EDITORIAL COMMENT: Sino-Africa relations to scale new heights after FOCAC

The Chronicle

RELATIONS between China and Africa are set to go a notch higher following the $60 billion pledge in financing by the Asian economic giant for Africa at the ongoing 2018 Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC). The money is expected to fully foster the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and co-operative partnership, bringing the total amount pledged to the continent by China to $120 billion since 2015.

The implementation spans from 2019-2021 in areas of Industrial Promotion, Infrastructure Connectivity, Trade Facilitation, Green development, Capacity Building, Health-Care, People to People exchanges as well as Peace and Security. Zimbabwe will be among countries set to benefit from the fund and this will come in handy as the country is embarking on major infrastructural development projects to modernise its key economic enablers such as roads, rail and power utilities.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is attending the summit and is expected to meet his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping in Beijing today, where the two leaders are set to discuss bilateral and other issues around economic co-operation between the two countries.

China’s meteoric rise to be the world’s second largest economy has rubbed Western countries the wrong way and its forays into Africa have been interpreted by the United States, most of North America and Europe as a quest for cheap raw materials to feed its rapidly growing economy. Thus each time a gathering of African leaders and their Chinese counterparts takes place under the aegis of FOCAC, there are murmurs of discontent from Western capitals with focus being that China is sinking Africa deep into debt with its loans.

However, contrary to this assertion, China’s assistance to Africa is actually yielding tangible results and instead of trapping African economies in debt, China-Africa co-operation under the framework of China’s Belt and Road Initiative is intended to target the continent’s major development bottlenecks so as to realise tangible benefits for both peoples.

Records show that Beijing’s assistance programmes have been so successful because they directly address the needs of Africans. On a continent where more than 600 million people still have no access to electricity, 40 percent of the Chinese loans go for power generation and transmission. Another 30 percent seek to modernise Africa’s transport infrastructure.

China’s support for Africa seeks to realise benefits to the continent that can be both seen and felt and to promote the building of a Sino-African community with a shared future. A report released by McKinsey & Company in June last year, concluded that no other country has such a depth and breadth of engagement with Africa as China, which had “catapulted from being a small investor in Africa in 2000 to being its biggest economic partner”.

To date, China’s $115 billion of credit to Africa between 2000 and 2016 makes up less than two percent of Africa’s $6 trillion debt stock — mostly to Western multi-lateral institutions. It is rather ironic that Western countries are cautioning Africa against Chinese “neo-colonialism” when their own colonial past impoverished the continent by literally sucking it dry of its natural resources.

Delivering a keynote speech at the official opening of FOCAC on Monday, President Xi declared that the Forum is premised on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states and a realisation of the importance of multilateralism. “No-one who keeps to himself in isolation will have a place in the future,” President Xi said, noting that the world was being confronted by the challenge of power politics, protectionism and unilateralism.

“China and Africa helped each other over the years, marching on this path, China followed principles of sincerity, greater good, we walked together in sincerity, friendship and equality.

“The country follows a ‘five-no’ approach in its relations with Africa: no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of China’s will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing co-operation with Africa,” President Xi said.

Given such a scenario, it is not surprising that most of Africa is gravitating towards Beijing. Major infrastructure projects have been successfully completed in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, the DRC, Zambia and Zimbabwe with more in the pipeline. These have been done without stringent loan conditions and at concessionary rates.

The success of the Sino-Africa partnership is down to Beijing respecting the fundamental right of Africa to determine its future and the results are there for all to see. Africa has maintained its growth momentum every year since China started to invest in the continent in a big way. The success of the FOCAC summit shows that both sides want to maintain that momentum in pursuit of common prosperity.