China-Africa Relations – Celebrating 1st FOCAC Anniversary
23 November 2007
Posted to the web 23 November 2007
By Stanley Nkwocha
The impact of trade and bilateral relation between countries and across continents has no doubt impacted positively as countries have benefited immensely from the various relationship that have been established and existed between partner countries.
Developing countries in Africa have no doubt benefited through this scheme as through it, technical, infrastructural, educational, agricultural, economic, health and various strides of development has been recorded.
The Chinese government under the prime ministership of Wen Jiabao has actually been at the fore-front of establishing bilateral trade between it and other countries/continents of the world. Needless to say that the revolution of the Chinese economy, which has made it the 2nd largest economy of the world, has positioned it to be the bride being wooed by many suitors.
On June 21, 2007, China and Africa initiated the Forum of China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), to, in light of the aspiration and needs of African countries, as well as the level of China’s economic development, promote China-Africa practical cooperation towards increasing African countries capability for self-development and achieving common development. A further aim is to deepen the traditional friendship and the advancement of the practical cooperation between China and Africa.
Against this background, at the June 21 summit of FOCAC in Beijing, eight policy measures were adopted. These include sincere friendship and consultation on an equal footing, aimed at cementing sincere friendship through many channels. To realize this, the Chinese government sent out five missions to 15 African countries. So far this year, four ministerial level officials from China’s ministry of commerce have visited nine African countries to follow up on specific projects,just as 16 working groups of the ministry were sent to Africa to study relevant associated projects.
Adopted, also, was the need for careful planning and sharing of benefit. This is said to be in the respect that all countries whether big or small, rich or poor, are equal, just as the Chinese are determined that every country and widest segments of the Africa population stand to gain.
The third policy that is that of feasibility and clear focus. The China -Africa partnership is based on reality and particular condition of the countries involved. It is opined that for these measures to produce desired results in economic and social terms, they should be in line with actual needs and conditions of Africa countries and within the capacity of China.
The doubling of China’s 2006 assistance to Africa by 2009 was also amongst the policy measures reached at the Beijing summit. The assistance will mainly be used for the following:
1. Infrastructure projects and complete sets of projects
2. Provision of hospitals, stadia, schools and other social, cultural and public facilities
3. Capacity building for self-development of African countries
4. Disease prevention and treatment, as up till 2007, China has signed bilateral assistance agreements with 44 African countries.
Furthermore, $3 billion of preferential loans and $2 billion of preferential buyer’s credits to Africa in the next three years was equally provided for in the policy measures adopted.
With no specific requirements on criteria in terms of recipient countries and quotas, companies from China and relevant African countries shall first discuss and agree upon the scale of the project and investment needed and submit the project proposal to the import and export of China for evaluation. The Chinese have signed a framework agreements on preferential loans with five countries and announced the provision of $100m preferential buyer’s credit to Namibia.
Other policies include building a conference centre for the Africa Union (AU) to support African countries, canceling debt in the form of all the interest-free government loans that matured by the end of 2005 owed by the heavily indebted poor countries and increasing from 190 to over 440 the number of export items to China receiving zero-tariff treatment for the least developed countries in Africa having diplomatic ties with China. Others include the establishment of 3 to 5 trade and economic cooperation zones in Africa in the next three years, just as strengthening cooperation in fields of human resources development, agriculture, medical care, social development and education will be enhanced.
One bottleneck which has come to be identified as a major obstacle, hampering the success of bilateral relations is the poor, and in-most cases lack of follow-up actions.
In FOCAC, however, this may not be the case as both China and its counterpart African countries have braced up, putting follow-up work immediately after the Summit.
While China put forward the plan for cooperation in following up the summit and formulated the general plan with detailed schemes on delivering the eight policy measures, based on the principle of mutual benefits, win-win results, friendly consultation, and efficient and practical cooperation, the African side has seen leaders and governments put forward a number of useful suggestions on carrying out the cooperation. A number of countries have set up special-cross developmental committees or coordination mechanisms headed by their leaders. The African Diplomatic Corps in China have held a number of meetings on the implementation work.
Chinese foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, has visited seven African countries in 2007, kick-starting the implementation of the outcome of the summit. An in-depth exchange of views with African leaders on the way to advance the new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa, aimed at expanding the practical cooperation and promoting common developments also held. With the leaders reaching new and extensive consensus, more than 70 agreements on bilateral cooperation have been signed, showing the seriousness of the Chinese, aftermath of chairman Jia Qinglin and NPC chairman, Wu Bangguo visits to separate countries of Africa.
According to FOCAC Beijing Action Plan (2007-2009), the two sides will set up a mechanism of regular political dialogue between Chinese and African foreign ministers within the FOCAC framework.The two sides are busy preparing the first regular political consultation of their foreign ministers on the sidelines of this year’s UN general assembly. China and Egypt, the host countries of the next FOCAC ministerial conference, have already agreed on the preliminary proposal for the consultation.
Indeed the China-Africa partnership under FOCAC has indeed proven to be worthy of emulation and a hope-raiser for African countries-highly underdeveloped
How far-reaching these relationships would benefit the two partners as well as the cueing of other countries in this most commendable scheme is what most Africans look forward to.