Chinese ambassador to Namibia Zhang Yiming yesterday said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is ‘an important milestone’ in Africa’s quest for economic integration as it will erase trade barriers, enhance interconnection and promote industrialisation on the continent.

Speaking at the day long China-Namibia Think Tank and Media Dialogue, he said “China will work with Africa to create more synergy between China – Africa cooperation under the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and AfCFTA, offer more assistance to Africa to improve connectivity, business environment and trade quality.

Zhang noted considering the fact southern African countries are at the forefront of infrastructure networks and economic development, countries in the sub-region “enjoy unique advantages in coordinating the building of the BRI and AfCFTA.”

He said Namibia with its stable political environment, sound legal system and an abundance of resources, vast tracks of land “has the potential to become a hub of logistics and connectivity in Southern Africa”, while the relations between Namibia and China on BRI has greater prospects.

“The BRI cooperation between China and Namibia has already made huge progress and it bore some fruit considering the Walvis Bay Port Container Terminal Project “will be completed in a few days”, and China has become Namibia’s largest export trading partner since last year.

Zhang stated the Bank of Namibia (BoN) has increased its reserve of the Chinese currency, the RMB – that is becoming more globally accepted like the other major mediums of exchange while the people-to-people cultural and academic exchanges “are increasingly active.”

Though relatively unknown among some Namibians, the BRI concept initiated in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping mainly to promote trade and infrastructure development on a grand scale, BRI has become a catchword specifically in East Africa where it has achieved “fruitful results.”

BRI, according to Zhang upholds the principles of win-win cooperation respecting the developmental trajectory of many countries and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

During the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation last September, China and Namibia signed a memorandum of understanding on BRI cooperation and China through BRI and AfCFTA will offer more assistance to the continent so that Africa could improve its connectivity, the prevailing business environment and trade quality and equity, stated the Chinese ambassador.

Liu Biwei, the Vice President of the China Public Diplomacy Association said China and Africa are allies tested by adversity and that the two fought side-by-side and supported each other in the struggle against imperialism and colonialism and forged a profound friendship.

“Today, the seedlings of China-Africa friendship have gown into towering trees, bearing fruits all over Africa. China cherishes its traditional friendship with Africa. Strengthening solidarity and cooperation with African countries has always been an important cornerstone of Africa’s foreign policy,” stated the Vice President of the China Public Diplomacy Association.

Biwei said China is ready to work with Africa so that the continent can better align BRI with the eight major initiatives for China-Africa cooperation and the development strategies of Africa.

He further stated the China Public Diplomacy Association “is willing to serve as a bridge for people-to-people exchanges and make its own contribution to deepening China-Africa cooperation.”