Diplomats and Experts from China & African Countries gathered in Beijing to discuss the prospects of expanding China-Africa Relations in the future at the ninth meeting of the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum, which opened on Thursday.

The two-day event has gathered diplomats from the African Union and eight African Countries, as as well as representatives of academic institutions and think tanks from China and Africa.

Participants reviewed the history of cooperation between China and Africa over the last two decades, as well as future cooperation.

One of the issues discussed at the event is efforts to help African Countries resolve their debt crises. Zhou Yuyuan, one of China’s scholars participating in the forum, refuted allegations circulating over the past decade that China is trying to entrap African countries in debt commitments.

“African debt is composed of three main parts: the private, multilateral, and the bilateral,” explained Zhou, an associate research fellow at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies.

China’s portion of Africa’s total debt is less than 20 percent, Zhou noted, adding that there’s no evidence that China has been pursuing such policies in Africa.

“The trap tells that China will get or seize the assets of other countries. We didn’t find any evidence or any cases that can be classified as a debt trap,” said Zhou.

Scholars at the forum called on developed countries and multilateral institutions to work together with China to protect Africa from a debt crisis, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I mean, 20 percent compared to the other 80 percent, so that means that the bulk of the debt that Africa owes is outside of China. So it’s important for every stakeholder that’s invested in Africa to have a clearly defined and sustainable way of managing this debt,” said Cavince Adhere, a Kenyan scholar on China-Africa Relations.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Form of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), a dynamic platform and effective mechanism for the two sides to carry out collective dialogues and practical cooperation.

“Africa represents 1.2 billion mouths to feed. It’s very important in terms of trade. So, some countries or regions or blocks of countries are afraid that China might take it all. But that’s not the message China and Africa are sending to the world. We say everybody is welcome,” said Martin Mpana, head of the African Diplomatic Corps to China, as well as Cameroon’s ambassador to China.

The forum is also focused on addressing the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, poverty alleviation, the Belt & Road Initiative and Free Trade. Forum organizers said it aims to provide intellectual support to the building of a closer China-Africa Community with a Shared Future.