As Africa’s relations with West grow uncertain, China-Africa ties continue to strengthen
Published: Feb 19, 2024 10:38 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

It is no longer business as usual as relations between Africa and the Western world grow increasingly uneasy, uncertain and unpredictable. Africa is seeking a new world governance order and its leaders are increasingly challenging the status quo.

Africa has chosen China as the model for how relations between developing countries should be. There was palpable disquiet over how African leaders are treated in the Western world. Speaking at the 2023 IGW African Leadership Ceremony, Kenyan President William Ruto said African leaders deserve the same level of respect as leaders from any other part of the world, and should not be summoned and lectured by a single leader. "We have made the decision that it is not intelligent for 54 of us to go and sit before one gentleman from another place. And sometimes we are mistreated," he said, referring to an invitation to the Italy-Africa Summit that took place at the end of January 2024. He eventually attended the summit.

During the summit, Moussa Faki, who is the current Chair of the African Union Commission, gave a hard-hitting speech stating that while the continent welcomes opportunities to strengthen relations, there is a need for a paradigm shift to facilitate a new model of partnership as "Africa does not extend its hands to partners as a beggar," and that "we cannot be satisfied by mere promises that cannot be met."

This tone and the level of critical remarks will never be leveled against China as African countries recognize China's sincere engagement with this continent. Not just today when China has become a powerful global player but also in the past when the country was struggling with many of the challenges facing the African continent today. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that the just, equal and equitable world that Africa seeks can only be found in a partnership of equals. As many others simply offer empty words, China is not only prepared to be front and center in facilitating the transition into a more desirable world order, it has demonstrated that developed countries can offer a hand of friendship and long-term mutually beneficial partnerships to struggling nations. 

In the end, only a handful of African presidents attended the Italy-Africa Summit. Others chose instead to send their representatives. There is a growing resentment with regards to how the West has continued to interact with those poor, vulnerable developing countries, which has had serious consequences. 

Security is on high alert around Western embassies as demonstrators violently attacked vehicles of their diplomats accredited in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Protesters held demonstrations outside the embassies of the US and France, which they accuse of meddling in the political affairs of their country.

The West has often issued unilateral financial sanctions while their multilateral institutions dictate economic policies with disastrous outcomes. The West is infamous for blatantly abusing international payments mechanisms, further raising concerns over their commitment to meet Africa's climate change financing needs.

As the continent goes back to the drawing board to determine how to move forward with the West, the number of African countries keen on joining hands with China and deepening relations has only grown. A majority of the countries that have joined the China-proposed remarkable and transformative Belt and Road Initiative are in sub-Saharan Africa.
When the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - met for its annual leaders' summit in South Africa in August 2023, many of the leaders invited were from Africa. One of the main agendas was to admit six new member countries including two African countries - Ethiopia and Egypt.

All indications point to 2024 being the most defining year in China-Africa relations. China has an attractive model of engagement choosing to engage in dialogue and build consensus and, not to interfere with the sovereignty of its partners on the continent. 

The ninth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in Beijing, China, after the eighth was held in Dakar, Senegal. Through FOCAC, Africa has significantly benefited in areas of trade, foreign direct investment and lending. 

If 2023 was a busy year between the two partners, 2024 is expected to be even busier. The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa just held the 37th African Union Summit, to which Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message saying that he stands ready to work with the leaders of African countries, with a focus on the benefits of peoples from both sides.

In 2023, there were up to 100 Africa-China activities recorded every month throughout the year. During the China-Africa Leaders' Dialogue in South Africa, three landmark initiatives were unveiled - industrialization, agricultural modernization and talent - which are likely to turn 2024 into a busy, productive year for both China and Africa. 

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