China upgrades its relations with Africa

DECEMBER 5, 2015

China has announced that it is upgrading its relations with Africa from a strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership.

This, according to China, will allow the two sides to take advantage of opportunities in technology and the economic power shift. Africa and China will also be able to work together to address challenges like terrorism, climate change and the downturn of economic growth.

For the comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership to be successful, China proposes that certain key areas must be strengthened. These include renewed commitment to political equality and mutual trust.

“A high degree of mutual trust is the foundation of the China–Africa friendship. We should respect each other’s choices, development paths and not impose our own wills on each other,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Sandton on Friday.

To a round of applause from the 50 African Heads of State attending the summit, President Xi said Africa belongs to Africans and that “African affairs should be handled by the African people”.

Another key area in the achievement of the comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership is to remain committed to a win-win economic partnership, as well as boosting people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

“Diversity makes the world beautiful,” he said, calling for more cultural exchanges, especially among the youth.

This, President Xi said, will ensure that China-Africa relations continue for generations.

The two sides should also remain committed to mutual security. “Poverty is the root cause of chaos while peace is the guarantee of development. Development holds the key to solving problems.”

President Xi said they need to address the symptoms and root causes of challenges in a holistic way and play an active part in strengthening peace and security.

China and Africa, according to President Xi, should also further cooperate and strengthen coordination in international affairs so that the global governance systems are more just and equitable.

China and Africa have always been a community of common destiny, with the same historical experiences and the same course of struggle having made the two peoples forge a profound friendship.

“China and Africa share a common future… We have always supported each other in trying times,” President Xi said, adding that the two sides have always treated each other as equals who promote win–win progress and common development.

“China is always committed and in a position to help sustain development with technology, equipment, professionals and personnel and capital.”

This phase of the relationship, which President Xi described as a “new era”, should carry forward the traditional strengths of their relationship to make China and Africa a driving force to be reckoned with.

“By boosting solidarity and cooperation, we will be able to bring more tangible benefits for our people.”

Benefitting Africa

Speaking at the opening session, President Zuma said the China-Africa partnership can only yield further positive results for Africa's development.

“The strategic partnership and cooperation between Africa and the People's Republic of China is an important instrument towards the achievement of our development goals.”

Already the partnership is yielding economic results, President Zuma said, as benefits can be seen in that China has become Africa's largest trade partner. Africa is now one of China's major import sources and fourth largest investment destination.

He said the difficult global economic crisis affects both the trade outlook as well as investment flows of the two sides. “This period therefore calls for innovation and resilience to make our economies survive the global meltdown,” he said.

President Zuma said there was still hope for Africa, despite the global economic downturn.

This as African economies and the sub-Saharan region in particular have some of the fastest growing economies in the world. 

Another advantage, he said, was the fact that China and African countries share the advantage of having largely youthful populations which translates into immense potential, both as markets and as producers as well.

“We also have the numbers. Together we make up nearly a third of the global population. Africa has in the region of 1.1 billion people and China has 1.3 billion people.”

Africa also has unique agricultural conditions, innovative and entrepreneurial businesspeople, indigenous knowledge, a huge economic potential in the oceans, and significant quantities of mineral resources, among others. 

President Zuma said while mineral resources are a blessing, they have also made Africa vulnerable to exploitation. “It is for this reason that we want to prioritise beneficiation and value-addition. In that way, what is buried in the belly of our soil will translate into benefit for the bellies of our citizens.”

He said Africa was keen to explore cooperation with China to ensure the long term viability of African mining and extractive industries in a global market.

This is important in light of the declining demand for commodities. -