Focac Summit game changer in Sino-Africa relations

Lovemore Chikova China-Africa Focus
The Sixth Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015 was a defining moment in cooperation between the two sides. From that summit, China and Africa have been refocusing on the important matters that now define the way forward in their mutual relations. In fact, the game has changed since that summit and China is now focusing more on investing in Africa and, especially the industrialisation of the continent.

At the Johannesburg summit, deliberate measures were put in motion to push ahead a programme that will change the status of Africa within the coming few years.

That China has an appetite to invest in Africa is not a secret. But what is important about China’s interest is that it is based on win-win cooperation, mutual interest and mutual relations.

African countries need to wake up to the reality that the capital they so much require is readily available in China. What they now need to do is come up with bankable projects that will impress financial backers from that country.

In the past, the Chinese government used to provide grants to Africa governments for carrying out projects, but this is now unsustainable, considering the huge scope of work that needs to be done.

This is where the private sector in China comes in, together with financial institutions such as the China Export and Import Bank, the China Africa Development Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

These institutions now provide the financial backing to Chinese firms that are coming to invest in Africa.

This means that African governments and their firms should be ready to enter partnerships with these Chinese firms, especially on infrastructure development. What is also needed is for the partnerships to be attractive and the projects be able to bring a return to enable the repayment of the loans from the financial institutions.

To understand how the Johannesburg Focac summit changed the game, it is prudent to briefly have a look at Chinese President Xi Jinping’s opening remarks at the meeting.

In his speech, President Xi outlined the new direction the relations between China and Africa will take from hence forth through a 10-point plan he announced.

China-Africa industrialisation plan
President Xi explained that his country will actively promote industry partnering and production capacity cooperation between China and Africa and encourage more Chinese enterprises to make business investments in Africa.

He said China will build or upgrade a number of industrial parks in cooperation with Africa, send senior government experts and advisers to Africa and set up regional vocational education centres and schools for capacity building.

Under this first point, China will also train 200 000 technical personnel and provide 40 000 training opportunities for African personnel in China.

China-Africa agricultural modernisation plan
President Xi made it clear that China will share its experience in agricultural development with Africa and transfer readily applicable technologies. His government will encourage Chinese enterprises to engage in large-scale farming, animal husbandry and grain storage and processing in Africa to create more local jobs and increase farmers’ income. China will carry out agricultural development projects in 100 African villages to raise rural living standards, send 30 teams of agricultural experts to Africa, and establish cooperation mechanisms between Chinese and African agricultural research institutes.

China-Africa infrastructure plan
Under this development plan, China will step up mutually beneficial cooperation with Africa in infrastructure planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance. President Xi said his country will support Chinese enterprises’ active participation in Africa’s infrastructural development, particularly in sectors such as railways, roads, regional aviation, ports, electricity and telecommunications, to enhance Africa’s capacity for sustainable development. There will also be support for African countries to establish five transportation universities.

China-Africa financial plan
President Xi said China will expand its RMB (Chinese currency) settlement and currency swap operations with African countries. His government will also encourage Chinese financial institutions to set up more branches in Africa, and increase investment and financing cooperation in multiple ways to provide financial support and services for Africa’s industrialisation and modernisation drive.

China-Africa green development plan
President Xi said under this plan, China will support Africa in bolstering its capacity for green, low-carbon and sustainable development and support the continent in launching 100 projects to develop clean energy, protect wildlife, promote environment-friendly agriculture and build smart cities.

China-Africa cooperation will never be pursued at the expense of Africa’s eco-system and long-term interests, he said.

China-Africa trade and investment facilitation plan
China will carry out 50 aid-for-trade programmes to improve Africa’s capacity, both “software” and “hardware”, for conducting internal and external trade and investment, announced President Xi.

China is also ready to negotiate with countries and regional organisations in Africa for comprehensive free trade agreements covering trade in goods and services and investment cooperation.

President Xi said his country will increase import of African products and support African countries in enhancing law enforcement capacity in areas such as customs, quality inspection and taxation.

There will be engagement in cooperation with Africa in standardisation, certification and accreditation and e-commerce.

China-Africa poverty reduction plan
While intensifying its own poverty reduction efforts, China will increase its aid to Africa, announced President Xi. He China will carry out in Africa 200 “Happy Life” projects and poverty reduction programmes focusing on women and children. The Asian country will cancel outstanding debts in the form of bilateral governmental zero-interest loans borrowed by the relevant least developed African countries.

China-Africa public health plan
Under this plan, China will help Africa strengthen its public health prevention and control system, as well as its capacity building by participating in the building of the African Centre for Disease Control. There will be support for pacesetting cooperation between 20 Chinese hospitals and 20 African hospitals, and upgrade hospital departments.

China will also continue to send medical teams to Africa and provide medical assistance such as the “Brightness Action” programme for cataract patients and maternal and child care.

President Xi promised to provide more anti-malaria compound artemisinin to Africa, and encourage and support local drug production by Chinese enterprises in Africa to increase Africans’ access to medicine.

China-Africa cultural and people-to-people plan
This important plan in relations between the two sides will see China building five cultural centres in Africa and provide satellite TV reception to 10 000 African villages. The Asian country will provide to Africa 2 000 educational opportunities with diplomas or degrees and 30 000 government scholarships.

Every year, China will sponsor visits by 200 African scholars and study trips by 500 young Africans to China, and train 1 000 media professionals from Africa. There will be support for the opening of more direct flights between China and Africa to boost tourism cooperation.

China-Africa peace and security plan
There will be hardily any development without and security and China realises this reality.

Under this cooperation plan, China will provide $60 million of grant to support the building and operation of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for the Immediate Response to Crisis.

China will continue to participate in United Nations peacekeeping missions in Africa and support African countries’ capacity building in areas such as defence, counter-terrorism, riot prevention, customs and immigration control.

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