Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 39, November 2009
China, Africa to strengthen cooperation
by Kizito Sikuka

The forthcoming ministerial meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will review the implementation of various agreements signed since 2006 and outline a plan of action for the next three years.

The meeting set for Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on 8-9 November "will give an overall review of the implementation of various cooperative agreements since the Beijing Summit, and will chart the course for the development of China-Africa relations," the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

The statement said that a number of bilateral agreements will be signed to boost economic and trade cooperation, and new measures are expected to help Africa develop as well as to deal with the global economic crisis.

The meeting is expected to issue the Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration and also the Sharm el-Sheikh Action Plan for 2010-2012 as "a blueprint for bilateral cooperation in various areas in three years to come."

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is one of three high-level meetings established by Chinese and African leaders at their inaugural Summit in 2000.

The other two meetings to take place between the Asian nation and African countries are a senior officials meeting and a conference of the Chinese follow-up committee with the African diplomatic missions in Beijing.

At the last FOCAC Summit in 2006, attended by 48 of the 53 members of the Africa Union, China and Africa adopted a number of resolutions, which proclaimed the establishment of "a new type of strategic partnership".

The partnership is based on "political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges," and calls for the promotion of two-way trade and investment and exploration of new modes of cooperation.

Priority is placed on different areas of the economy such as agriculture, infrastructure, industry, fishing, information technology, public health and personnel training to draw on each other's strengths for the benefit of the two peoples.

On trade development, China and Africa pledged to increase volumes to about US$100 billion by 2010 with Chinese President Hu Jintao announcing a package of aid and assistance measures to Africa including US$3 billion of preferential loans in the next three years, and the exemption of debt owed by some African countries.

China made an undertaking to establish a US$5 billion fund to encourage Chinese investment in Africa.

Significant progress has been made in the past three years to meet some of the targets set at the 2006 summit.

By the first quarter of 2009, China had successfully cancelled 150 mature debts of 32 African countries.

Trade between China and Africa has also increased -- in 2008 the volume was about US$160 billion, a year-on-year increase of 45 percent, surpassing the US$100 billion target set by 2010.

Of the total volume, the imports from Africa amounted to US$56 billion, up by 54 percent over the previous year.

Chinese companies have been active in building infrastructure and providing loans and assistance to many African countries.

Exchange visits of top government officials between China and Africa have expanded to include more people-to-people visits.

The fourth meeting of the FOCAC is thus viewed with great importance to promote China-Africa relations.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his Egyptian counterpart are expected to co-chair the meeting and some African Heads of State have been invited to attend, including President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

The first FOCAC ministerial conference was held in Beijing in October 2000. This was followed by a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2003. Beijing hosted a full China-Africa Summit in 2006.

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