President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at the head of a high level Liberian delegation, participated in the Forum for China – Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on December 4-5 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Government of the Peoples Republic of China and African partners established FOCAC in October 2000 as an official forum to strengthen China-Africa development relations.
This was a logical outing of the Liberian leader’s earlier trip to China, where she renewed Liberia’s bilateral cooperation with President Xi Jinping and discussed the modalities for ongoing and potential projects, including procedures for accessing China’s Lines of Credit to finance roads and power.
It was the second time since FOCAC’s founding in 2000 that China and Africa was coming together to discuss a win-win development agenda. Leaders and representatives from China and 50 African countries and the Commission of the African Union attended the Summit.
The Chinese President pledged $60 billion in credit line to African countries for development projects. And the innovative thing about this new funding is that it would not interfere with the Brenton Woods procedures of development assistance to African countries.
This year’s FOCAC theme was “Africa-China Progressing Together; Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development.”
The Forum devised new measures to promote China’s comprehensive cooperation with Africa were announced by the Chinese leader.
In announcing the $60 billion soft loan, the Chinese President provided assurance of China’s firm support to Africa’s pursuit of independent sustainable development.
He said China would support African countries to address their regional affairs in an independent way. President Xi Jinping said the package would also include zero-interest loans as well as scholarships and training for thousands of Africans.
China is also keen to continue its long-term investment in building factories and roads. The Chinese President also promised to provide assistance to help upgrade African health care facilities, which would be very important to Liberia and its neighbors who have been hard hit by Ebola Virus Disease. The training of hundreds of journalists and provision of satellite reception in 10,000 African villages is also part of this novel package.
The main focus of the $60 billion aid fund is infrastructure construction, investment and trade facilitation as well as agriculture, green development, poverty reduction and people’s welfare to help independent development capacity, improve public governance and raise the quality of life of the African people.
This is welcome news for African development. Earlier and the current generations of African leaders have for long visualized the interconnectivity of the Continent to provide access to the comparative advantages of individual states in commodities and trade. That the current FOCAC plans are aimed at addressing inadequate infrastructure and the lack of professional and skilled human resources are indeed a welcome development, indeed.
In an upbeat mood, President Xi told the African Heads of State and representatives that the 2nd FOCAC was his seventh visit to Africa, and his second as Chinese President. He said on each trip he saw progress and change.
“The late Nelson Mandela of South Africa once said: ‘We stand at the dawn of an African century, a century where Africa will take its rightful place among the nations of the world. I couldn’t agree more with this statement and I am convinced that African countries and people are embracing a new era that is truly theirs,” the Chinese leader said to the Summit.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who served as co-host of the Summit thanked President Xi. He said there was concrete evidence that Africa-China relationship was different from others in that it was stronger than ever before in their deepening partnership. On behalf of other
African leaders, President Zuma recalled that China has been investing its finance and personnel in Africa for more than a decade. In 2009, China became Africa’s largest trading partner. The strengthened ties have led to approximately $220 billion in Chinese investment in Africa up to 2015.
South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Madam Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said of the Summit: “This Summit has exceeded our expectations. We have upgraded our partnership to a higher level. “
She further elaborated how the ten major China-Africa cooperation plans announced by President Xi Jinping will enable Africa to address the needs of its people and accelerate its development, adding that African leaders subscribed to the ten-point plan.
“In the past, the assistance we have been getting had some conditions attached to them. We welcome our partners like China who promised to respect our sovereignty and the sovereignty of the individual states they will be dealing with,” she emphasized.
African Union Commission’s Chairperson, Madam Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma praised President Xi Jinping for identifying urgent development sectors of Africa in meeting the Continent’s development Agenda 2063. “Those are areas we are going to cooperate on and take this relationship to new heights,” she said.
She also intimated that African states were ready to cooperate with China in order to promote economic growth and social transformation.
“We are going to cooperate with China in modernizing agriculture, Infrastructure, energy, training of the young people and culture,” Zuma said.
She added that the partnership with China was critical in helping African countries implement infrastructure projects. “The cooperation with China will enable us to implement the three network projects which include highways, railways and aviation,” she said.
For her part, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Liberia would benefit from increased support from China under FOCAC. She disclosed that there would be accelerated development programs in road construction, rehabilitation of airports and other key infrastructures.
Job creation has also been identified for the unemployed youth, as a result of Chinese assistance. This will help accelerate national development and economic development. The Liberian leader said the amount allotted to Africa from China has doubled from 30 million USD to USD 60 million.
Africa needs investment and trade from China. China has become Africa’s largest trade partner, and Africa is now one of China’s major import sources and fourth largest investment destination. FOCAC has devised a policy of economic and trade cooperation with Africa that serves the latter’s needs. It not only serves as a
Forum to give loans and assistance, it will help prepare skilled workers to be well trained and diligent with no conditions attached to capacity development. The partnership between Africa and China, therefore, will only yield further positive results for African development.
Long Live China-Africa relations!