China is building a more comprehensive cooperation architecture with Africa on the basis of the road map drawn up at the last FOCAC conference
Following the tradition of making Africa the destination for the year's first foreign visit, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Eritrea, Kenya and Comoros in early January. The objective of his visits to the three countries was to further explore the huge potential of a more comprehensive China-Africa cooperation architecture based on the latest road map drawn up at the eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Dakar, Senegal, two months ago.
China-Africa solidarity in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic highlights China's unwavering commitment to share its vaccines as international public goods with Africa. African countries have been among the most vulnerable links in the global pandemic prevention chain, as the spread of the novel coronavirus has devastated African economies and people.
According to the World Bank, Africa's GDP growth declined by more than 3 percent in 2020 from the 2.4 percent growth of 2019, plunging into its first economic recession in the past 25 years. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa warned that economic disruption has pushed the poverty crisis off a cliff in Africa, with the total number of people facing extreme poverty in Africa likely to rise to 514 million by the end of 2021, making Africa home to nearly 74 percent of the world's population in extreme poverty.
Although there is an international consensus that an inclusive vaccination program can guarantee Africa's post-pandemic recovery, the World Health Organization noted that so far more than 85 percent of African people are yet to receive the first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.
The medical support provided by China is giving Africa a foothold to break the current vicious circle of surging infections and development distraction. Especially, the 1 billion doses of vaccines that President Xi Jinping declared during the FOCAC Dakar conference will be an effective supplement to vaccines from the WHO-led COVAX initiative, enabling African countries to achieve the goal, set by the African Union, of improving the continent's immunization rate to 60 percent by 2022. This prioritized vaccine partnership is not only the latest embodiment of China and Africa's close medical ties, but will also help narrow the gap in public medical services between Africa and the rest of the world by revitalizing African medical industries through China-backed personnel training, technological transfer and joint research.
The implementation of the outcomes of the FOCAC Dakar conference will optimize the China-Africa cooperation framework in the third decade of the 21st century. Through 21 years of joint efforts, the FOCAC has now become the most powerful engine propelling China-Africa relations and one of the most successful platforms for Africa's international cooperation, but it also has some short boards which need to be covered. In this regard, the Dakar Plan of Action (2022-24), together with nine cooperative programs declared by President Xi, drew a pragmatic blueprint to improve the Belt and Road Initiative's synergy with the AU's Agenda 2063 in both scope and structure.
While still focusing on cooperation areas with traditional advantages such as trade and infrastructure projects, increasing emphasis is also being given to new areas, such as the digital economy, climate adaption and aerospace technology. Besides, more consideration is being given to African countries' concerns on sustainability and the inclusiveness of China-Africa ties, as the principle of a more balanced interaction and diversified social participation has been strengthened. Moreover, both sides have also embraced the long-term partnership strategy in the China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035, which systematically sets out the overall direction to sustain relations in the long run.
Meanwhile, suggestions and experiences from China, such as the Initiative of Peaceful Development in the Horn of Africa put forward by Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit to Kenya, can help promote Africa's independent exploration to neutralize its development challenges and peace deficit, as well as its late development advantage to embrace a new era of industrialization 4.0.
Upholding common interests frames the macro architecture to guarantee China-Africa comprehensive strategic partnership in a world undergoing profound changes. Unreasonable international political and economic order dominated by developed countries has long been an essential factor leading to global imbalanced development. Even amid today's global challenges, developed countries are still addicted to their financial and technological hegemony, giving it new guises in the form of pandemic control and carbon emissions reduction. Although developing countries have been envisioning an end to inequality and injustice in international relations, that vision is yet to be fully crystallized into concrete actions due to their fragile solidarity caused by their diversified interests.
The fundamental political ground and cooperation methodology are further emphasized by the FOCAC Dakar Declaration and the Declaration on China-Africa Cooperation on Combating Climate Change. China and Africa have not only consolidated their consensus of mutually respecting and synchronizing each other's existing interests, but also endeavor to explore more fields where both sides' emerging interests meet.
As the world's largest cooperative grouping of developing countries, the building of China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era undoubtedly provides the world at the crossroad with a solution of cooperation and reciprocity.
The author is deputy director of the Security Studies Division at the China-Africa Institute. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.