THE ROAD AHEAD

FO­CAC’s Bei­jing sum­mit high­lights cru­cial role of Belt and Road in Africa’s de­vel­op­ment

China Daily European Weekly - - Front Page - By ANDREW MOODY an­drew­moody@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Africa is to be­come more closely aligned with China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive as a re­sult of one of the big­gest diplo­matic meet­ings to be held in Bei­jing this year.

The two-day sum­mit of the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co­op­er­a­tion, at­tended by heads of state and gov­ern­ment and se­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tives from African coun-

tries, con­cluded on Sept 4.

The Bei­jing Dec­la­ra­tion is­sued at the end of the third FO­CAC sum­mit high­lighted the im­por­tance of the Belt and Road in Africa’s de­vel­op­ment.

It made clear that FO­CAC was now the main plat­form for China and Africa to jointly build the Belt and Road.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, while ad­dress­ing a news con­fer­ence in the Great Hall of the Peo­ple at the end of the sum­mit, said the co­op­er­a­tive part­ner­ship be­tween China and Africa had been taken to a new his­toric level.

“We should work to­gether to make the fo­rum stronger and more prag­matic, im­ple­ment the out­comes of the Bei­jing Sum­mit ef­fi­ciently and across the board, and ben­e­fit the peo­ple of China and Africa with solid out­comes,” he said.

He also said it was im­por­tant that Africa’s voice was heard not just in its deal­ings with China, but with the rest of the world.

“Dur­ing co­op­er­a­tion with Africa, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should re­spect the sovereignty of Africa, lis­ten to Africa’s opin­ions, value Africa’s pro­pos­als and live up to their prom­ises.”

South African Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, who co-chaired the sum­mit, said he hoped the “fruit­ful re­la­tions” be­tween China and African gov­ern­ments would be ex­tended to the cit­i­zens of both sides.

It was also an­nounced at the sum­mit that Sene­gal would take over from South Africa as the co-chair of the fo­rum.

Sene­galese Pres­i­dent Macky Sall said he ex­pected China and Africa to have a broader en­gage­ment in the fu­ture, with much more pri­vate sec­tor in­volve­ment from both sides.

He also said he be­lieved Xi’s big idea of “build­ing a com­mu­nity with a shared fu­ture” was the right way for­ward for China and Africa.

“I am will­ing to con­duct my work based on the above prin­ci­ples and en­able more out­comes to be achieved from the fo­rum,” he said.

Xi, in his speech to the open­ing cer­e­mony on Sept 3, an­nounced $60 bil­lion (52 bil­lion eu­ros; £46 bil­lion) in new fund­ing to Africa.

This was the same fig­ure as what was an­nounced at the Johannesburg sum­mit in De­cem­ber 2015.

The new fund­ing will con­sist of $15 bil­lion in grants and in­ter­est-free as well as con­ces­sional loans, $20 bil­lion of credit lines, a new $10 bil­lion fa­cil­ity for de­vel­op­ment fi­nanc­ing and a $5 bil­lion fund to boost African ex­ports to China. Chi­nese com­pa­nies are also to make $10 bil­lion of in­vest­ment in Africa over the next three years.

Xi, who re­cently re­turned from his fourth visit to the con­ti­nent as pres­i­dent — he vis­ited Sene­gal, Rwanda, South Africa and Mau­ri­tius in July — and his ninth in to­tal, also said he will wipe out the debt that many African coun­tries have al­ready in­curred.

“For those of Africa’s least-de­vel­oped coun­tries, heav­ily in­debted and poor coun­tries, land­locked devel­op­ing coun­tries and small is­land devel­op­ing coun­tries that have diplo­matic re­la­tions with China, the debt they have in­curred in the form of in­ter­est­free Chi­nese gov­ern­ment loans due to ma­ture by the end of 2018 will be ex­empted,” he said.

The cen­ter­piece of Xi’s speech was the an­nounce­ment of eight ma­jor new ini­tia­tives for col­lab­o­ra­tion with African coun­tries over the next three years and be­yond.

These ini­tia­tives are in the area of in­dus­trial pro­mo­tion, in­fras­truc­ture con­nec­tiv­ity, trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion, green de­vel­op­ment, ca­pac­ity build­ing, health­care, peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes and peace and se­cu­rity.

Xi said the ini­tia­tives were de­signed to “build an even closer China-Africa com­mu­nity with a shared fu­ture in the new era”.

Xi also said China re­spected Africa and would ad­here to a “five no” ap­proach to its re­la­tions with Africa.

He said this meant China would not in­ter­fere with the de­vel­op­ment paths of African coun­tries that fit their own na­tional con­di­tions; would not med­dle in their in­ter­nal af­fairs; would not try to im­pose its will on African coun­tries; there would be no “po­lit­i­cal strings” at­tached to any Chi­nese as­sis­tance; and China would not seek any self­ish po­lit­i­cal gains from ei­ther in­vest­ment in or fi­nanc­ing co­op­er­a­tion with Africa.

“We hope this ‘five no’ ap­proach could ap­ply to other coun­tries as they deal with mat­ters re­gard­ing Africa,” Xi said. “For China, we are al­ways Africa’s good friend, good part­ner and good brother. No one could un­der­mine the great unity be­tween the Chi­nese peo­ple and the African peo­ple.”

Xi also called for greater align­ment not just with the Belt and Road, but with the African Union’s 2063 Agenda, the United Na­tions 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment and the in­di­vid­ual de­vel­op­ment strate­gies of African coun­tries.

“With these ef­forts we could ex­pand ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion, un­lock new co­op­er­a­tion po­ten­tial, con­sol­i­date our tra­di­tional ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion and fos­ter new high­lights of co­op­er­a­tion in the new econ­omy,” he said.

Xi also said that Africa was in­te­gral in build­ing “a com­mu­nity with a shared fu­ture for mankind.”

“China, the world’s largest devel­op­ing coun­try, and Africa, the con­ti­nent with the largest num­ber of devel­op­ing coun­tries, have long formed a com­mu­nity with a shared fu­ture. In­deed, we share a com­mon stake. China will work with Africa to achieve our shared goal of build­ing a closer China-Africa com­mu­nity with a shared fu­ture and turn it into a pace­set­ter for build­ing such a com­mu­nity for mankind,” he said.

Ramaphosa, the South African pres­i­dent, said in his ad­dress to the open­ing cer­e­mony that China-Africa re­la­tions were now “a dy­namic force in the in­ter­na­tional arena”. He also said the ex­is­tence of such a body as FO­CAC made non­sense of claims that China is some­how a new colo­nial power in Africa.

“In the val­ues that it pro­motes, in the man­ner that it op­er­ates, and the im­pact it has on African coun­tries, FO­CAC re­futes the view that a new colo­nial­ism is tak­ing hold in Africa, as our de­trac­tors would have us be­lieve,” he said.

“We are work­ing to build an Africa that is de­fined by good gov­er­nance, democ­racy, re­spect for hu­man rights, jus­tice and the rule of law.”

Rwanda Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame, who also ad­dressed the open­ing cer­e­mony, said China sees the im­por­tance of a stronger Africa.

“The re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and Africa is based on equal­ity, mu­tual re­spect and a com­mit­ment to shared well-be­ing,” he said.

“This was our start­ing point 18 years ago when the Fo­rum on Chi­naAfrica Co­op­er­a­tion was es­tab­lished. Since then, China’s ac­tions have demon­strated that a stronger Africa is seen as an op­por­tu­nity to in­vest in rather than as a prob­lem or a threat.”

There was much re­ac­tion at the meet­ing to China’s re­newed fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment to the con­ti­nent.

Jean Claude Nkou, a strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­viser to the pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Congo, said he wel­comed $60 bil­lion of new fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance.

“I don’t think any­body here was ex­pect­ing such an amount again for projects in Africa. We in Africa now have to come up with the projects that will match this amount of money China is pre­pared to put into them,” he said.

He said China’s ap­proach in Africa was very dif­fer­ent from that of the colo­nial pow­ers that had taken every­thing from African coun­tries but put lit­tle back.

“Peo­ple have raised con­cerns about debt, but the fi­nanc­ing that Africa has re­ceived from China over the past

20 years has been essen­tial. It has de­liv­ered con­crete things like new air­ports, roads, bridges and these kinds of things which are ben­e­fi­cial to the well-be­ing of our peo­ple.”

Xu Jinghu, spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment for African af­fairs, said at a news con­fer­ence on Sept 4 that China wanted African coun­tries to achieve de­vel­op­ment and not ac­cu­mu­late debt.

“It is the in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion that has raised the costs of fi­nanc­ing. Most of the African coun­tries (fac­ing a debt prob­lem) have been ex­port­ing raw ma­te­ri­als for which the price on the in­ter­na­tional mar­kets has been de­creas­ing. This has added to the debt prob­lem of these coun­tries. Where African coun­tries are in debt, China is not their cred­i­tor. So it is wrong to shift the blame on the Chi­nese side,” she said.

Yazini April, a re­search spe­cial­ist at the Africa In­sti­tute of South Africa, based in Pretoria, says the align­ment be­tween FO­CAC and the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive could be an im­por­tant step.

“China is known for its prac­ti­cal diplo­macy, and this could be one of the prac­ti­cal out­comes of the sum­mit,” she says.

“This would be im­por­tant for Africa. When it comes to align­ment, it re­ally needs to come to the party, and Belt and Road could of­fer this op­por­tu­nity.”

Sal­i­fou Chighet, part of the Cameroon pres­i­dent’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions team, says he was im­pressed by the em­pha­sis that Xi placed on the youth of China and Africa alike for forg­ing fu­ture links. Xi said many of the eight ini­tia­tives he out­lined were de­signed to help young peo­ple in Africa. China is to of­fer 50,000 gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ships, and 2,000 young Africans are also to be of­fered ex­change vis­its to China.

“We were im­pressed by the speech, be­cause we have the prob­lem of de­vel­op­ment of youth in Africa. We would wel­come more op­por­tu­ni­ties for the African youth to come to China and study,” he says.

Chighet adds that Xi’s em­pha­sis on peace­ful de­vel­op­ment was also key.

“With­out peace, there can be no de­vel­op­ment. Peace is im­por­tant if we are to build the dams, roads, elec­tric­ity and other in­fras­truc­ture that is essen­tial for our de­vel­op­ment.”

Bukola Ogun­sina, ed­i­tor of the Sun­day edi­tion of the Nige­rian news­pa­per Lead­er­ship, says the sum­mit has taken China’s re­la­tion­ship with Africa to a new level.

“It was well at­tended. With more funds be­ing re­leased for de­vel­op­ment, a lot more will be done,” she says.

The sum­mit also cre­ated greater aware­ness of the po­ten­tial for Africa of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, she adds. “This means that in the fu­ture, it will likely en­cour­age more coun­tries in Africa to take prac­ti­cal steps to­ward em­brac­ing it.”

She says 25 me­moran­dums of un­der­stand­ing were signed be­tween China and Nige­ria dur­ing the sum­mit, where Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari ad­dressed the busi­ness meet­ing.

“This is a plus and shows that China is presently more hands on, get­ting more in­volved and not stand­ing at the fringes,” she says.

“Nige­ria is look­ing to di­ver­sify, mod­ern­ize its agri­cul­tural sec­tor, im­prove man­u­fac­tur­ing, and as such it will wel­come part­ner­ing in more ar­eas with China.”

SONG CHEN / CHINA DAILY

HUANG JINGWEN / XIN­HUA

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping de­liv­ers the key­note speech at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the two-day sum­mit of the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co­op­er­a­tion in Bei­jing on Sept 3.

Bukola Ogun­sina, ed­i­tor of the Sun­day edi­tion of the Lead­er­ship news­pa­per in Nige­ria.

Yazini April, a re­search spe­cial­ist at the Africa In­sti­tute of South Africa, based in Pretoria.

WU ZHIYI / CHINA DAILY

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping Sept 3. and vis­it­ing lead­ers head for the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 2018 Bei­jing Sum­mit of the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co­op­er­a­tion af­ter a group photo in the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing on

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Xu Jinghu, spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment for African af­fairs.

Jean Claude Nkou, a strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tors ad­viser to the pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Congo.

Sal­i­fou Chighet, part of the Cameroon pres­i­dent’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions team.

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