This photo taken on Aug 28, 2018 shows a parterre to greet the 2018 Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing, capital of China. (LUO XIAOGUANG / XINHUA)
BEIJING – As African leaders are gathering in Beijing for a summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), expectations run high for the two sides to further strengthen their friendship and enhance pragmatic cooperation to bring tangible benefits to the Chinese and African people.
The summit, scheduled for Sept 3-4, aims to build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future, further dovetail China's Belt and Road Initiative with African development, set a new path for a higher level of China-Africa cooperation, and deepen people-to-people exchanges.
The FOCAC Beijing summit will speed up the industrialization and modernization of the continent, and push China-Africa cooperation to a higher level
Wang Yi, Foreign Minister. China
"We believe that with the joint efforts of China and Africa, the Beijing summit will be a great success and establish a new historical monument of friendly cooperation between China and Africa," Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference in the lead-up to the summit.
TRADE, INVESTMENT AND BEYOND
Established 18 years ago, FOCAC has achieved fruitful results and has become a significant mark of China-Africa cooperation. China-Africa trade volume amounted to US$170 billion in 2017, up from just over US$10 billion in 2000, according to data from China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC).
"We could see a two-digit growth rate in the next five to 10 years," said Wei Jianguo, former vice commerce minister, at a recent China-Africa seminar in Renmin University of China. "Is it possible to reach US$300 billion in 2020? Some people say it's unlikely, but I believe it's totally possible."
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Wei's confidence comes from his expectation of strengthened pragmatic cooperation between the two sides. In the near future, China-funded industrial parks will cover the entire industrial system, Chinese tech companies will set up numerous development bases in Africa, dozens of jointly-built agricultural demonstration centers will bring huge, historical changes to Africa's agricultural industry, and more private companies will invest in Africa, especially in the cultural field, among others, he said.
Concrete projects are expected to come into being during the upcoming series of FOCAC events, including the High-Level Dialogue of China-Africa Leaders and Business Representatives and the 6th China-Africa Business Forum.
"The FOCAC summit has now become a regular summit between Africa and China and there are big projects coming out of this partnership within the FOCAC summit," African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Amira Elfadil said earlier, adding that the African Union Commission is going to play a big role by participating in the summit.
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"The expected outcome of the summit will translate the strong willingness of both sides to deepen pragmatic cooperation into concrete action, and make comprehensive plans for the priority areas and key directions of China-Africa cooperation in the next three years and beyond, particularly those areas related to African people's livelihoods and employment and meeting the needs of African economic transformation and upgrading," Wang said.
It will speed up the industrialization and modernization of the continent, and push China-Africa cooperation to a higher level, said the Chinese diplomat.
This Aug 28, 2018 photo shows a parterre built to greet the 2018 Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing, China. (LUO XIAOGUANG / XINHUA)
MORE ON BOARD
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, with more African countries expressing their interest in joining the grand project.
So far, nearly 10 African countries have signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with China, and a few more are in negotiations. Recently in July, during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Africa, China signed cooperation documents with Senegal and Rwanda.
The initiative has emphasized infrastructure projects such as railways, highways and airways, and brought various opportunities for the development of infrastructure in Africa over the past few years, said Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, who served as an economic advisor to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
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Cooperation under the initiative, which certainly goes beyond infrastructure, is expected to be a major topic of the upcoming FOCAC summit.
Liberian President George Weah has said his country is ready to align its "pro-poor agenda" with the China-proposed initiative. Speaking to Xinhua in his office in the capital Monrovia, the president said Liberia will seek opportunities at the summit in Beijing.
TARGETING THE YOUNG
In the latest manifestation of growing communication between the Chinese and African people, a group of 169 Kenyan students, who have received Chinese scholarships, are set to depart for different cities and universities across the Asian nation to further their studies.
Sun Baohong, Chinese ambassador to Kenya, said late August that China has become one of the most favorable destinations for Kenyan students. More than 2,400 Kenyan students are now studying in China, Sun said adding that China has provided over 67,000 training opportunities for Kenyan personnel from different sectors since the Johannesburg FOCAC Summit in 2015.
In recent years, China-Africa people-to-people exchanges have grown, but still lag behind economic and trade cooperation, said Liu Hongwu, director of the Institute of African Studies at China's Zhejiang Normal University.
The number of Chinese tourists to Africa is rapidly growing as African countries are trying to attract more visitors from China. Morocco and Tunisia have already eased visa restrictions.
"I call on African countries to make full use of the summit to strive for the well-being of the people of both China and Africa," Dhia Khaled, Tunisian ambassador to China, told Xinhua recently.
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