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China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals

China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-27 09:59

1. Boosting Cooperation Through FOCAC

At the initiative of both China and African countries, FOCAC was inaugurated at its first Ministerial Conference in Beijing in October 2000, with the goals of responding to the challenges emerging from economic globalization, and seeking common development. Over the past two decades, FOCAC has become an important platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for pragmatic cooperation. It has turned into a pacesetter for international cooperation with Africa in the new era.

FOCAC now has 55 members comprising China, the 53 African countries that have diplomatic relations with China, and the AU Commission. The FOCAC Ministerial Conference is held once every three years, rotating between China and African countries and co-chaired by China and an African hosting country, with the co-chairs also taking the lead in implementing conference outcomes. Based on mutual agreements, some of the ministerial conferences have been upgraded into summits. To date three summits (the Beijing Summit in November 2006, the Johannesburg Summit in December 2015, and the Beijing Summit in September 2018) and seven ministerial conferences have been convened. These have yielded rich fruits, releasing a series of important documents to guide cooperation, and promoting the implementation of a series of major measures to facilitate development in Africa and solidify China-Africa friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation.

At the end of November 2021, FOCAC will meet in African co-chair country Senegal. The meeting will evaluate the implementation of the outcomes of the 2018 Beijing Summit, and make plans for friendly cooperation in the next phase. This will be an important diplomatic event for China and Africa to discuss cooperation plans and promote common development, and will be of great importance in promoting post-pandemic economic recovery and development in Africa, China and the world at large. China will work closely with Africa to align China's Second Centenary Goal of building a great modern socialist country by the middle of the century with the AU's Agenda 2063. Together the two sides will plan and discuss the outcomes to be adopted at this FOCAC meeting regarding such key areas as health, investment and trade, industrialization, agricultural modernization, climate change responses and digital economy, and both will make every effort to produce a meeting that will build new consensus, explore new fields of cooperation, and be of benefit to both the Chinese and African peoples.

2. Promoting Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative

As part of the history of the Belt and Road, Africa is a natural partner of the initiative. In the past, the Maritime Silk Road brought Chinese tea, porcelain and development experience to Africa, promoting friendship and mutual learning, and it was thus recorded in history as a road of friendship. Since its inception, the new initiative has earned active support and participation from African countries. The cooperation between China and Africa under the initiative has a bright future.

The Belt and Road Initiative is not a "solo", but an "orchestra" in which the participation of both China and African countries is essential. In December 2015, South Africa became the first African country to sign an agreement on cooperation with China under the Belt and Road Initiative. Leaders of Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Djibouti and Mozambique participated in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2017 and 2019, contributing to the initiative's cooperative mechanism. At the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, China and Africa agreed to strengthen China-Africa cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative. To date, almost all African countries with diplomatic ties with China have already signed agreements on cooperation under the initiative. China and the AU Commission signed the Cooperation Plan on Jointly Promoting the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road between the Government of the PRC and the African Union, the first agreement of its kind signed between China and a regional organization.

In recent years, connectivity between China and Africa under the Belt and Road Initiative has also expanded at a faster pace. A number of transport infrastructure projects have been completed and opened to traffic, including the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, No. 1 National Highway of the Republic of the Congo, the Thies-Touba highway in Senegal, the Port Gentil-Omboue coastal road and the Booué Bridge in Gabon, and the first and second phases of the Nigeria Railway Modernization Project. Projects such as the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port in Djibouti and the Lome Container Terminal in Togo have been successful in increasing entrepot trade. These projects have played an important role in boosting regional connectivity and integration. To date China has signed civil aviation transport agreements with 21 African countries, bilateral airworthiness agreements with 12 African countries, and bilateral intergovernmental marine shipping agreements with eight African countries.

Currently, both China and Africa have entered a new development stage. China is promoting a new development paradigm with domestic economy and international engagement providing mutual reinforcement, and the former as the mainstay. China's development will create more opportunities for Africa's development. With the official launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Africa's economic integration is accelerating, providing more room for growth in China-Africa cooperation. The two sides will focus on boosting quality development and further align the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative with those of the AU's Agenda 2063, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development strategies of individual African countries. They will build the Belt and Road into a road to peace, prosperity, openness, green development, innovation and cultural exchanges, and create a China-Africa community of shared future in the new era.

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