Growing optimism amid celebrations to mark 20 years of China-Africa cooperation

Written By: Eric Biegon

This year marks two decades since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Events to commemorate this important milestone have been held in various capitals both in China and Africa.

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In Beijing, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi led the 20th-anniversary celebrations Thursday, noting that FOCAC heralded a new era of relations between the two sides especially through strengthened solidarity and friendship.

“In this great historical journey, China and Africa have always been there for each other. We have shown the world that with hard work, countries who are still in the process of development can build a better life for their people.” The Chinese FM remarked

In a speech delivered via a video link, Wang proclaimed that China and Africa have grown into a big family where all are equal members bound by brotherly ties and who treat each other with respect, regardless of size or strength.

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“We have carried forward the profound friendship forged in our struggles for national liberation. We have firmly supported each other on issues concerning core interests and major concerns.” He said

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Under the platform, Wang lauded the relations between China and Africa saying they have helped promote multilateralism, fairness, and justice. He said this has elevated the international standing and influence of developing countries while at the same time safeguarding the overall interests of the developing world.

He narrated how over the past 20 years, China and Africa have formulated and implemented several cooperation plans, highlighting dozens of economic and trade cooperation zones and industrial parks that are up and running across Africa.

“China has built for Africa over 6,000 kilometers of railways and the same mileage of roads, nearly 20 ports and over 80 large-scale power plants, and more than 130 medical facilities, 45 stadiums and 170 or so schools. These infrastructures have made a big difference in Africa’s economic and social development.” He said

Chinese FM Wang Yi delivering a speech at an event marking the FOCAC 20th anniversary via video link in Beijing. PICTURE/COURTESY

“The African Union (AU) Conference Center, the Mombasa-Nairobi railway, and the Maputo-Katembe Bridge, key projects in Africa’s drive to achieve the “Century Dream”, have been dedicated one after another, and stand as monumental symbols of the shared development of China and Africa.” The foreign affairs minister detailed

But aside from these investments, Wang lauded FOCAC has having enhanced exchanges between the Chinese and African peoples. He said mechanisms such as the Think Tank Forum, the People’s Forum, the Press Center and the Youth Festival, are playing a greater role as bridges of existing friendship.

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Wang disclosed that, to date, China has provided some 120,000 government scholarships, and opened 61 Confucius Institutes and 44 Confucius Classrooms in 46 African countries. During this time, as many as 21,000 Chinese medical personnel have worked, or are working, in 48 African countries, providing treatment to around 220 million African people.

He further highlighted cooperation in times of health crisis such as in the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and the current coronavirus crisis. He however argued that while the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the evolution of the international order, solidarity remains key in defeating it.

“China will continue to work with Africa to fully deliver on the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit and the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, with a greater focus on public health, economic reopening, and improvement of livelihoods.” He said

At the same time, the Chinese top diplomat reaffirmed President Xi Jinping’s government commitment to making its vaccines a global public good.

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“When the development of the vaccines is completed and they are available for use, China will actively consider providing them to African countries in need to help secure an early victory against the virus.” He promised

He said China will continue to support Africa in enhancing infrastructure, advancing industrialization and building up capacity for independent development. He also made a case for the need to deepen free trade cooperation and better connect industrial and supply chains so that Africa can better access the vast China market and join the international economic circulation.

Over and above this, the minister said both sides need to embrace their responsibilities and work toward building a community with a shared future for mankind.

The next FOCAC meeting is scheduled to be held next year in Senegal and China says it hopes the meeting will create greater synergy between China’s second centenary goal and the AU’s Agenda 2063, form a new consensus on China-Africa solidarity, explore new cooperation areas, and bring new benefits to the Chinese and African peoples.

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