in December 2015. It was also the first FOCAC Summit to take place on the African continent.

As President Jacob Zuma said at the time, the relationship between Africa and China is not new as it was a long-standing historic relationship that is based on a history of solidarity and the support South Africa received from China as we fought colonialism and apartheid on the African continent decades ago.

“China was there when we needed help most and we will never forget that solidarity and comradeship. That solidarity has laid a firm ground for more focused, friendly and dependable development co-operation.

This co-operation is based on the principles that underline the Focac partnership which are sincerity, mutual trust, equality, win-win cooperation and mutual benefit,” Zuma said.

At the summit Chinese President Xi Jinping announced 10 priority programmes aimed at addressing three of the primary bottlenecks hindering Africa’s development, namely the lack of infrastructure, skilled personnel and funding.

The ten initiatives specifically identified for co-operation to address these bottlenecks include, industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure, finance, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty eradication and people’s wellbeing, public health, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and peace and security and the 2015 FOCAC pledged US$60 billion (roughly R880bn) to turn these plans into reality.

2021 marks the last year for the implementation of the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021) and Wang Yi’s visit would deepen coordination and communication with African countries to cement the mutually beneficial ties and facilitate economic recovery in African countries while fighting the Covid-19 virus.

The foreign minister’s visits are also aimed at supporting African countries in economic recovery, debt relief and fight against the epidemic, and promoting the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

The ties between China and Africa are based on the realistic needs of deepening co-operation and common development between the two. China is the world’s largest developing country, and Africa is the continent where developing countries are most concentrated. The two are natural partners, as they are complementary and have unlimited cooperation space and potential, especially as Africa’s Free Trade Area comes into operation.

That is why China is full of confidence in the prospects for Africa’s development and the promise of “Africa Rising”. Wang’s trip will promote China-Africa cooperation to be in the frontline of international co-operation with Africa. A total of 44 African countries and the AU Commission have signed BRI co-operation documents with China.

From the Chinese point of view, the world had become less peaceful as the Trump administration reverted to unilateral action and engaged in a trade and technological war resulting in a new “Cold War” with Huawei at the epicentre.

So Wang’s message on his African trip will be to strengthen ties between China and Africa, praise the benefits of solidarity and safeguard the legitimate rights of the Chinese and African people to oppose outside interference and lead a better life for all.

Therefore an important part of the trip will be on preparations for the next FOCAC Summit in Dakar, Senegal.

* Helmo Preuss is an economist at Forecaster Ecosa.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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