FOCAC Solidifies China-Africa Ties

At FOCAC, China promises 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines, other support.   

 

Alpha Daffae Senkpeni

Just a day before this year’s Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC), which is the eighth edition of the ministerial conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi predicted that the summit would set a new milestone. Mr. Wang made the assertion when he met with his Senegalese counterpart, Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall in Dakar on Sunday. 

The conference began on November 29 and ended on November 30th. Most of the gathering was held virtually due to the lingering threat of Covid-19, but the outcome now sets a “new milestone”, as predicted by Mr. Wang.

Key issues were brought to the fore: Health, poverty reduction and agriculture, trade and investment, digital innovation, and green development, among others. What seems inevitable is that Beijing is poised to further solidify its ties with African nations. 

“The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is a crucial platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation,” asserts Mr. Wang, adding that “with the joint efforts of both sides, the forum has become the standard-bearer for international development and cooperation, and a fine example of South-South cooperation.”

Since FOCAC was initiated some 20 years ago, it continues to amass progress for both Chinese and African peoples. For example, Chinese companies have built over 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 1,000 bridges, nearly 100 ports, and over 80 large-scale power facilities in Africa. 

In addition, China has assisted Africa in building over 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums, and more than 170 schools, and training over 160,000 professionals in various fields. Chinese medical teams have provided medical services to African countries.

President Xi Xinping, who addressed the conference via video link, recounted how his country and Africa have successfully worked over the past 65 years to strengthen cooperation, enjoying diplomatic ties and while forging “unbreakable fraternity in our struggle against imperialism and colonialism, and embarked on a distinct path of cooperation in our journey toward development and revitalization.”

“At the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, I proposed that we build an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future. The proposal was unanimously endorsed by African leaders,” said the Chinese president while recounting the progress of the last FOCAC Conference which was hosted in Beijing.

“Over the past three years and more, China and Africa have worked together to fully implement the eight major initiatives and other outcomes of the Beijing Summit and completed a large number of priority cooperation projects.”

In his speech, Xi then suggested four cardinal plans to further cement the FOCAC collaboration: fight Covid-19 with solidarity, deepen practical cooperation, promote green development, and uphold equity and justice. 

Disclosing the proposed China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035, he added that under the first three-year plan of Vision 2035, “China will work closely with African countries to implement several projects”. 

What are the Projects? 

With this year’s FOCAC eclipsed by the pandemic, sparking global urge to respond adequately to curbing the spread of Covid-19, China has again promised to provide another 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to African countries to help achieve the African Union’s goal of vaccinating 60 percent of the African population by 2022. At the same time, China has agreed to “undertake 10 medical and health projects for African countries and send 1,500 medical personnel and public health experts to Africa '' as a means of combating the spread of COVID-19. 

In a bid to help Africa reduce poverty, China has also promised to implement 10 agricultural-module projects to enhance existing poverty reduction strategies. This will see 500 Chinese agriculture experts work across the continent. Additionally, China will support the Alliance of Chinese Companies in Africa to ensure corporate social responsibilities fund support initiatives that will set up "100 companies in 1,000 villages” across the continent. 

In furtherance of trade and investment, Beijing has agreed to increase the scope of products that are enjoying zero-tariff treatment for least developed African countries that are having diplomatic relations with China. This move is to ensure a total of US$300 billion in imports from Africa to China in the next three years while US$10 billion trade financing will be provided to augment African export to the world’s second-largest economy. 

On the other hand, China will encourage its businesses to invest no less than US$10 billion in Africa in the next three years while “Beijing will undertake 10 industrialization and employment promotion projects across Africa and provide credit facilities of 10 billion dollars to African financial institutions, support the development of African small and medium-sized enterprises on a priority basis, and establish a China-Africa cross-border RMB center”.

China, which is a world leader in technology and digitalization, is also keen on sharing knowledge with African countries – which is clearly lagging. 

“China will undertake 10 digital economy projects for Africa, set up centers for China-Africa cooperation on satellite remote-sensing application, and support the development of China-Africa joint laboratories, partner institutes, and scientific and technological innovation cooperation bases,” a portion of a statement from Dakar reads. 

FOCAC Represents ‘Mutual Respect and Brotherhood’

The outcomes from Dakar mirror the strong ties between China and Africa. As always, Beijing has heralded its “non-interference” diplomacy – stressing that it doesn’t interfere with African countries’ domestic politics. And with China growing influence on the continent, African countries continue to explore the relationship with the world’s second-largest economy. 

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is the host of this year’s summit, before the start of the conference described Africa’s relationship with China as “fully reflects the solidarity, mutual assistance, and brotherhood”. 

“China's great success has provided reference and brought hope for African countries with similar historical experiences. China stands for fair and inclusive global governance, which fully serves the common interests of developing countries including Africa,” the Senegalese president said during a meeting with Mr. Wang. “Senegal expects China to continue to play a leading role in the international arena and help Africa achieve development and rejuvenation.”

Sall also praised the FOCAC framework, calling it a “fruitful cooperation” that is grounded in “mutual respect” for all countries. His assertion is backed by the fact that in the first 10 months of 2021, trade between China and Africa reached US$200 billion despite the Covid-19 pandemic – making China Africa's largest trade partner for 13 years in a row. 

“The daily progress of China-Africa cooperation opens up new prospects for China-Africa friendship, creates new opportunities for China-Africa development, and delivers new benefits to Chinese and African people,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang said. 

Liberia Enjoys FOCAC Support 

Liberia-China’s ties have garnered massive benefit for the West African nation with the FOCAC framework offering both tangible and intangible projects for Liberians. From the construction of the ministerial complex, the University of Liberia’s Fendell Campus, the Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Nimba County to the new annexes at the Capitol in Monrovia, China infrastructural support to Liberia is visible almost everywhere. 

The pending construction of two overpasses along Tubman Boulevard is also expected to be landmark projects evincing the impact of FOCAC, which has also ushered in the signing of a new phase of the economic and technical cooperation agreement between Liberia and China in February 2021. This means, China will provide US$23 million grant assistance to Liberia -- this is a 50% increment compared with the previous phase.

For now, it is not yet known what’s in the new FOCAC package for Liberia, but the size of the envelope is pretty massive and would offer some benefits for the West African nation as its government seeks to implement its development agenda.   

About the Author:

Alpha Daffae Senkpeni is a Liberian Journalist and former editor of FrontPage Africa. He’s a 2017 alumnus of China Africa Press Center Fellow (CAPC) at Renmin University of China. He’s a media expert on China-Africa issues. Senkpeni currently leads a network of journalists’ organizations, Local Voices Liberia. He is a third-year law student of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia.  He can be reached at daffae82@gmail.com.