Southern African News Features SANF 12 No 27 , July 2012
China, Africa review plans and deepen cooperation
Chinese and African ministers meet in Beijing this week to review cooperation and prepare a new development plan for the next three years. Under the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the two parties already share friendly relations that have seen trade increase tremendously over the past decade from about US$10 billion in 2000 to more than US$160 billion in 2011.
Chinese investment in Africa has also grown from US$490 million in 2003 to about US$14.7 billion in 2011, while people-to-people visits are also increasing. Speaking ahead of the 5th FOCAC summit set for 19-20 July in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry said the conference will review the implementation of follow-up activities from the 4th ministerial conference held in 2009, as well as examine and adopt the “Beijing Declaration” and “The Beijing Action Plan (2013-2015)".
The Beijing declaration and the action plan will “define new cooperative programmes to be undertaken over the next three years,” to strengthen socio-economic development in China and Africa, Chinese Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hong Lei said. The ministerial meeting of FOCAC is expected to chart a new course of deeper cooperation between China and Africa, covering many of the same sectors, with a special focus on regional integration and on youth.
The FOCAC ministerial meeting is one of three high-level forums established by Chinese and African leaders at their inaugural summit in 2000. The other two meetings between the Asian nation and African countries are senior officials meetings and conferences of the Chinese FOCAC Follow-up Committee with African diplomatic missions accredited to Beijing.
At the last summit held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November 2009, China and Africa agreed on a number of resolutions, which proclaimed the establishment of a new type of strategic partnership. The leaders adopted the Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration that focused on trade, agriculture, infrastructure, climate change and social welfare, among other issues.
Under trade cooperation, China announced a US$10 billion 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. China also cancelled debts of heavily indebted poor and least developed countries in Africa. China further pledged to 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 in 2010.
These initiatives were taken to increase China-Africa trade, and have yielded positive results as trade volumes between the two regions continue to grow. With regard to climate change, FOCAC pledged to establish a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change, and agreed to hold regular senior officials' consultations to enhance cooperation on satellite weather monitoring, development and utilization of new energy sources, prevention and control of desertification, and urban environmental protection.
China made a commitment to build 100 clean energy power stations in Africa to increase the use of solar power, bio-gas and small hydro-power, and construct about 2,200 kilometres of road and 3,300 km of railway. On agriculture, China said it would increase the number of agricultural technology demonstration centres to 20, pledging to send 50 agricultural technology teams to Africa and train 2,000 agricultural technology personnel to help strengthen Africa’s ability to ensure food security.
China also made an undertaking to build 50 China-Africa friendship schools and train 1,500 school principals and teachers for African countries. China and Africa agreed to launch a joint science and technology partnership to exchange information on how to improve information technology. Under healthcare, the two agreed to deepen cooperation in medical care and health, by providing medical equipment and anti-malaria materials worth 500 million yuan (about US$79 million) to the 30 hospitals and 30 malaria prevention and treatment centres built by China, and train 3,000 doctors and nurses for Africa.
The new measures for the next three years are expected to accelerate socio-economic development, and consolidate gains made during the past decade. China’s leadership will change in 2013 but no changes in foreign policy are expected. “Whatever change may take place in the world, our policy of supporting Africa's economic and social development will not change,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at the 2009 conference.
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