Hefty aid contribution helps end talk of waning interest
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he wants to raise the China-Africa relationship to a new level. He made the comment at the conclusion of the Second Summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg.
He told heads of state and government as well as other representatives from the 50 African FOCAC member countries on Dec 5 that he wanted to forge a new “comprehensive strategic co-operative partnership” with the continent.
“China and Africa are important forces for maintaining world peace and tranquility and promoting world development and prosperity. We have the capability to play a bigger role in international affairs,” he declared.
The president’s speech coincided with the publication of two documents, the Johannesburg Declaration and the Action Plan, which were the summation of two days of discussions.
These along with the $60 billion of aid and funding pledged by Xi at the opening of the summit — a tripling of the commitment at the last FOCAC meeting in Beijing in 2012 — ended any doubts China was losing interest in its relationship with the continent.
There had been suggestions before the summit that China was now more interested in cementing ties with the developed world.
China’s direct investment in Africa in the first half of the year had also disappointed, falling 40 percent year-on-year to $1.19 billion.
Trade between China and Africa, however, was perhaps a better indicator the relationship was still in full flow, with the figure reaching $220 billion last year and heading toward $400 billion by 2020, according to official Chinese forecasts revealed at a forum in Beijing on Nov 9.
The Johannesburg Declaration placed emphasis on security, with China and Africa pledging to “continue to support each other on security matters and maintain peace and security”.
With 30 agenda items, it made clear the common desire to upgrade the relationship between China and Africa and reiterated Xi’s call for a new “strategic partnership” as well as welcoming the setting up of the new BRICS bank and demanding greater representation for both China and African in international financial institutions.
It also called for more SouthSouth co-operation and an alignment of FOCAC’s aims with those of the Africa Union’s 2063 Agenda and the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Action Plan reflected one of the big themes of the summit, that of China playing a more concerted role in the industrialization of the continent and Chinese companies setting up more manufacturing bases.
Other measures included greater Chinese investment in African agricultural modernization and infrastructure as well as initiatives in financial services, green development, trade and investment, poverty reduction, public health and peopleto-people exchanges.
Thomas Boni Yayi, president of Benin, West Africa, said the tone was set for the summit with the pledge of extra aid in the form of concessionary loans, grants and development finance. He told the media it was a bold gesture for China to make when its own economy was slowing.
“That China is mobilizing this funding to assist Africa was very encouraging. I would like to congratulate China for making the effort.”
Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, said the summit sent a very positive message.
“The meeting was very good and very positive, and the statement was very clear and categorical on the importance of our relationship.”
It was up to Africa to make the most of the Chinese offer of investment, Kenyatta said.
“Not just for Chinese investment but for all investment… What we are trying to do is develop a focus on infrastructure and education that is part and parcel of a continent preparing itself for much more inbound investment.”
Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the foreign minister of South Sudan, said it had been a successful summit but there were many pressing issues for Africa that would not be immediately resolved.
“This $60 billion of funding for development in Africa has to be welcomed, but it must also include participation of African business so it reflects a genuine win-win situation.
“The downsides for Africa remain tremendous challenges such as technology and also other issues such as conflicts.”
David Shinn, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkino Faso, and co-author with Joshua Eisenman of China and Africa, a detailed countryby-country analysis of the relationship, said the pledges on security reflected the realties of China’s engagement with the continent.
“I suspect China gave more attention to security issues at this summit because of China’s growing physical presence in Africa and larger numbers of Chinese nationals now finding themselves in harm’s way.”
For all investment, what we are trying to do is develop a focus on infrastructure and education that is part and parcel of a continent preparing itself for much more inbound investment.”
president of Kenya