Home OPINIONS China prioritizing Africa in high-level visits continues to strengthen ties

China prioritizing Africa in high-level visits continues to strengthen ties

Wang Yi's tour underscores China's commitment to fostering diplomatic relations, economic cooperation, and strategic partnerships with African nations.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is yet again set to embark on a major tour of Africa. The upcoming visit will be the 34th consecutive year that Africa has been the destination of Chinese foreign ministers’ first overseas appointment of the year.

The country’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday that Wang Yi, also a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee will visit Egypt, Tunisia, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire starting January 13 to 18, 2024.

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This diplomatic visit by Beijing’s top state message bearer holds significant symbolic and strategic importance in China’s foreign policy towards Africa. The visit is important because it reflects Beijing’s foreign policy approach.

In a primary sense, by prioritizing Africa in high-level diplomatic visits, China shows that it is indeed keen on deepening cooperation and strengthening relations with the continent.

It underscores China’s commitment to fostering diplomatic relations, economic cooperation, and strategic partnerships with African nations.

As a symbolic gesture, this tradition epitomises the value China places on its relations with African countries. The visit by Wang Yi also sends a message of commitment to the continent.

China has a long-standing history of engagement with African countries, dating back to the years of struggle for independence. When many African countries were fighting for liberation from colonial rule, China, under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong, expressed solidarity with African nations. China supported anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements and advocated for the rights of African nations to self-determination.

China, over the years, including now under President Xi Jinping, has always provided political support to African nations in international forums, advocating for their interests and often aligning with them on various issues. It will be remembered that at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, President Xi routinely made a case for Africa. He asked developed countries to offer much-needed help to the continent deal with the pandemic.

China has also been engaging African countries in economic cooperation. This includes infrastructure projects, technical assistance, and trade agreements. Support in areas such as agriculture, healthcare, education, and infrastructure development has been visible.

China helped establish the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), a platform for dialogue and cooperation between China and African countries. Since its formation in 2000, FOCAC has continued to facilitate discussions on economic, political, and cultural cooperation between the two sides. Under this platform, China and African countries agree on cooperation areas while reviewing the progress of the implementation of programmes agreed upon, every three years.

Besides FOCAC, China advanced the Belt and Road Initiative to fast-track development in Africa. Even though it is not exclusive to Africa, as it also involves building trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia and Europe, participating African countries are benefiting from Chinese investments in ports, roads, railways, and other infrastructure projects.

Through BRI, China has been actively involved in financing and building critical infrastructure in Africa, such as the construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway in Ethiopia, and other major infrastructure projects with Chinese involvement.

Courtesy of BRI, China is also involved in promoting the Digital Silk Road, which includes cooperation on information and communication technology (ICT) projects. This involves enhancing digital infrastructure, telecommunications, and e-commerce capabilities in African countries.

This is how many African products have found their way to the vast Chinese market to the great benefit of the people.

The impact of BRI cannot be overemphasized with China also supporting the development of industrial parks and special economic zones in several African countries. The goal of this initiative is to promote industrialization in the continent which is a key driver in the creation of job opportunities, and fostering economic growth.

There is also development assistance to the continent where China provides funds, grants, and concessional loans to African countries. These funds support projects in sectors like healthcare, education, agriculture, and infrastructure development.

Another hallmark of these relations is that Beijing constantly seeks to align its policies making them responsive to the needs of the time, as seen through the Africa 2063 agenda. As a result, China has deeply engaged in initiatives such as the China-Africa Agricultural Cooperation Program which is aimed to promote food security, improve farming techniques, and enhance agricultural productivity among African countries.

Wang Yi, who has made numerous trips to the continent during his tenure as MFA Chief, is visiting Africa at a time China is promoting three flagship initiatives, namely; the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative, which together aim to strengthen Beijing’s engagement abroad.

The Global Development Initiative (GDI), for example, sits within the United Nations and is dedicating billions of funds to helping developing countries meet the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

China has made all its platforms available. This gives African countries a chance to be part of a structured framework. It aligns with their development aspirations and needs.

China is considered a great friend of the global south. This explains the growing network of friends in developing countries. It is especially due to its stance that each country should have a place in the international system.

Wang Yi knows the continent well. If the past is any indication, the citizens of the countries he visits have every reason to be optimistic. He doesn’t travel empty-handed.

When Wang made a similar trip to Kenya in 2022, six agreements were signed. They aimed at boosting trade, deepening relations, and collaboration between our two countries. These agreements especially addressed the trade imbalance between Nairobi and Beijing.

The two countries agreed to collaborate on ICT to boost the digital economy. They will also continue cooperation through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and create a market for Kenyan agricultural products. This was the time Kenya sought to export avocado and aquatic products to China.

The agreements have since been implemented and have helped increase Kenya’s exports to China, improving the economy.

It also comes soon after China held the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs in Beijing. Chinese leaders endeavored to follow the strategic guidance of head-of-state diplomacy. They aimed to play an increasingly important and constructive role in international affairs. They also advocated the vision to build a community with a shared future for mankind, leading to common development, lasting peace and security, and mutual learning between civilizations.

Wang Yi’s arrival in the continent is yet another confirmation that China is a responsible major country with enhanced international influence. It is also evidence of their stronger capacity to steer new endeavors. Africa, considered a major partner of China, will no doubt reap great benefits.

At the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue last year, President Xi made more proposals. He proposed to support Africa’s industrialization, agricultural modernization, and talent development. Africa received his proposals well. Wang’s visit will follow-up on the Dialogue meeting. It will also preview the 2024 FOCAC meeting.

Eric Biegon is a Multimedia Journalist at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)

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