China-Africa Joint Contribution of the BRI Is on the Momentum
Head of Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the African Union
15 January 2021
In December 2020, H.E. Mr. He Lifeng, Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, and H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, jointly signed the “Cooperation Plan between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the African Union on Jointly Promoting the Building of the Belt and Road Initiative.” This Cooperation Plan is the first of its kind in terms of cooperation under the Belt and Road between China and a regional international organization like African Union. It will enhance the in-depth integration of the BRI with the AU’s Agenda 2063 by opening a brand new chapter in high-quality joint contribution of the BRI between China and Africa.
Africa is a natural and historical extension of the BRI and an indispensable and important part of the BRI international cooperation. The Belt and Road Initiative is highly compatible with the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the development strategies of African countries. China-Africa’s joint contribution of the BRI brings tangible development dividends to both the Chinese and African people and also adds new dimensions to the China-Africa Comprehensive Strategic and Cooperative Partnership. Rwandan President Paul Kagame and many other African leaders highly appreciated that the BRI has brought important opportunities for African development. Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman, the AU representative to China, said that the BRI and the AU’s Agenda 2063 share a common vision, which meets the development needs of African countries and will definitely play a role in that regard. Recently, China signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation under Belt and Road, respectively with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Botswana, increasing the total number of African countries that signed the BRI cooperation documents to 46. The family of China-Africa joint contribution of the BRI keeps growing.
The policy coordination between China and Africa on jointly building the BRI has continued to deepen. Since President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, African countries and the AU Commission have actively responded to the BRI and promoted the alignment of China-Africa development strategies. At present, China and Africa are strengthening policy dialogues, detailing development plans and quantifying cooperation goals in many fields such as infrastructure construction and energy resource development, providing guidance for China-Africa practical cooperation. China will establish a coordination mechanism for the BRI cooperation with the AU Commission in a bid to effectively link the related executive departments and resources of both sides, establish channels and mechanisms for exchanges, communication and consultation, and solve problems encountered in planning and executing projects in a timely manner, thus promoting the smooth implementation of the Cooperation Plan under Belt and Road.
The facility connectivity China and Africa have jointly built under the BRI has been fruitful. Infrastructure deficit is a major bottleneck restraining the development of Africa. China has built more than 6,000 kilometers of both railways and highways in Africa, nearly 20 ports and more than 80 large-scale power facilities, and a large number of BRI flagship projects such as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, Mombasa Port, etc. have been completed and put into operation. These infrastructure projects play an important role in the process of industrialization and economic transformation in Africa. China is working with Africa to jointly formulate the China-Africa Infrastructure Cooperation Plan to support Chinese enterprises in participating in Africa’s infrastructure development through the investment-construction-operation model. The two sides will focus on strengthening cooperation on energy, transport, information, telecommunications and cross-border water resources. China and Africa will join hands to implement a number of key connectivity projects.
Unimpeded trade boosted by China-Africa BRI cooperation has enjoyed sustainable development. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 consecutive years, contributing more than 20% to Africa’s economic growth in many years, and is expected to maintain this position as Africa’s largest trading partner for a 12th consecutive year. In 2019, the pilot zone for China-Africa in-depth economic and trade cooperation was announced in Hunan Free Trade Zone, and the first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo was held in Changsha, China in the same year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese and African companies encouraged the export of African specialty products to China through cross-border e-commerce platforms and online promotion activities. Ms. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa of the United Nations, joined a live streaming session with more than 10 million viewers to sell Rwandan coffee. Last year, the third China International Import Expo held an online “cloud promotion conference” specifically for Africa. In January this year, the Free Trade Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of Mauritius came into effect. China has also decided to provide cash assistance to the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area to support its operation.
Financial integration of China-Africa BRI construction has been on steady growth. In 2019, the total Chinese FDI in Africa reached US$49.1 billion, grown by almost 100-fold compared to that in the year of 2000. China stands ready to provide financing for China-Africa BRI cooperation through multiple channels including the BRI special loans, the Silk Road Fund, China-Africa Development Fund, China-Africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation Fund. As of August 2020, the China-Africa Development Fund has invested more than US$5.4 billion in 37 African countries. The investment projects cover infrastructure, production capacity cooperation, agriculture and people’s livelihood, energy and minerals, and other fields, prompting Chinese companies to invest US$26 billion in Africa. In order to help Africa withstand the impact of the pandemic and deal with cash flow shortages, China has signed debt suspension agreements with 12 African countries, waived 15 African countries’ interest-free loans due by the end of 2020, while actively promoting the international community, in particular the G20, to extend the applicable duration of Debt Service Suspension Initiative.
People-to-people bond has never been stronger under the China-Africa BRI cooperation. The China-Africa Institute was established in 2019. The China-Africa Think Tank Forum, the People’s Forum, the Press Center and the Youth Festival, and other people-to-people exchange mechanisms have been playing a greater role as bridges of friendship. China has provided about 120,000 government scholarships to African countries, and established 61 Confucius Institutes and 48 Confucius Classrooms in 46 countries in Africa. There are 34 African countries listed as outbound tourist destinations for Chinese citizens, and there are 150 pairs of sister cities between China and Africa. In 2019, residents on the Chinese mainland made over 606,000 visits to Africa. The traditional friendship between China and Africa is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, China and Africa have extended hands to each other, fully demonstrating the brotherhood of the Chinese and African people.
At present, the unprecedented pandemic and the great change unseen in the 100 years are intertwined and resonant. China and Africa are faced with the arduous task of containing the pandemic, realizing economic growth, and ensuing the people’s livelihood. At the same time, both China and Africa will enter a new stage of development. 2021 is the first year for China’s 14th Five-Year Plan. China has decided to foster a new development paradigm with a dual domestic and international circulations, which will provide more opportunities to Africa. 2021 also marks the first year of operation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will form a tremendous market covering more than 1.2 billion people and a GDP of 2.5 trillion US dollars. African economic integration and regional economic integration will give China-Africa economic and trade cooperation more room for growth.
China and Africa enjoy a high level of political trust and are not only “strong allies” but also strategic partners with their economies being highly complementary to each other. Both China and Africa should take the high-quality jointly building of BRI as a starting point to build on the achievement and further upgrade and enhance China-Africa cooperation. China will work with the AU and African countries under the direction recently pointed out by Chinese President Xi Jinping for international cooperation on the BRI. We’ll build the BRI into a road of cooperation with unity against challenges, a road of heath to safeguard people’s health and safety, a road of recovery to win back economic and social development, and a road of growth to unleash development potentials. China is willing to continue to synergize development strategies with Africa, encourage Chinese companies to invest more in the continent, actively implement cooperation projects that benefit people’s livelihoods, and tap into cooperation potential in areas such as free trade zones, digital economy, poverty reduction, industrial and supply chain connectivity, and climate change, etc, to continuously foster new cooperation momentum.
At the beginning of this new year, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi visited five African countries, continuing the tradition of the Chinese Foreign Minister paying the first annual visit to Africa for 31 consecutive years. Such a practice fully attests to how China highly values Africa, the unbreakable friendship between the two sides, as well as China’s commitment to supporting the development and revitalization of African countries. This year the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will host a new meeting and the China-Africa Comprehensive Strategic and Cooperative Partnership is expected to reach a new height. “The water’s wide and the sail hangs with gentle wind.” China-Africa’s high-quality joint construction of the BRI will surely seize the trend of the times, ride the wind and waves, and push China-Africa relations toward a better future.
The Chinese Mission to the African Union is willing to play a role as a bridge to connect the governments, enterprises, think tanks and so on from both China and Africa, promote communication, exchanges and cooperation between the two sides, and contribute to further advancing China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership and striving for high-quality joint constribution of the BRI.