As African leaders gather in Beijing for a summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), expectations are high for the two countries to strengthen their already solid friendship and further enhance pragmatic cooperation to bring tangible benefits to the Chinese and African people.
The summit, scheduled to kick off this morning, aims to build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future, further dovetail China’s Belt and Road Initiative with African development, set a new path for a higher level of China-Africa cooperation, and deepen people-to-people exchanges.
“We believe that with the joint efforts of China and Africa, the Beijing summit will be a great success and establish a new historical monument of friendly cooperation between China and Africa,” Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a press conference in the lead-up to the summit.
The summit in Beijing will be co-chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Established 18 years ago, FOCAC has achieved fruitful results and become a significant mark of China-Africa cooperation.
China-Africa trade volume amounted to US$170 billion in 2017, up from just over US$10 billion in 2000, according to data from China’s Ministry of Commerce.
“We could see a two-digit growth rate in the next five to 10 years,” said Wei Jianguo, former vice commerce minister, at a recent China-Africa seminar in Renmin University of China.
“Is it possible to reach US$300 billion in 2020? Some people say it’s unlikely, but I believe it’s totally possible.”
Wei’s confidence comes from his expectation of strengthened cooperation between the two sides.
In the near future, China-funded industrial parks will cover the entire industrial system, Chinese tech companies will set up numerous development bases in Africa, dozens of jointly-built agricultural demonstration centres will bring huge, historical changes to Africa’s agricultural industry, and more private companies will invest in Africa, especially in the cultural field, among others, he said.
Just in late August, Chinese mining firm Nonferrous China Africa launched production work for its greenfield project in the Chambishi town in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province. This was hailed by Zambian President Edgar Lungu as an example of serious investment.
Huajian, a Chinese shoemaker that produces for brands like Guess and Calvin Klein has already provided direct jobs to more than 8000 Ethiopians with its two local factories.
More concrete projects are expected to come into being during the upcoming series of FOCAC events, including the High-Level Dialogue of China-Africa Leaders and Business Representatives and the 6th China-Africa Business Forum.
“The FOCAC summit has now become a regular summit between Africa and China and there are big projects coming out of this partnership within the FOCAC summit,” African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Amira Elfadil said earlier, adding that the African Union Commission is going to play a big role by participating in the summit.
Wang said: “The expected outcome of the summit will translate the strong willingness of both sides to deepen pragmatic cooperation into concrete action, and make comprehensive plans for the priority areas and key directions of China-Africa cooperation in the next three years and beyond, particularly those areas related to African people’s livelihoods and employment and meeting the needs of African economic transformation and upgrading.”
It will speed up the industrialisation and modernisation of the continent, and push China-Africa cooperation to a higher level, said the Chinese diplomat.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, with more African countries expressing their interest in joining the grand project.
So far, nearly 10 African countries have signed belt and road cooperation agreements with China, and a few more are in negotiations. Recently in July, during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Africa, China signed cooperation documents with Senegal and Rwanda.
Proposed in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.
Cooperation under the initiative, which certainly goes beyond infrastructure, is expected to be a major topic of the FOCAC summit.
China is willing to work with Africa to dovetail its Belt and Road Initiative with the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations, as well as the development strategies of individual African countries to explore new opportunities and inject new impetus for Africa’s development.