Franck Michel Naina Andriantsitohaina (fifth right) presents honorary awards in Beijing to the Chinese doctors who worked in Madagascar (LI JING)
China-Madagascar relations have been in a fast-growing stage. As early as 2017, Madagascar became one of the first African countries to sign a memorandum of understanding with China under the Belt and Road Initiative. The bilateral cooperation covers various sectors; among them is health. Since 1975, China has dispatched more than 600 medical workers in 22 teams to Madagascar.
Franck Michel Niaina Andriantsitohaina, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar, recently visited Beijing to attend the Coordinators' Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on
China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on June 24-25. Prior to that, he took part in a ceremony at the Malagasy Embassy in China, during which he personally presented honorary awards to six Chinese doctors who were members of the 21st Chinese medical mission to Madagascar.
ChinAfrica sat down with Minister Andriantsitohaina to discuss the current and future state of relations between China and Madagascar. Edited excerpts of the interview follow.
ChinAfrica: Madagascar is currently hosting its 22nd Chinese medical mission. What is your assessment of this cooperation program?
Franck Michel Niaina Andriantsitohaina: It is an excellent cooperation program. Since 1975, more than 600 Chinese doctors have been dispatched to Madagascar. I believe that this is the most beautiful aspect of international cooperation, namely, one that allows the local population to benefit directly from healthcare services. And most importantly, such healthcare services are fully accessible. In addition, Chinese doctors are volunteers who are extremely well received locally. They are very humble and their visit always leaves a very good impression on local communities.
Looking to the future, we must focus on everything related to vaccine storage, which is an important aspect of public health. We also have huge ambitions for investment in Madagascar, and as such, the pharmaceutical industry is part of Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina's program for the country. China's experience is important in this area, especially as we have many natural products that can be useful in this industry.
Franck Michel Niaina Andriantsitohaina (LI JING)
Madagascar is an important partner to China under the Belt and Road Initiative. How does the Belt and Road Initiative help Madagascar achieve its own development objectives?
The Belt and Road Initiative corresponds to President Rajoelina's development program and his initiative for the growth of Madagascar's economy. Madagascar was one of the first countries to sign a memorandum of understanding with China under the Belt and Road Initiative, and we are very proud of this. What we expect from this cooperation is the win-win spirit as advocated by China.
In recent years, we have seen an acceleration of cooperation between China and Madagascar in a wide variety of areas that have enabled development. Over the past months since President Rajoelina's inauguration in January, it is clear that there has been a significant improvement, particularly in the area of infrastructure, where many road project agreements have been signed.
Some of the most essential elements of our relationship include trade facilitation, and the promotion of industrialization and green development, which are all very important for us. The environment is an essential part of the program. Our country has been facing ongoing threats on its environment and one of the missions of our government is to ensure environmental protection. Another important issue in the current context is what this initiative can bring in the field of peace and security. There are also a number of projects underway, especially in the area of hydroelectricity, as energy is another important part of our development program.
Recently, the African Continental Free Trade Area was officially launched. In addition, the First China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo was held in Changsha, Hunan Province. What does this mean for Africa and Madagascar in particular?
Trade can only develop when it is free. It is important for Madagascar to have access to the entire market of the African continent. With regard to our relationship with China, we have common interests in developing trade between the African continent and the People's Republic of China. As for Madagascar in particular, relations and trade flows with China are also very important.
States make agreements and improve the business environment, but in the end, it is businesses themselves that make development possible. As such, the [First China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo] was important because it allowed a large number of Malagasy businesspeople to come and meet businesspeople from other African countries and China. Delegates from chambers of commerce were also present. Madagascar attaches great importance to this concrete aspect of cooperation, which complements the diplomatic ties.
On the basis of the principle of win-win cooperation for both parties, what are Madagascar's unique assets in its relations with China?
Madagascar has an important strategic position in relation to Africa and, as such, it can play a role as the doorway to Africa from China. The Malagasy people are half African, half Asian, which allows us to build strong relations.
What allows both countries to gain from the relationship is the fact that we plan to position Madagascar as the gateway through which to invest in and sell to Africa. Another important aspect is that Madagascar has access to markets at preferential rates, so China would do well to invest in our country. One last point, which I think will be essential for future generations, is that we are 25 million people in a country with a huge land mass. Madagascar is an important agricultural reservoir that can be used to supply not only the African continent but also China.
At the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, African and Chinese heads of state and government adopted a declaration calling for the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future. What is your opinion on this?
A little philosophy is also welcome when it comes to relations between countries. Development can only take place if everyone benefits. All peoples and countries, without exception, aim to achieve harmonious development. Based on this, we see that everyone will need to take part in development in order for relations between countries to develop in a harmonious and win-win basis.
A China-Africa community with a shared future also tells us that it is important for countries in the South to help and support each other. Today, South-South cooperation is an essential element of global affairs. First of all, let us start by cooperating with each other, and then, we can have more harmonious relations with other countries.
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