By Friday Obande
Looking back to history, China-Africa tie cannot be overemphasized, as a lot has been achieved within the purview of her multilateral trade and other salient areas, respectively.
After over two decades of cordial relation, Asia’s largest economy has continued to extend hands of bilateral trade with several African countries across board towards the improvement of various inputs in the areas of Agriculture, infrastructure development, health care, with policies such as; the Belt and Road Initiative which was set up by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations across the world, amongst other monumental projects, under her partnership globally.
In order to further strengthen these ties with her trade partners, Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC, was instituted in the year 2000 to serve as a model for international cooperation and more association for delivering measurable, tangible and practical outcomes even with less bureaucracy and glamor, despite the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during its 20th anniversary which brought together China and African key stakeholders, Chinese Consul General in Nigeria, Chu Maoming said that, “FOCAC has traveled an extraordinary journey since inception, as he maintained that the joint efforts made by China and Africa over the past two decades of FOCAC, has grown into an important and dynamic platform for both China and Africa to carry out collective dialogues and effective mechanism for practical cooperation.
He also said the relations represent an important flag for South-South cooperation and China and Africa have all along adhered to the principle of putting people first and committed themselves to the high-level quality development of the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, with FOCAC cooperation benefiting the people of both China and Africa.
In the same vein, the 8th Ministerial Conference which was held in Dakar, Senegal, from November 29 to 30, 2021, Themed, “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa community with a Shared Future in the New Era,” was meant to consolidate on the outcomes of the immediate two summits of the heads of state and governments in Johannesburg, South Africa (2015) and Beijing, China (2018) respectively during a post COVID-19 era.
In his opening address at the Dakar summit, Beijing, President Xi Jinping who spoke via zoom, said amongst other support policies of his government, China will provide loans, to support Africa’s infrastructure development, energy, resource development, Agriculture, manufacturing and expansion of the continent’s industrial sectoranother 1bn doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, as he promised that China also explore every avenue to support Africa in her efforts to develop the African Continental Free Trade Area, ACFTA, enhance connectivity, and strengthen industrial and supply chains.
The 8th FOCAC summit in Dakar remains one of the only International summits to be held, even as the world still grapples with the ugly effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Senegalese counterpart, President Macky Sall delivered keynote speeches at the opening ceremony while the Chinese leader summarized the glorious course of China-Africa exchanges and announced a series of new major measures on China’s cooperation with Africa towards charting the way forward for more future bilateral relations.
China has also promised to support African countries in making better use of resources from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund, the China-African special fund for development financing and the special loan for the development of SMEs across the board.
With the joint efforts of China and Senegal, as well as all members of the forum, FOCAC 2021 is expected to make new contributions to Africa’s “double victory” in beating the pandemic and restoring the economy, to kick-start a new great journey for the building of the China-Africa community with a shared future in a new era.
Rewind to his inaugural speech in the build up to the just concluded summit, in an online publication, President Xi noted that, “similar historical experience, common development tasks and shared strategic interests have bound us together. “
“We both view the other’s development as our opportunity, and we both seek to promote mutual development and prosperity through cooperation.”
According to President Jinping, the two previous heads of states summits, held in Johannesburg and Beijing before the 8th Ministerial conference in Dakar, Senegal, were phenomenal milestones in the history of the FOCAC collaboration.
Some of the outlined areas of major focus of this year’s summit cover 10 cooperation plans to be funded with the sum of $60 billion in support in the areas of; industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure, trade and investment, poverty reduction, public health, peace and security among others clearly and objectively aligned with the key and major requirements of Africa to accelerate growth, sustainable and inclusive development.
With emphasis on Africa’s industrialisation and agricultural modernisation during the Johannesburg Summit, President Xi said that the 10 cooperation plans assist the continent to achieve her sustainable development on its own.
Meanwhile, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, recently described the 8th summit as a new milestone in China-Africa relations, and an important moment for the world’s anti-pandemic fight and economic recovery, after a joint press conference with Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall.
Analogies show that the FOCAC has since its establishment, built for Africa, more than 10,000 km of railways, nearly 100,000 km of highways, nearly 1,000 bridges, 100 ports and more than 80 large-scale power facilities, said Wang, who added that Chinese firms have also helped countries in Africa build more than 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and more than 170 schools, and trained more than 160,000 professionals in various fields for the continent.
In addition, Chinese medical teams have so far treated 230 million patients in Africa, and a network service sponsored by China is serving nearly 700 million user terminals, saying that nowadays, the achievements of China-Africa cooperation can be witnessed across Africa and felt in local communities and families.
Initially, a U.S based International Management and Consultancy firm, McKinsey and Co, had in 2017, published a report from its survey and fieldwork of Chinese enterprises in Africa and submitted that the china generates tens of thousands of jobs and also breeds top and medium managers from among African workers, adding that China is further becoming “increasingly influential” in the African space sector, as it is revealed that China has launched six of 45 African satellites and has also provided Tracking, Telemetry and Control (TT&C) support.
The report further analyzed China’s provision of digital infrastructure, China’s security and military engagement, and China’s public diplomacy, in Africa.
Some of the achievements of the China-Africa relation include; “the construction of the first electrified railway connecting Ethiopia’s industrial heartland to the port of Djibouti, cutting travel times and costs by less than half, has been fully operational. The Mombasa-Nairobi nearly 500km standard gauge railway in Kenya, Abuja-Kaduna 167 km and its Lagos-Ibadan counterpart in Nigeria have all become fully functional, improving passenger and goods freighting more efficiently, amongst milestones across the continent.
Others are; “the establishment of special economic zones and industrial parks invested in by Chinese enterprises, as the pivotal hub for Africa’s industrialisation are springing up across Africa and equally with seaports, airports, power plants and road networks assisted by China through concessional loans and grants, putting unprecedented dynamism and energy into the sector, as Africa races to fill the historic deficits of infrastructure connectivity that have previously made the concept of pan-African unity and integration hollow rhetoric.
Evidences of the immediate can be seen in the Zambia-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone, which was the pilot phase established in Africa to conduct upstream mining of the Chambishi copper mine and downstream smelting of the output and, at the same time, introduces more Chinese enterprises that do business in construction in the local market.
There are also a host of other track records such as; the Eastern Industrial Zone in Ethiopia where textile processing, footwear manufacturing and garment processing industries concentrate, Suez Canal Economic Zone in Egypt focuses on petroleum equipment, auto parts and some high tech industries, the Mauritius-Jinfei Economic Trade and Cooperation Zone develop commerce and trade logistics, tourism and financial services; in addition to several others, including; the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Nigeria are some of the critical and high-end outcomes of China-Africa cooperation.