China and Africa now have two engines to further develop their relations: the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Belt and Road Initiative. The two mechanisms are just like two legs of a person that can help us go further more stably, according to a Chinese official.
Ambassador for the FOCAC Affairs of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China Zhou Yuxiao made the comment on March 19 during his visit to Kenya, adding that the continent will now be more included in the Belt and Road Initiative which China seeks to use to expand global trade and deepen closer ties.
At a meeting in Nairobi, where Zhou spent time elaborating on future Sino-African relations through FOCAC, he said China will now focus on seeing the African Union (AU) achieve its goals listed in Agenda 2063, a vision and action plan for the continent to become more developed and more connected via infrastructure, through what he called capacity building of the continent.
Zhou said that the theme for this year’s FOCAC Summit in September to be held in Beijing will be related to the Belt and Road Initiative and AU Agenda 2063.
“The Belt and Road Initiative focuses on connectivity. We should put more emphasis on connectivity in Africa because that will strengthen the continent,” he told a press conference.
FOCAC, established 18 years ago, acts as a platform for China and African nations to consult and discuss ways of cooperation for common development, as part of what is known as South-South Cooperation.
According to a policy document publicized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, FOCAC is based on pragmatic cooperation, equality and mutual benefit, where leaders consult on key decisions aimed at reaching common development.
Zhou argued that there has to be some sort of synergy on the way development initiatives will work. Spanning countries in Eurasia, Africa and South America, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to include about 62 percent of the world’s population and a third of the world’s GDP.
The Belt and Road Initiative was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 comprising two corridors, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Growth will be punctuated by investments in infrastructure, media and culture, finance, education and people-to-people relations.
Yet Zhou said the success of the Belt and Road Initiative will also depend on policy connectivity.
“China has a lot of experience in reform and opening up, in special economic zones and industrial parks. This is a very welcome idea in Africa,” he said.
Africa will, however, have certain obligations. Each country involved will be asked to present a set of projects in order of priority for which they seek cooperation.
“It means African countries will have to do extensive studies before they apply. Also, they have to present the projects that are commercially viable. I think there has to be a lot of homework to be done,” said Zhou.
Through FOCAC, China will also emphasize efficiency, meaning that Chinese contractors will have to adhere to specific timelines under which to complete the funded projects. This will apply both ways though, as African countries will be required to provide a conducive environment to have those projects completed.
Finer details will be revealed when leaders meet up in Beijing in September. According to Zhou, in the last two years, China has given 20,000 scholarships to African students, trained 150,000 technicians in Africa and trained 30,000 African technicians in China. “Things like these are the indications of achievements. We have worked very hard to implement the 10 China-Africa cooperation plans,” said Zhou, referring to the resolutions made at the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit in South Africa in 2015.
(Reporting from Kenya)