China-Africa relations continue to develop supported by investment into the continent

By Song Wei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/16 18:43:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid an official visit to Ethiopia, the African Union Headquarters, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal from January 2 to 6, which was his first diplomatic trip of 2019. As a diplomatic tradition, the Chinese foreign minister has visited Africa first each year, for the past 29 consecutive years. The continuing China-Africa cooperation is not just meant to deepen their traditional friendship, but is also needed to support the economic development in the African continent.

With the accelerating economic development, industrialization and urbanization in Africa, funds have been continually injected into various African countries. At present, China is the largest investor in the continent, with its investment covering many development areas. For this reason, during the 29th Summit of the African Union (AU) held in 2017, several senior AU officials said that the connection between AU's "2063 Agenda" and the "Belt and Road" (B&R) initiative should be strengthened. Subsequently,  37 African countries and the AU signed the B&R cooperation documents with China, which agreed to take the opportunity of B&R to deepen the cooperation and assist in supporting developmental demands of the region. In terms of policy communication, through the continuous high-level exchanges between China and Africa, China's development experience has gradually been accepted and adopted by many African countries.

According to a recent report released by African polling organization Afrobarometer, nearly two-thirds of the respondents surveyed thought China's influence in Africa is quite or very positive. With regards to infrastructure connectivity, in 2017, the Mombasa-Nairobi railway and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway commenced operations, which effectively promoted the integration process in East Africa. In addition, China is steadily pushing forward with the power connectivity project in East Africa, the power transmission channel project in Central Africa and the cross-border hydropower project in West Africa.

Meanwhile, thanks to the mutually agreeable bilateral trading relationships, China-Africa trade experienced rapid growth, jumping from $10.8 billion in 2001 to $169.75 billion in 2017. The bilateral trade even reached $222 billion in 2014. 

Moreover, China has also offered substantial assistance and investment to Africa. According to EY's Attractiveness Program Africa report in 2017, since 2005, China has invested in 293 foreign direct investment projects in Africa, totaling $66.4 billion and creating more than 130,000 jobs.

The China-Africa development cooperation has won wide recognition among African countries. Due to the different national conditions and demands in different African countries, China always combines the needs of the various countries with its capabilities to design a differentiated development cooperation program so as to allocate aid, investment and trade resources in a rational and mutually agreeable manner. Such a development cooperation model with Chinese characteristics has won widespread support from the African people.

Over the past few decades, China has helped Africa build more than 10,000 kilometers of highways, more than 6,000 kilometers of railways and hundreds of airports, ports and power stations, with the construction of numerous hospitals and schools across the continent also aided by China. China has also helped train hundreds of thousands of professionals for various sectors through the human resource development projects.

In addition, the success of China-Africa development cooperation has also drawn attention of the international community to Africa. After the Cold War, the African issues were once again gradually marginalized by the West. It is the continuous expansion of China-Africa development cooperation that has attracted Western attention recently. The reason why Western countries have focused on African affairs in recent years is mainly due to their concerns about "China competition" in the African continent.

China-Africa cooperation is both a historical choice and the requirement of the times, which is not one-sided but a win-win cooperation. Not only does Africa need China, but China also needs Africa. Although the West may not be happy to see China "entering Africa," some major Western powers even see a sharp increase in Chinese activities and the rising Chinese presence of Chinese influence in Africa as a challenge to their interests. 

Nevertheless, in the face of the deliberate smearing of China-Africa cooperation, African governments and people disregard such discord and unswervingly adhere to the friendly policy toward China. This is actually the best defense and interpretation of "building a China-Africa community with a shared future."

The author is an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce.


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