Since its founding in 2000, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has without doubt become a world-class international platform with a track record of solid delivery results. China-Africa traditional friendship and cooperation had had long trajectories before the establishment of the platform; but FOCAC not only re-engineered these ties in a more result-oriented fashion, but also created and sustained the mechanism of regular contacts and consultations, with the consequence of pragmatic outcomes in the relationships.
China's own exponential burst of growth in the past years after FOCAC was established and Africa's break with Western-centric global exposure, during the same period, provided a sound opportunity on which Africa and China strengthened their cooperation under the framework of the FOCAC mechanism. The usual suspicions of ideological infractions and sabotages of the Cold War period had already passed at the time of FOCAC's founding and therefore, thankfully, it did not have to deal with ideological contestations that infected many international organizations during the period of the intense Cold War.
The first intra-city railway connecting the city center of Abuja to the airport is launched. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (fourth right) attended the launch ceremony (ZHANG BAOPING)
Belt and Road benefits
While still a work in progress, FOCAC, with leaders of its members gathering in Beijing this September for the Third Summit, 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, has made some giant leaps, as the 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans outlined at the summit by Chinese President Xi Jinping with $60 billion funding support, has substantially materialized since then.
The nearly 800-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 days to 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 400-plus-km standard gauge rail line from Kenya's port city of Mombasa to its capital Nairobi has been completed and is in operation, triggering increased economic activity for Kenya, while also helping reduce the cost of doing business.
Meanwhile, the Port of Mombasa has been under massive reconstruction and will be a vital artery of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the maritime component of China's Belt and Road Initiative framework of inclusive and integrated international cooperation. As China and African countries sit down in Beijing at the Third FOCAC Summit to ponder on the roadmap to drive the next phase of China-Africa cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive framework of overland, maritime and digital connectivity featuring heavy infrastructure construction across countries and within countries, will be prominent as a powerful impetus for fresh development strides, already set in motion in Africa by the FOCAC process.
Made in Nigeria with China
As Africa's regional power house and its largest market, Nigeria is already in the cusp of a new economic dawn, due to China's fueled massive investment in strategic infrastructure.
Since 2016, the nearly 200 km standard gauge railway line between the capital city Abuja and the northwestern city of Kaduna is up and running. In July, the first intra-city railway connecting the city center of Abuja to the airport, described as the first of its kind in West Africa, was launched amidst much fanfare by Nigerian 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. In addition, the country's economic recovery blueprint, called the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which promises massive infrastructure constructions as the key to unlock sustainable and inclusive development, looks set to leverage China's concessional funding in the sector. Nigeria's notorious epileptic power supply would also receive a massive boost, when the China-funded Mambilla Power Station comes on stream. The Export-Import Bank of China recently agreed to 85 percent of the concessional funding of the power project.
Nigeria's industrial landscape is fast revitalizing as Chinese enterprises set to help boost local capacity, to considerably give substance to the concept of "Made in Nigeria with China."
Peace through economic development
FOCAC has accorded Africa a practical and functional international partnership with an uncommon focus on the existential challenge of the core material needs that would put the region not only on the path of economic recovery, but also on a steady and inclusive development trajectory. China's belief that Africa's security challenges can be overcome and peace prospects can be secured through sustainable and inclusive development has significantly changed and shifted international perspective, which previously viewed Africa as a place of high security risk for investment and business.
A local drives the train under the guidance of a Chinese train driver (ZHANG BAOPING)
Where Africa's former colonial masters and their partners in the West view Africa's security challenges as obstacles to development, China, through the mechanism of FOCAC, sees economic development as the practical way to overcome the security challenge and secure peace, stability and prosperity in Africa. The strategic strides already accomplished in Africa through the cooperation framework of the FOCAC process attest, without doubt, the pragmatic orientation of contemporary China-Africa relationship.
With China's massive growth of her national aggregates and increased strategic role in global governance, Africa's cooperation with China through the framework of FOCAC will see a significant upgrade. The Third FOCAC Summit, highly anticipated to build on the enormous progress secured at previous forums, is expected to radically raise the profile of the FOCAC mechanism, especially when infused with the vigor of the Belt and Road Initiative, whose several institutional complements such as the Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and others are already in full throttle mode.
With the successful 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) late last year, the reelection of Xi as the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and the innovative vitality of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, China-Africa cooperation would be injected with fresh dynamism and that would help secure very firmly the roadmap for Africa's march to its own Agenda 2063.
(The writer is director of the Center for China Studies, Abuja, Nigeria)
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