Professor Han Zhen, President of Beijing Foreign Studies University,
Mr. Yang Xueyi, Chairman of the University,
H.E. Mr. Zhai Jun, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs，
H.E. Mr. Hao Ping, Vice Minister of Education,
Distinguished African Ambassadors to China,
Distinguished BFSU staff and students,
Distinguished members of the Academic and Research Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor, indeed a privilege, to be here today to speak about a topic that we cherish so much both as the chair of African union as well as the leader of a country that attaches great significance to its strategic partnership with China.
Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) is not only one of the most outstanding institutions of higher learning but, it is an anchor to China’s diplomatic and people to people relations with the rest of the world.
We are happy to be associated with such a prestigious institution that teaches over 50 foreign languages of which 2 are African and 2 more African languages are on the pipe line; including Ethiopia’s working language “Amharic”.
I congratulate BFSU on its success.
During the last decade, Africa has achieved remarkable economic growth amidst the global economic crisis. Among the ten fastest growing economies in the world, six are from Africa, and this year’s economic projection also indicates this trend will indeed continue. The robust economic growth that Africa has been registering is all the more impressive as it has helped lift millions of citizens out of poverty.
Africa’s potential is quite enormous. Africa now has nearly one billion people with a growing middle class – a huge market in its own right. Over 60 percent of the world arable uncultivated land is to be found in Africa, and it still enjoys an abundant wealth of natural resources. In the light of the young and easily trainable labor force that we have in abundance in the continent, Africa simply represents a wide array of opportunities for international investors that will certainly guarantee a higher return on investment. As the youngest continent, Africa has a great deal to offer and the prospect for success is nothing short of astounding.
Africa is indeed growing. As you may all know, Africa’s traditional growth story was mainly characterized by rising prices for primary commodities, which had long proved neither sustainable nor inclusive, instead rendering the African State a virtual predatory institution. What is so reassuringly different about current growth spiral, however, is that there is more and more economic diversification, with many small and micro enterprises engaged in productive sectors of the economy thereby contributing to an equitable growth. There is every reason to believe that Africa is indeed the next growth pole.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
What Africa and China have today is a new type of strategic partnership. It is new because unlike partnerships that Africa had in the past this one is based on mutual respect and benefit; and strategic because it focuses primarily on structural transformation of African economies, from agrarian to industrial, and from fragmented to integrated markets.
In the last few decades, Chinese support to Africa has brought about significant changes in the economies of individual African countries. Many have undertaken huge infrastructural projects thanks to China’s strategic partnership which is not only predictable, but also win-win. The rapid economic growth in china has also fuelled an increase in the price of commodities thereby helping increase the revenues of many African countries. Many Chinese companies are also in Africa working in a number of projects. Needless to say Chinese presence in Africa has had a benign influence in more ways than one.
There is, however, more to Africa-China strategic partnership than the traditional relations that many other countries also have had with Africa. Our strategic partnership with china is rather about China’s place in Africa’s newfound growth narrative and the contribution China has made and continues to make in ensuring that this is indeed a mutually beneficial partnership.
This is also justified by the traditional friendship between China and Africa. China had always been on the side of Africa during the trying times of anti-colonial struggles. It is also a source of satisfaction to note that China is working so closely with Africa in its struggle against poverty and underdevelopment. FOCAC is such an exemplary and unique framework of partnership between China and Africa.
It is true that over the last few decades, Africa has had relations with other countries that had for large part been based on the exploitation of natural resources and the provision of handouts in the form of humanitarian aid and development support attached to political strings, conditionalities based, as it were, on double standard and matrix of selectivity. Africa’s relations with western financial institutions was largely characterized by an overly politicized dictation of terms that saw many African States abdicating functional authority and policy autonomy in the name of policies that were meant to promote orthodoxies of market fundamentalism. The reforms pushed by these institutions did, if anything, contribute to the de-industrialization of African economies. Relations were based on inequality and what little was done for Africa paled in comparison to what was done to it. It is in this context that Africa-China strategic partnership takes on exceptional significance changing as it does the nature of the relationship from one of dictation of terms to one that is based on mutual respect and the promotion of common interest. What this relationship brought about was a change in the mindset that for a long time treated Africa as a terminal aid recipient and beneficiary of external charity.