Chinese FM's traditional visit to Africa opens important chapter
Published: Jan 13, 2024 01:42 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

In keeping with tradition, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has traveled to Africa to visit Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire at the invitation of these countries from January 13 to 18. The visit marks the 34th consecutive year in which a Chinese foreign minister has visited Africa as their first overseas trip at the beginning of the year.

The six-day visit is a continuation of China's ever-deepening relationship with the African continent and builds on previous landmark engagements toward a shared, prosperous future. This particular visit seeks to implement the outcomes of the China-Africa Leaders' Dialogue held in August 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

To chart a path for Africa-China practical cooperation, the Leaders' Dialogue issued a joint statement, with China releasing the Initiative on Supporting Africa's Industrialization, the Plan for China Supporting Africa's Agricultural Modernization, and the Plan for China-Africa Cooperation on Talent Development. Foreign Minister Wang was present at the Leaders' Dialogue.

China's 2024 inaugural visit to four African countries was particularly meaningful as it sets the tone for the next phase of the continent's relationship with its Eastern partner. More so, it comes ahead of the ninth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) new session to be held in Beijing later this year following the eighth session in Dakar, Senegal.

FOCAC is the epitome of an efficient and effective platform for South-South Cooperation and is a springboard for Africa and China to firmly support each other in strengthening development interests and collaboration in international affairs, as well as multilateral occasions.

Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire are all China's friendly partners in cooperation. China's foreign ministry has stressed that the visit will also "carry forward the traditional China-Africa friendship and consolidate the momentum of China-Africa solidarity and cooperation." Against this backdrop, there is no doubt that this year will open another remarkable chapter in history, between China and Africa. 

Egypt has a long history of diplomatic relations with China. In 1956, Egypt became the first Arab and African nation to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and the two have never faltered in their shared commitments since.

China and Egypt have since signed various agreements on trade, cultural cooperation as well as scientific and technological development. The two nations have opened critical economic and strategic opportunities built upon friendship and mutual trust.

Situated at the center of the North African coast, Tunisia is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In line with its aim to connect the globe, BRI countries are spread across all continents and 44 countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, making it the largest BRI block. The second-largest block of 34 BRI countries is in Europe and Central Asia.

Tunisia interacts with China and like-minded friendly nations through FOCAC, China-Arab States Cooperation Forum as well as through bilateral engagements, strengthening development and cultural cooperation. 

In 2023, China celebrated 51 years of cooperation with Togo and the Eastern nation is today's Togo's principal commercial partner and one of its principal sources of investment. As China's presence in the Arab world expands in breadth and depth, its footprint in West Africa is notable. 

From a political perspective, Cote d'Ivoire has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the government of the People's Republic of China. There have been numerous key meetings and dialogues between the two nations leading to the landmark signing of the Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership Agreement between China and Cote d'Ivoire in 2018.

Over the last decade, China has shown a commitment to boosting Africa's security and visiting North Africa against the backdrop of the Israel-Palestine conflict shows that China is particularly keen to play a role in maintaining peace, security and stability.

Over the last 10 years, China has remained Africa's largest trading partner and also the largest export destination for Africa. Across many fronts - be they economic, infrastructure, education and technology, cultural cooperation and security - it is expected that there will be spectacular milestones reached under the joint effort of a China-Africa partnership.

As the world enters another chapter of turmoil and mistrust, China has reiterated that Africa is not and should not be the backdrop for a power struggle between the West and Beijing, but that rather, Africa presents a big stage and great potential for international cooperation. 

Africa already has the largest share of country representation under the China-led BRI, which is building land and sea trade routes to continents around the world. This already sets the stage for repositioning Africa's place and role in international affairs.

China, through FOCAC and other multilateral and bilateral frameworks, is helping Africa shine on the global stage, by showing that major powers can have a partnership of equals with vulnerable, poor nations in the South.

The author is a Kenya-based journalist. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn