Published On: Tue, Aug 21st, 2018

Beijing Summit and the new era for China-Africa Cooperation

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In the first week of September, Africa leaders and their Chinese counterpart will gather in Chinese capital, Beijing for the third summit of the Forum on China-Africa cooperation, ostensibly to build on the epochal strides it has achieved, since it held its second historic summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in December, 2015.

By Charles Onunaiju

The Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in less than two decades of its founding has unarguably become a top notch international organization with track record of solid results delivery. China-Africa traditional friendship and cooperation have had long trajectories before the founding of FOCAC in 2000 but FOCAC not only re-engineered it in a more result-oriented fashion but created and sustained the mechanism of regular contacts, and consultations with consequence of pragmatic outcomes in the relationships. China’s own exponential burst of growth in the period since the founding of FOCAC and Africa’s break with Western-centric global exposure, during the same period, provided a sound opportunity on which Africa and China grew their enigmatic cooperation under the framework of the FOCAC mechanism. The usual suspicions of ideological infractions and sabotages replete with the cold war periods of international relations was out of its way, at the time of FOCAC founding and therefore, thankfully was saved the framework of the poisonous weed of ideological contestations that virulently infected many international organizations at the period of the intense cold war.
While still a work in progress, FOCAC whose leaders would gather in Beijing this September for the 3rd summit of the head of states and government will offer a milestone in the life of the organization.
As its pedigree is reassuring to its future prospects, FOCAC has brought unique opportunities to its members. Africa, since the historic second summit of FOCAC in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015 have made some significant giant leap, as the ten cooperation plans outlined at the summit by President Xi Jinping with a whopping sum of 60 billion U.S dollars funding support, has substantially materialized since then.
The nearly 1000 km first electrified railway in Africa, connecting the emerging regional industrial hub but landlocked Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti has become fully operational, and has cut travel time from some few days to some few hours. With a thaw in relations between former adversaries, Ethiopia and Eritrea, access to the Red sea through the Assab port would further fuel industrialization of Ethiopia, with Chinese companies making enormous contributions to the prospects.
The 400km-plus standard gauge rail line from the Kenya’s port city of Mombasa to its capital Nairobi has been completed and has been put to the use, of the Kenyans triggering more economic activities while helping to reduce cost of doing business.
Meanwhile, the Mombasa port has been under massive reconstruction and will be a vital artery of the “21st century maritime Silk Road,” the maritime component of the China’s initiated “Belt and Road” framework of inclusive and integrated international cooperation. As China and Africa sit down in Beijing in the 3rd summit of FOCAC to ponder on the roadmap to drive the next phase of China/Africa cooperation, the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, otherwise simply called the “Belt and Road,” a massive framework of overland, maritime and digital connectivity featuring heavy infrastructure constructions across countries and within countries, will considerably weigh in, as a powerful impetus for fresh development strides, already set in motion in Africa by the FOCAC process.
Africa’s regional power house and its largest market, Nigeria is already in the cusp of new economic dawn, due to China’s fueled massive investment in strategic infrastructure. Since 2016, the nearly 200km standard gauge railway line between the capital city, Abuja and the North West city of Kaduna is up and running. Last July, the first intra-city railway connecting the city centre of Abuja to the airport, described as the first of its kind in West Africa was launched amidst fanfare by President Muhammadu Buhari. The construction of a major railway to connect the commercial city of Lagos through Ibadan to the Northern commercial hub of Kano has been launched. The country’s economic recovery blueprint, called the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which promises massive infrastructure constructions as the key to unlock sustainable and inclusive development, look set to leverage China’s concessional funding in the sector. The country’s notorious epileptic power supply would receive massive boast, when the China-funded Mambilla Power Station comes on stream.
After 40years of flip flop on the power project, the China Exim bank has recently agreed to 85% of concessional funding of the power project, which when completed, is expected to save about 40% of capital, which businesses are estimated to invest to generate their own power, presently making Nigeria one of the costliest place to do business in Africa.
Nigeria’s industrial landscape is fast revitalizing as Chinese enterprises boost domestic capacity and considerably give substance to the concept of “Made in Nigeria with China.”
The Forum on China-Africa cooperation, (FOCAC) has accorded Africa, a practical and functional international partnership with an uncommon focus to the existential challenge of the core material needs that would put the region, not only on the path of economic recovery but on a steady and inclusive development trajectory. China belief that Africa’s security challenge and peace prospect can be overcome and secured through sustainable and inclusive development has significantly changed and shifted international perspective, which previously viewed Africa as a place for high security risk for investment and business.
Where Africa’s former colonial masters and their partners in the West view Africa’s security challenge as obstacle to development, China through the mechanism of FOCAC see economic development in Africa as the practical way to overcome the security challenge and secure peace, stability and prosperity in Africa. The several strategic strides already accomplished in Africa through the cooperation framework of the FOCAC process, attests without doubt to the pragmatic orientation of contemporary China-Africa relation.
With China’s massive growth of her national aggregates, increased strategic role in global governance and overall transition to a new era, Africa cooperation with China through the framework of FOCAC will see significant upgrade. The Beijing Summit, highly anticipated to build on the enormous progress secured at previous forums , is expected to radically raised the profile of the FOCAC mechanism, especially when infused with the vigour of the Belt and Road mechanism, whose several institutional compliments such as Silk Road fund, Asia Infrastructure and investment Bank,(AIIB) and others are already in full throttle.
With the convocation of a successful National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), late last year, re-election of President Xi Jinping and the innovative vigour of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era,” China-Africa cooperation would be injected with fresh dynamism and that would help secure very firmly, the road-map to Africa’s march to her vision-2063 agenda and inevitably advance China- Africa cooperation to a new era.

Onunaiju, is director Centre for China Studies, (CCS) Abuja, Nigeria.

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