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A new window opens in Afro-Chinese relations

By Stephen Ndegwa
Thursday, January 14th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
2018 focac beijing summit. Photo/Courtesy

There is no doubt that China and Africa are now joined at the hip. With the curtains falling on the 31st annual New Year trip to the continent by a Chinese Foreign Minister (FM), the ground has been set for the upcoming Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (Focac) later this year in Dakar, Senegal. 

It is time for the partners to think of the next steps in the comprehensive strategic partnership as the objectives of the 2018 Focac Beijing Summit near lapsing. 

A lot of work went on within the Focac framework even during the pandemic.

Infrastructural development also received a boost through 1,100 projects of the Belt and Road Initiative implemented by 100,000 Chinese technicians and engineers. 

The cream was the heart and soul interpersonal exchanges that brought the two peoples even closer through the establishment of more Confucius Institutes, launch of the China-Africa Institute and a myriad of socio-cultural interactions. 

Building on these and more successes, Chinese FM and State Councillor Wang Yi spelt out the prospective agenda at the tail end of his tour during a joint press statement with Tanzanian counterpart Palamagamba Kabudi on January 8.

Although there are similarities with the plans of the 2018 Beijing Summit, the new approach is more specific, current and comprehensive its deliverables.

First, health will continue to be huge even after the pandemic. The magnitude of the size of this cooperation is symbolised by the joint groundbreaking of Phase  One by China and the African Union for the new headquarters of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in December last year. 

The second item on the agenda is enhancing Africa’s industrial capacity. With its advancing state of development, the continent needs partners who will teach them how to fish, rather than keep offering them donations.

China can help the agricultural based African economies build industries that add value to their produce. The same applies to countries with non-agricultural raw materials.

Thirdly, China intends to explore the vast trade opportunities that will open up in the recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

While AfCFTA offers a vast market for Chinese goods, conversely African countries with quality products can push for reciprocal access to the massive Chinese market.

In 2019, Africa and China had a population of 1.1 billion and 1.4 billion, respectively.

The fourth proposal involves cooperation in agriculture. Beyond value addition, Africa needs modernisation of its agricultural practices.

It is a pity that the continent perennially suffers food insecurity due to inefficiencies in food production, storage and transportation.

Fifth is the need to have Africa claim a fair portion of the limitless opportunities that are constantly emerging in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) revolution.

As a leading ICT innovator globally, Africa can gain massively by plugging in to these networks for development. 

The sixth proposal given by Wang involves cooperation in environmental matters.

Africa has been ravaged the most by global warming, a phenomenon that has increased the frequency of droughts and attendant consequences.

Having suffered environmental degradation in the past, China has lessons that can be replicated in rehabilitating and conserving the environment for progeny.

The seventh component was stepping up military and security cooperation. This is one of the areas that the partners have not explored fully.

China can help Africa to upgrade its military software and hardware to be at par with the rest of the world.

African countries can also benefit with modern intelligence gathering methods in order to curb the terrorism menace that has cost the continent dearly. — The writer is an international affairs columnist

Stephen Ndegwa