Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 42, November 2009
China and Africa strengthen cooperation under FOCAC

China and Africa have agreed on a new plan of action for the next three years in a bid to strengthen cooperation.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Action Plan 2010-2012, which was adopted together with the Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration, will focus on trade, agriculture, infrastructure, climate change and social welfare among other issues.

China and Africa approved the new measures at the recent fourth ministerial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Egypt in early November.

Under trade cooperation, China announced a US$10 loan to Africa and plans to support Chinese financial institutions in setting up a special loan of US$1 billion for small and medium enterprises on the continent.

"For the heavily indebted poor countries and least developed countries in Africa having diplomatic relations with China, we will cancel their debts associated with interest-free government loans due to mature by the end of 2009," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said.

He said relations between China and Africa are "transparent" and "never attached to any political strings."

China pledged to further open its market to African products and phase in zero-tariff treatment to 95 percent of the products from the least developed African countries starting with 60 percent of the products within 2010.

This development is expected to boost China-Africa trade over the next few years.

Last year, China-Africa trade exceeded the US$100 billion target set for 2010. At least US$56 billion of the total volume accounted for imports from Africa, up by 54 percent over the previous year.

By mid 2009, more than 1,600 Chinese enterprises had also started business in Africa with a direct investment stock of US$7.8 billion.

China made a commitment to build 100 clean energy power stations in Africa to increase the uptake of solar power, bio-gas and small hydro-power, and construct about 2, 200 km of road and 3, 300 km of railway.

Chinese companies are already involved in various infrastructure developments in Africa.

With regard to climate change, FOCAC pledged to establish a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change.

"We will hold senior officials' consultations with African countries from time to time, and enhance cooperation on satellite weather monitoring, development and utilization of new energy sources, prevention and control of desertification and urban environmental protection," the Sharm el-Sheikh Action Plan said.

Climate change including global warming has caused various effects on the environment with average temperatures in the SADC region, for example, having risen by 0.5oC over the last century, and the 1990s deemed the warmest and driest ever, according to the recent Southern African Environment Outlook released by SADC and SARDC.

On agriculture, China said it will increase the number of agricultural technology demonstration centres to 20.

The Asian nation will send 50 agricultural technology teams to Africa and train 2,000 agricultural technology personnel in order to help strengthen Africa’s ability to ensure food security.

China made an undertaking to build 50 China-Africa friendship schools and train 1,500 school principals and teachers for African countries.

By 2012, the number of Chinese government scholarships to Africa will increase to 5,500 while training of teachers will be about 20 000.

China and Africa aim to launch a joint science and technology partnership, under which the two will exchange information on how to improve their ICT.

Under healthcare, "we will deepen cooperation in medical care and health. We will provide medical equipments and anti-malaria materials worth 500 million yuan to the 30 hospitals and 30 malaria prevention and treatment centers built by China and train 3,000 doctors and nurses for Africa."

The Chinese Premier said the new measures will deepen relations between China and Africa, and consolidate gain made over the past years.

"Whatever change may take place in the world, our policy of supporting Africa's economic and social development will not change," Wen said.

A number of African Heads of State including Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Paul Kagame of Rwanda attended the fourth ministerial meeting of FOCAC.

Mugabe attended the summit in his capacity as COMESA chairperson while Kagame is chair of the East African Community.

FOCAC also reviewed the implementation of various agreements signed since 2006 and expressed satisfaction that most projects have been implemented on time while a few others will "be complete by year end."

At the last FOCAC Summit in 2006, China and Africa adopted a number of resolutions to promote cooperation between the two.

The fifth ministerial conference of the FOCAC will be held in China in 2012, according to the action plan.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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