Historic Johannesburg Summit to advance China-Africa cooperation

by Kizito Sikuka – SANF 15 no 56
A historic meeting of the world’s biggest economy — China — with the emerging continental giant of Africa in early December is expected to advance China-Africa relations to a new level.

The Second Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is scheduled for 4-5 December in Johannesburg, South Africa, and will be preceded by the 6th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC.

Running under the theme, “Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development”, announced by the host government, the Summit marks the first time that African and Chinese leaders will meet in Africa to look at ways of deepening cooperation.

This is only the second time in the 15-year history of FOCAC that the leaders are meeting together, the first being in 2006 in Beijing, China.

The co-chairs of the second FOCAC Summit, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, will deliver key addresses, as will the African Union (AU) chairperson, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

The blooming China-Africa relations have continued to change, strengthen and transform in the 21st century, since FOCAC emerged in the year 2000.

China-Africa cooperation has brightened Africa’s prospects in very many ways, through investment, trade and development that has enabled the continent to experience socio-economic growth at a faster rate than most other continents, with economic growth measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimated at 4.5 percent for 2015.

China is Africa’s largest trading partner, having developed a mutual, sound and vibrant partnership with trade volume between the two increasing exponentially over the past decade, rising from about US$10 billion in 2000 to more than US$198 billion in 2012, according to the latest white paper on China-Africa economic and trade cooperation released by the Chinese government in 2013, and projected to reach US$220 billion for 2014.

Chinese investment in Africa has grown over the past decade, with direct investment estimated at more than US$30 billion in 2014.

In the same period, China’s development has accelerated at a pace faster than most industrialized countries, overtaking the United States as the largest economy in the world in December 2014.

Africa has also put in place conditions to strengthen trade and investment, including the historic launch of the largest integrated market covering 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa.

The establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) in June 2015, comprising three regional economic communities of COMESA-EAC-SADC represents a bold move by Africa to reform internal trade, which had been structured in such a way that African countries, who possess the bulk of natural resources, trade more with the outside world than among themselves.

The TFTA is in line with Agenda 2063, a continental strategy by the AU that aims to optimize the use of Africa’s resources for the benefit of all Africans.

The AU and the Regional Economic Communities have also placed a new emphasis on industrialisation, while continuing to prioritise agriculture and trade.

At the global level, Africa and China have formed a formidable alliance that is pressing for the review of the United Nations Security Council, as well as the reform of world affairs that tend to be biased towards a few selected countries at the expense of the majority.

In this regard, the FOCAC Summit is expected to consolidate these gains and further reconstruct global affairs by exploring new models and approaches towards a more equitable and inclusive system that promotes sustainable socio-economic development.

The South African Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said, “It is envisaged that the summit will elevate the Africa-China relationship to a new level that would have a beneficial impact and give impetus to Africa’s developmental agenda.”

Nkoana-Mashabane said the summit will adopt the Johannesburg Declaration and Action Plan, which will “send a message that China-Africa cooperation will help Africa fulfil the dream of industrialization and economic integration.”

The declaration and action plan will also outline specific measures aimed at consolidating the growing mutual partnership between Africa and China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yisaid the summit is critical in deepening relations between China and Africa.

“We believe that it will become a historic summit and a milestone in the history of China-Africa solidarity and cooperation,” he said, adding that China stands ready to help Africa to speed up the process of industrialization, as well as safeguarding regional peace and stability.

The 2nd FOCAC Summit will review the implementation of various agreements signed since 2006, and outline the course of action for development of China-Africa relations over the next few years. A number of bilateral agreements are expected to be signed to deepen relations at various levels.

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.

A FOCAC ministerial meeting was held in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt in 2009, and the 5th FOCAC ministerial meeting was hosted by China in Beijing in 2012.

The FOCAC platform is based on the principles of South-South cooperation and mutual and equal benefit, with a view to addressing various areas of concern for Africa’s socio-economic development and integration.

These include deepening cooperation in the areas of infrastructure development, debt relief, industrialisation, investment promotion, market access expansion, agriculture, science and technology, health, education, and people-to-people cultural exchanges, among others.

The FOCAC platform provides an opportunity to further stimulate growth and unlock new opportunities between China and Africa on trade and other matters.

On the sidelines of the Summit, a Business Forum will be held to enable the private sector to network, deepen and expand cooperation on trade and investment, as well as an Academic Think Tank Forum, and an Equipment and Industry Exhibition.

All African Heads of State and Government, as well as heads of regional organisations and multilateral organisations are expected to attend the 2nd FOCAC Summit. sardc.net

This article from the respected regional think tank, the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) through its Institute for China-Africa Studies in Southern Africa, is part of a series exploring the dimensions of China Africa relations in advance of the FOCAC Summit to be held in Johannesburg in early December.

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