This year of 2020 is one of special significance in the history of the world and in the history of China-Africa relations. During the year, the global outbreak of COVID-19 created enormous challenges to the process of globalization and relations between major countries.
This is also the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), and is a special year for China-Africa becoming more united and strengthening solidarity in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic.
The construction of the China-Africa Community with a Shared Future, which is greatly helpful to the fight against the pandemic, also lays a solid foundation for future FOCAC development.
Since its establishment in October 2000, FOCAC, after 20 years of substantive practice and action, has shown it is not just a talk club for Africa’s development, but an important platform and effective mechanism for collective dialogue between China and African countries, exchange of experiences in national governance, and for enhancing mutual trust and practical cooperation.
It has become the most famous brand of China’s relations with Africa and its multilateral diplomacy. Over the past 20 years, the forum, held every three years, has become an important stage and a powerful promoter for China-Africa cooperation and development, leading to rapid and all-round development of China-Africa relations.
There is no doubt that the past 20 years have been the fastest-growing period of China-Africa relations since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
The forum has effectively promoted dialogue and policy communication through ministerial meetings and the triennial summits that have been successfully convened seven times so far, not only strengthening political mutual trust and mutual support on major international issues and bilateral affairs at the political and diplomatic levels, but also achieving significant development in economic and trade cooperation.
Over the past two decades, China-Africa cooperation has scored impressive achievements. Africa has grown into China’s third largest overseas investment focus and the second largest overseas project contracting market.
In 2019, direct Chinese investment stock in Africa topped $49.1 billion, up nearly 100-fold from 2000; China’s cumulative investment in Africa has now reached $110 billion, covering almost every country, in construction, mining, manufacturing, science and technology, geological surveys, real estate, finance, wholesale and retail, and agriculture.
More than 3,700 Chinese companies have invested in Africa, providing a strong impetus for sustained economic growth across the continent. In 2019, bilateral trade between China and Africa reached $208.7 billion, an increase of 2.21% year-on-year, and 20 times greater than that in 2000.
Africa’s top four economies, South Africa, Angola, Nigeria and Egypt, have surpassed $10 billion in their import and export trade with China. The latter has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 years in a row, and has contributed more than 20% to Africa’s growth for a number of years.
Many flagship projects – the African Union (AU) Conference Center, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, and the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, to name a few – have been completed and put into use. Cooperation in other fields, from science, education, culture, health, to people-to-people exchanges, peace and security, is also making significant headway.
In recent years, with the promotion of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), the FOCAC has once again made good progress, upgrading the 6th and 7th Ministerial Forums to leaders’ summits in 2015 and 2018, and launching the “Top Ten Cooperation Plans” and the “Eight Actions” of China-Africa Cooperation with a $60 billion pledge made respectively in the two summits.
As two important engines in promoting the construction of the BRI and China-Africa production capacity cooperation, infrastructure and industrial park construction are in full swing.
To help Africa build the “three major networks” (namely railway, road and regional aviation) and help Africa realize its “dream of the century” of connecting the capitals of all African countries by rail and to vigorously promote the process of industrialization and economic integration in Africa, which is not only the responsibility of China as Africa’s sincere development partner, but also the inevitable requirement for the transformation and upgrading of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation.
As FOCAC celebrates its 20th anniversary, China and African countries have written a new chapter of friendship in unity against the COVID-19 epidemic and in the face of difficult times. China has been at the forefront of the international community in supporting African countries in their fight against the epidemic.
To date, it has delivered a large amount of medical aid to more than 50 African countries and the African Union, sent 158 medical teams to 12 African countries, and held many expert video conferences with African countries to share experiences in the fight against the epidemic.
More than 40 Chinese medical teams have also conducted nearly 400 training activities in African countries and trained more than 20,000 local personnel.
In the wake of the pandemic, China will continue to give its full support to the fight against it. China and Africa should adhere to putting people first, doing their utmost to protect human safety and health, unswervingly join hands in the fight against the epidemic, and jointly build a China and Africa community of health for all and a closer China-Africa Community of Shared Future.
We believe that in the post-epidemic era, the FOCAC will continue to strengthen China-Africa cooperation in the areas of health, economic revitalization and ensuring people’s livelihood, so that the people of China and Africa can reap more happiness and gain from China-Africa cooperation.
Next year, the FOCAC will hold its 8th session in Senegal, and we look forward to the forum’s great achievements in the next 20 years.
The author is Senior Research Fellow of Charhar Institute and Institute of West Asian & African, Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.