Women get water from a borehole built with aid from China in Agyakwa Village, Eastern Region, Ghana, on June 18. The Chinese Government plans to build 1,000 boreholes for hundreds of rural communities in Ghana (XINHUA)
The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which attracted leaders from more than 50 African countries, witnessed commitment from both sides to forge a stronger China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership. In addition, bilateral relations between China and individual African countries also gained momentum for further advancement by dint of the multilateral platform. Before and after the summit, at the invitation of Chinese leaders, heads of state and government from 10 African countries including Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa, Botswana and Cote d'Ivoire paid visits to China, with fruitful bilateral cooperation deals signed.
He Wenping, a researcher at the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that since the establishment of the FOCAC mechanism, both multilateral and bilateral cooperation between China and African countries have realized leapfrog development. Under the cooperation framework of the FOCAC in recent years, cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, construction assistance, people-to-people exchanges and finance between the two sides have all seen rapid expansion.
According to the scholar, not only has China been Africa's largest trading partner for eight consecutive years, Africa has also become China's third largest overseas investment market and the second largest overseas engineering contract market. By the end of 2017, China's investment stock in Africa had exceeded $100 billion, while more than 3,500 Chinese companies were operating on the continent.
A 2017 field study by McKinsey & Co. found that in some 1,000 Chinese companies operating in eight African countries, 89 percent of the employees were local. Two thirds of these companies provide on-the-job training for local employees and about half of them have set up apprentice workshops or schools. Leading global accounting firm Ernst & Young said in a report last year that Chinese investment in Africa created more than three times the number of local jobs than that of the United States in 2016 alone. Since the introduction of the 10 major cooperation programs at the 2015 FOCAC Johannesburg Summit, Chinese companies have created about 900,000 jobs in Africa and provided technical or vocational training for over 200,000 African people.
What's more, despite increasing global economic instability and rising protectionism, China-Africa cooperation has been pioneering and innovative. In 2017, the total import and export trade between China and Africa reached $170 billion, up 14.1 percent year on year.
Chinese President Xi Jinping highlighted that African countries are China's true friends and called on both sides to firmly support each other on issues concerning their core interests and major concerns. The defining features of China-Africa relations—sincerity, friendship, mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and common development—remain unchanged in the new era.
Ethiopia is often mentioned as "the China of Africa" and the Ethiopian Government sees China as a model for development. By pursuing a development path similar to China in recent decades, the country has averaged about 10 percent growth over the past 10 years.
During his visit to China, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali hailed China as a reliable friend in the course of Ethiopia's development, and said China's invaluable assistance has always been crucial to Ethiopia's economic restructure and achievements. Abiy also said Ethiopia hopes to actively participate in the building of the Belt and Road Initiative, broaden bilateral exchanges and cooperation and strengthen coordination in international affairs with China.
Abiy also praised the role Chinese enterprises have played in the economic and social development of his country, and declared that Ethiopia is willing to strengthen human resources, energy and infrastructure cooperation with China, improve the business environment and welcome Chinese companies to invest in Ethiopia.
Botswanan President Mokgweetsi Masisi's visit to China marked a historic milestone in the development of China-Botswana relations. In an interview with Chinese media, Zhao Yanbo, Chinese Ambassador to Botswana, noted that China has funded over 40 Botswanan projects ranging from refurbishing railways, constructing housing and building primary schools. Moreover, Chinese medical teams have treated more than 2 million people in Botswana since 1981. China now is the second largest consumer of Botswana diamonds, and it is also one of the country's largest project contractor and major trading partner.
During his visit to Beijing, Masisi said China is an important force in the international community and a key partner of developing countries and he agreed to raise the bilateral ties to a new high together with Chinese leaders.
In the meeting with Cote d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara in Beijing, Xi said China and Cote d'Ivoire should take promoting the Belt and Road Initiative as an opportunity to seek greater synergy between development strategies and promoting high-quality and sustainable development of the two countries. The leader of Cote d'Ivoire expressed his admiration of China's reform and opening-up achievements as well as his solid support for the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Xi five years ago, adding that Cote d'Ivoire will press ahead with the West African Economic and Monetary Union's cooperation with China within the framework of the initiative.
China and Burkina Faso resumed their diplomatic ties three months ago. When meeting with Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, Xi hailed that bilateral relations have made encouraging progress and are off to a good start. Kaboré thanked China's great concern for African people's needs and support for Africa's development, and noted that Burkina Faso independently made its decision to restore diplomatic relations with China and return to the family of Africa-China cooperation, which fully conforms to the direction of the country's future development.
"Africa has chosen China… It is our choice and we will stick to it," Kaboré said.
The visits also witnessed the signing of numerous cooperation documents between China and African countries.
In the cooperation deals between China and South Africa, the two sides made commitments on cooperation in the fields of climate change, water resources, transportation infrastructure and refurbishments to a number of technical and vocational training colleges. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry and China's National Development and Reform Commission was reached to cooperate on international investment promotion for South Africa's special economic zones (SEZ) and industrial parks. The construction of a 4,600 MW coal-fired plant, a cement plant and other metallurgical projects within the Musina-Makhado SEZ were prioritized.
According to the new bilateral agreements signed between China and Sierra Leone, China will provide 50 million yuan ($7.35 million) worth of rice as emergency humanitarian assistance to the country. An MoU on cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and an agreement on the economic and technical cooperation with gratuitous assistance from the Chinese Government of 250 million yuan ($36.76 million) were also signed.
Eight cooperation agreements were signed between Ghana and China, defining the ambit of Chinese cooperation with Ghana in the years ahead. The agreements included a $2 billion infrastructure deal that will enable Sinohyrdo Corporation, to finance and participate in major infrastructure and road and railway construction projects in Ghana, according to a statement from the office of Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo.
China Harbor Engineering Co. also agreed to build the marine facilities for a liquefied natural gas terminal in the port of Tema while Jiangnan Shipyard will construct the floating regasification facility. The $350 million project will provide as much as 2 million tons of natural gas per year when completed, and produce about 30 percent of Ghana's total electricity generating capacity. The other accords are related to the Belt and Road Initiative, aviation, maternal health, construction projects and the supply of police vehicles.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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