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Advancing with the times and seeking common development to build a China-Africa community

Delegates enter the conference hall during the China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) meeting at the Diamniadio in Dakar, Senegal. Picture: Seyllou/AFP

Delegates enter the conference hall during the China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) meeting at the Diamniadio in Dakar, Senegal. Picture: Seyllou/AFP

Published Dec 1, 2021

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On November 29, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and other African heads of state attended the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

Four outcome documents were adopted, including the Declaration of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of Focac. Following the Focac Johannesburg Summit in 2015, the Beijing Summit in 2018 and the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against Covid-19, Focac 2021 is another major diplomatic event for Chinese and African leaders to meet and plan for the future development of China-Africa relations.

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In his keynote speech, President Xi spoke highly of the unbreakable fraternal friendship between China and Africa over the past 65 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations.

He summed up the spirit of China-Africa friendship and co-operation forged between the two sides, which features sincere friendship and equality, mutual benefit and common development, fairness and justice, and progress with the times and openness and inclusiveness.

He elaborated on the fundamental reasons for the close relationship and deep bond of friendship between China and Africa. President Xi announced a series of new major steps for co-operation with Africa, put forward four proposals for fighting Covid-19 with solidarity, deepening practical co-operation, promoting green development, and upholding equity and justice.

President Xi said China would work closely with African countries to implement nine programmes, namely the medical and health programme, the poverty reduction and agricultural development programme, the trade promotion programme, the investment promotion programme, the digital innovation programme, the green development programme, the capacity-building programme, the cultural and people-to-people exchange programme, and the peace and security programme.

These proposals have been highly appreciated and positively responded to by African leaders, charting the course for China-Africa co-operation in the new era.

President Ramaphosa spoke highly of the important role of Focac in promoting the respective development of China and Africa as well as deepening South-South co-operation.

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He emphasised that the forum has been an engine of progress, and stands as a beacon of hope in these times. Africa looks forward to deepening mutually beneficial co-operation with China under the framework of Focac to jointly overcome challenges such as the Covid-19 epidemic, poverty and inequality, and achieve common prosperity for all countries.

Since 2000, Focac has grown into an important platform for collective dialogue and an effective mechanism for practical co-operation between China and Africa, reflecting the common aspiration of the Chinese and African people for peace, development and co-operation.

Over the past 20 years, guided by the spirit of China-Africa friendship and co-operation, Focac has become an important banner for international co-operation with Africa.

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At this important moment of the global fight against Covid-19 and economic recovery, the successful opening of the new Focac session sends a positive signal to the world that China and Africa are working together to build a community with a shared future in the new era.

First, China and Africa will continue to fight as one to prevail over the pandemic. As Covid-19 continues to rage around the world and a mutated strain of Omicron is emerging, it is imperative to accelerate access to inoculation and the indigenous production of vaccines on the African continent.

President Xi said that China supports waiving intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines in an effort to truly ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa to bridge the immunisation gap.

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He announced that China will provide another one billion doses of vaccines to Africa, including 600 million doses as a donation and 400 million doses to be provided through such means as joint production by Chinese companies and the relevant African countries.

In addition, China will undertake 10 medical and health projects for African countries, and send 1 500 medical personnel and public health experts to Africa.

Second, China and Africa will deepen practical co-operation to drive economic recovery of both sides and the rest of the world. President Xi Jinping attaches great importance to the major concerns and urgent demands of the African side to expand co-operation with China and announced a series of new measures for practical co-operation in response.

For example, China will open “green lanes” for African agricultural exports to China, speed up the inspection and quarantine procedures, and further increase the scope of products enjoying zero-tariff treatment for the least developed countries (LDCs) having diplomatic relations with China, in a bid to reach US$300 billion in total imports from Africa in the next three years.

China will provide $10 billion of trade finance to support African export, and build in China a pioneering zone for in-depth China-Africa trade and economic co-operation and a China-Africa industrial park for Belt and Road co-operation.

China will encourage its businesses to invest no less than $10bn in Africa in the next three years and will establish a platform for China-Africa private investment promotion.

China will undertake 10 industrialisation and employment promotion projects for Africa, provide credit facilities of $10bn to African financial institutions, support the development of African SMEs on a priority basis, and establish a China-Africa cross-border RMB centre.

China will exempt African LDCs from debt incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due by the end of 2021. China is ready to channel to African countries $10bn from its share of the IMF’s new allocation of Special Drawing Rights. In addition, China will take more practical measures to support and help Africa in poverty reduction, digital innovation, capacity building, people-to-people exchanges, peace and security.

These measures will inject new impetus into the recovery of our respective economies, and the world economy as a whole. Third, China and Africa will accelerate green development and enhance capacity for sustainable development.

The climate crisis is profoundly affecting the entire world, exacerbating the vulnerability of developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. On supporting Africa’s green development, President Xi Jinping announced that China will undertake 10 green development, environmental protection and climate action projects for Africa, support the development of the “Great Green Wall”, and build in Africa centres of excellence on low-carbon development and climate change adaptation.

The signing of the China-Africa Declaration on Climate Change, one of the four outcome documents, demonstrates the commitment of China and Africa to pursuing green development.

China will honour its commitment not to build new coal-fired power projects abroad, and will not transfer high-polluting and high-emission enterprises to Africa.

Instead, China will vigorously support Africa's renewable energy and green and low-carbon development and safeguard the green ecology and long-term interests of the African continent.

Fourth, China and Africa will uphold true multilateralism and international fairness and justice. At present, a small handful of countries have been taking unilateral actions under the guise of multilateralism and even seeking hegemony in the name of multilateralism.

Multilateralism and multilateral mechanisms are under attack. President Xi Jinping called for true multilateralism in the world, stressing that peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom are common values of humanity and represent the abiding aspirations of both China and Africa.

We need to translate our common aspirations and interests into joint actions. President Ramaphosa and other African leaders pointed out that the Covid-19 epidemic has exacerbated the immunisation and development gap between developed and developing economies, and the problems of unfairness, injustice and inequality have become more prominent.

Therefore, it is all the more important that Africa and China should practise true multilateralism, strengthen international co-ordination, and safeguard the common interests of developing countries. China and Africa should strengthen solidarity and co-operation, reject power politics and hegemonism, uphold international fairness and justice, and inject positive energy into multilateralism.

As the former co-chair of Focac and an influential major African country, South Africa has actively participated in Focac activities and made important contributions to Focac institutional building and deepening China-Africa practical co-operation.

In recent years, under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Ramaphosa, China and South Africa have maintained close co-operation under the framework of the forum, which has brought enormous benefits to the two peoples.

As President Ramaphosa said in his speech at the Forum: “For us to fully reap its benefits, Focac must be strengthened and enhanced.” As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “A partnership forged with the right approach defies geographical distance; it is thicker than glue and stronger than metal and stone.”

China-Africa co-operation is essentially about mutual benefit and common development. The Chinese and African people are in the most suitable position to comment on how our co-operation is going.

The Chinese people will work with the people of all African countries, including South Africa, to pool the mighty strength of our 2.7 billion people.

As a team, we will stay on the right side of history and human progress. We will join hands in building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

*Chen is the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in South Africa.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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