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Pledged support for continent deepens spirit of cooperation, officials say

By OTIATO OPALI in Dakar, Senegal | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-01 08:58

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi cuts the ribbon to open a new airport in the southern province of Gaza on Monday. The airport was built with help from China. NIE ZUGUO/XINHUA

Senior African officials have been encouraged by the spirit of cooperation expressed on Monday by Chinese President Xi Jinping at a high-level meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

They say the proposals announced by Xi will go a long way in advancing the common ambition to achieve shared prosperity for the well-being of the African and Chinese peoples.

Delivering a keynote speech via video link in Beijing during the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC in Dakar, Senegal, Xi announced major proposals and projects to further bilateral cooperation across a wide range of areas. China, among other initiatives, will supply a further 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa to help it battle the pandemic, act to better facilitate bilateral trade, provide agricultural assistance and aid in climate change adaptation.

Many in attendance at the meeting in the Senegalese capital praised the latest announcements from China's president, saying they reflect the progress made over the years and will help define the main orientations of China-Africa cooperation.

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said the promise by China to contribute more to Africa's fight against COVID-19, the development of skills and to promote environmentally friendly trade practices demonstrates that Sino-African relations are growing stronger.

"Some people are mistaken to think that Africa is moving away from its traditional investment partners by ramping up cooperation with China," Diop said. "However, we as Africans are able to gauge which partners suit our different needs and are free to decide who we trade with."

Increasing scope

Referring to Xi's announcement that China will further increase the scope of products enjoying zero-tariff treatment for African countries in a bid for African imports to reach $300 billion in the next three years, Diop said that Africa will go for partnerships that are tailor-made for the continent.

The entry of China on the scene has introduced a new model of win-win cooperation. Africa will still partner with other countries depending on the expertise they have to offer, but this must be guided by the spirit of mutual benefit, an element which China has mustered well, Diop said.

Nicolas Fataki Lungele, ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Senegal, said that the promise by China to increase investments by Chinese companies in Africa is a good sign for the continent's future job market and for skills acquisition.

"The advantage we get from Chinese businesses investing in Africa is the skills transfer in technological know-how to our young people thereby increasing their chances to get employment," Lungele said.

"In addition, China's promise to avail funds to African financial institutions to support the development of African small and medium-sized enterprises will help create employment at the grassroots level and eradicate poverty through empowerment," he said.

On the pandemic front, Lungele said that vaccination rates in Africa are low compared with the rest of the world, with many states at the mercy of foreign donors. China, by promising to incorporate African states in the joint production of vaccines developed by Chinese companies, will improve Africa's capacity for self-sufficiency, he said.

"As Africans, we appreciate the… leadership shown by the Chinese government in the fight against the pandemic and thank China for its support and help toward economic development and the fight against the virus," Lungele said.

Of the 1 billion new doses of COVID-19 vaccines that China will provide to Africa to help the continent reach its target of vaccinating 60 percent of its population by the end of next year, 600 million doses will be donated. The rest will be supplied as a result of joint production between Chinese vaccine producers and African countries, Xi said in his speech.

Providing vaccines

China had provided more than 1.7 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 110 countries and international organizations, including 50 African countries, as of Nov 12, according to a report released by the State Council Information Office last week.

In addition to supplying the vaccines directly, Chinese enterprises have also partnered with enterprises in other countries, such as Egypt, to produce the jabs locally. In Africa, Chinese vaccines will also be produced in Morocco and Algeria in order to reach more people.

Lungele said the spirit of cooperation was conveyed in the theme for the Dakar meeting: "Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community With a Shared Future in the New Era".

He added: "Africa is on the rise and we are glad that China is ready to stand by us as we move into a prosperous future where hopefully, we will eradicate poverty on the continent just like China did."

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