Since its establishment in 2020, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has become an important platform for collective dialogue, an effective mechanism for China-Africa practical cooperation, and a pacesetter for international cooperation with Africa in the new era.
At the 8th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC last year, President Xi Jinping put forward for the first time the “spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation”. He set forth “four-point propositions” on building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, and announced the “Nine Programs” for practical cooperation with Africa, which have set a new milestone in the history of China-Africa relations. Over the past year, the “Nine Programs” have reaped rich early harvest.
First, the medical and health program has been picking up pace.
China has provided more than 250 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa, covering almost all African countries, and launched joint production of COVID-19 vaccine in Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. China has made constant efforts to pair up Chinese and African hospitals for cooperation, and the African CDC headquarters project (Phase I) is expected to be completed in early 2023. China has been actively promoting exchanges and cooperation with Africa in traditional medicine and disease control of malaria, schistosomiasis and AIDS.
Second, the poverty reduction and agricultural development program has improved African people’s livelihood.
China has provided emergency food aid and other humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa and other African regions. China has offered locust control medicine, irrigation equipment and technical assistance to affected countries in Africa. The first four “China-Africa joint centers for modern agrotechnology exchange, demonstration and training” have been set up to train professionals for Africa in the fields of tropical crops, aquaculture, biomass energy and dry farming.
Third, the trade promotion program has made great strides forward.
From January to June this year, China-Africa trade volume registered US$137.38 billion, up by 16.6% year-on-year, of which China’s exports to and imports from Africa increased by 14.7% and 19.1% respectively. China has opened “green lanes” for faster export of African agricultural products to China. As a result, agriculture products like the Rwandan stevia, South African fresh pears and soybeans and Zimbabwean citrus have gained access to the Chinese market. China has signed exchange of letters with Togo, Eritrea, Djibouti, Guinea, Rwanda, Mozambique, Sudan, Chad and Central Africa among other LDCs on expanding the scope of zero-tariff treatment to 98% for products exported to China, which covers more than 350 kinds of African products.
Fourth, the investment promotion program is growing against the odds.
From January to June this year, China’s industry-wide direct investment in Africa amounted to US$1.74 billion, growing by 1.5% against all the odds. The turnover of Chinese enterprises’ contracted projects in Africa amounted to US$ 18.32 billion, an increase of 8.4% year-on-year. The two sides have set up a China-Africa cross-border RMB center in the pioneering zone for in-depth China-Africa trade and economic cooperation, in an effort to explore RMB settlement for China-Africa trade, logistics and industrial cooperation. China has continued to provide aid in the form of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans to help African countries achieve independent and sustainable development.
Fifth, the digital innovation program is thriving.
The first China-Africa Conference on Innovation Cooperation witnessed signing of 15 China-Africa science and technology cooperation projects. In an effort to expand Silk Road e-commerce cooperation, China and Africa have jointly made a success out of the “Quality African Products Online Shopping Festival”, where coffee from Ethiopia, chili sauce from Rwanda, black tea from Kenya and other high-quality products from a total of 23 African countries were well received among Chinese consumers.
Sixth, the green development program has been making steady progress.
China has completed the construction of hydroelectric power stations in Burundi and Zambia, photo-voltaic power stations in Central Africa, and water supply projects in Kenya and Angola. China is actively implementing the “China-Africa green innovation plan”, carrying out cooperation in capacity building to address climate change, and encouraging Chinese enterprises to build clean energy projects. China supports and constructively participates in the “Great Green Wall of Africa” initiative, and strengthens cooperation with Africa in desertification control through expert exchanges and field demonstration.
Seventh, the capacity building program has achieved great results.
China will continue to work with relevant African countries to set up more “Luban workshops” to provide vocational skills training for local youths. China helps African students who have completed study courses in China to find jobs at Chinese enterprises in Africa, and encourages Chinese enterprises in Africa to hire more local employees.
Eighth, people-to-people exchange program brings two peoples closer to each other.
The first Conference on Dialogue Between Chinese and African Civilizations and the 11th Meeting of the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum were successfully held, contributing wisdom to the building of China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. The African Film Festival project has introduced more well-made African films and TV shows to the Chinese audience. The “2022 China Culture and Tourism Month” has served as a window for African friends to learn and understand more about China. China will continue to provide training in culture, tourism and broadcasting, deepen exchanges of experience in women’s empowerment, and encourage more people to engage in China-Africa friendly cooperation.
Ninth, the peace and security program has been fruitful.
At the second China-Africa Peace and Security Forum, the two sides agreed to maintain strategic communication, strengthen cooperation in equipment and technology, expand maritime exercises and training, and enhance exchanges in professional fields for more solid and in-depth growth of peace and security cooperation between China and Africa. Chinese peacekeeping troops to Africa have performed to satisfaction, and the 25th batch of Chinese peacekeeping troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was awarded the United Nations “Peace Medal”.
As an important member of the FOCAC family, South Africa has made important contributions to building the FOCAC mechanism and deepening China-Africa practical cooperation. China-South Africa cooperation continues to make new progress, bringing tangible benefits to the people of both countries. From January to July this year, China-South Africa trade volume reached US$31.72 billion, up by 4.8% year-on-year. The two sides signed new agreements for fresh pears and other products to be exported to China, further expanding the market share of South Africa’s high-quality fresh fruits in China. The 2022 Job Fair was successfully held, where more than 100 Chinese enterprises promised to provide 20,000 direct jobs in the next three years for local residents in South Africa. A group of Chinese experts came to South Africa for the feasibility study of small harbour projects. A vocational education and training demonstration project is well underway, and the two sides are working together on a pilot village for cooperation on poverty reduction.
In order to better materialize the outcomes of the 8th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC, China and Senegal, as co-chairs of the 8th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC, are to convene a meeting of coordinators on August 18 to strengthen coordination between China and Africa. It is believed that with the joint efforts of both sides, the “Nine Programs” will bear more fruits, bring more benefits to the Chinese and African people, and further advance the development of China-Africa comprehensive strategic partnership.
By Li Zhigang, Chargé d’ Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa