Bedrock for China-africa Ties
The roadmap for 2019-2021 unveiled at the Beijing edition of the Forum on China-africa Cooperation expanded the framework established at the 2015 Johannesburg summit.
To witness the impact of China-africa friendship, visit Ethiopia, says Salamawit Kassa. See the African country’s capital, Addis Ababa, first.
“Walking around the city can be like a tour of Chinese companies,” says Kassa, a news producer with Fana Broadcasting Corporation there. “There are over 450 projects happening in every sector imaginable. We have at least 15 industrial parks.” Complementing the various construction projects is the Addis Ababa-djibouti railway, a Chinese- ebuilt 756-kilometer electric rail proj- roject connecting landlocked Ethiopia pia to Djibouti.
“Addis Ababa’s development is a window to the development taking king place everywhere in Ethiopia, and d
by extension, across Africa,” says Kassa. She considers the city’s gains among the fruits of Africa’s deepening friendship with China, which she hopes will strengthen further in the coming years.
This sentiment was at the heart of a two-day event Kassa attended along with fellow media representatives, delegates and heads of nations from countries all over the African continent. From September 3 to 4, 2018, Beijing hosted the third summit of the Forum on China-africa Cooperation (FOCAC). With the theme “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-win Cooperation,” the multilateral summit brought together China and 53 African countries plus the African Union.
The centerpiece of the FOCAC Beijing Summit was the 20192021 cooperation plan outlined by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which charted the path for China-africa cooperation over the next three years with focus on eight key areas: industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security. Among the highlights were China’s pledge of US$60 billion of financing to Africa in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies. Xi called on Chinese companies to invest heavily in Africa over the next three years—at least US$10 billion, to boost development.
The declaration that for Africa’s least-developed countries, heavily indebted and poor countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing countries that have diplomatic relations with China, debt incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans—due to mature by the end of this year—would be exempted was met with thunderous applause. The announcement followed through on the pledge made at the last FOCAC summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015, at which intergovernmental interest-free loans owed by the least-developed countries were waived.
Deborah Brautigam, director of the China Africa Research Initiative at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C., analyzed the pledge of loans and grants in a report. She noted that of the US$60 billion pledged, only US$50 billion would be provided by the Chinese government. The difference was to be made up by private Chinese companies’ investments. The government-supplied amount included US$15 billion of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, US$20 billion of credit lines, setting up a US$10 billion special fund for development financing and a US$5 billion special fund for financing imports from Africa.
The last two funds are unlikely to be loan- based, notes Brautigam, making the remaining amount of US$ 35 billion less than that pledged at the Johannesburg summit: US$40 billion.
She breaks the numbers down in her report: “The first pledge of Chinese interest-bearing loans was in 2006 (US$5 billion). In 2009, the loan pledge doubled to US$10 billion, and in 2012 it was US$20 billion. At Johannesburg in 2015, the Chinese pledged a full US$35 billion in interest-bearing loans of various kinds, and another US$5 billion in grants and interest-free loans (US$40 billion in total).”
However, the upside is that it is actually a more concessional package than what was offered in 2015. “China’s foreign aid pledge (grants, interest-free loans, and concessional loans) has jumped to US$15 billion,” Brautigam says. This means that the Chinese government’s concessional assistance of US$5 billion per year is officially the highest level ever given by China to Africa to date.
A common link across all eight key initiatives is the greater focus on building and strengthening local capacity. For instance, China has pledged to “share more of its development practices with Africa” and provide training to young Africans along with scholarships and exchange programs. Ten Luban workshops will be set up, and China will also help open a China-africa cooperation center to “promote youth innovation and entrepreneurship.” Particularly significant in this regard is the pledge to increase imports, particularly non-resource products, from Africa.
President Xi also declared in his keynote speech at the opening of the FOCAC Beijing Summit that China follows a “five-no” approach in its relations with Africa: no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their
national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of China’s will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa.
Keeping with China’s call to build an “ecological civilization,” FOCAC 2018 Summit, like the previous summit, ensured environmental cooperation was high on the agenda. As part of a “green development initiative,” the Chinese government will be undertaking 50 projects for green development and ecological and environmental protection in Africa to expand exchange and cooperation with the continent on climate change, ocean, desertification prevention and control and wildlife protection. “China will work with Africa to pursue green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development and protect our lush mountains and lucid waters and all living beings on our planet,” said Xi. “Let us build a China-africa community with a shared future that promotes harmony between man and nature.”
As China and Africa continue working more closely together, some things should be kept in mind to ensure the relationship reaches its maximum potential, opined journalist Kometa Richard Kwang from Cameroon. “Efficient management of resources is key. Resources from China used by Africa need to be utilized well in order to improve the living conditions of the people of African countries. Infrastructure set up by Chinese companies must be properly maintained, and proper training for it should continue for the local workforce.”
Kwang has been covering FOCAC since its first summit in Beijing in 2006. “The Forum laid the foundation for development and cooperation between China and African countries,” he said. “Numerous projects were launched, especially training programs. Many young people from Cameroon and other African countries went to China through several exchange programs that emerged. The Forum has since expanded greatly in scope and scale.” ale.”
The improvement of China-afAfrica’s ties has resulted in win-win outcomes for both, said journalist t Edgar Cueva, who was covering the Forum for CGTN’S Spanish platform. “The core idea behind FOCAC is to build a mutually beneneficial relationship between China and the African countries—but it has to be balanced. Its potential is immense and its impact is not limited just to the two parties s involved but is also significant on na a global scale.”
Indian political analyst and commentator Sudheendra Kulkarni arni cautioned against global competition arising out of building a relationship with Africa, which could end up being exploitative and harmful for the continent. “Africa ca doesn’t need rivals; it needs counntries working together in harmony,” ny,” he says. “This relationship has to o be born out of a genuine desire to build a synergistic, mutually respectful bond. And China, with h FOCAC, has created a solid founndation for this.”
At the graduation ceremony of the Tianjin University of Technology and Education, African master’s degree students get their diplomas. In his speech at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-africa Cooperation, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that China would provide Africa with 50,000 government scholarships and 50,000 training opportunities for seminars and workshops, and would invite nvite 2,000 young Africans to visit China for exchanges.
2017: Startup entrepreneurs from African countries including Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa and Botswana visit the headquarters of Alibaba Group in Hangzhou and meet Jack Ma, chairman of the group. VCG
Staffers of the “film and television caravan” bid farewell to local children in Ethiopia. The “film and television caravan” was a major cultural activity promoted by Startimes, a Chinese media group, aiming to bring quality films and television programs to African viewers. courtesy of Startimes