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Chinese FM’s New Year trip testament to profound friendship between China, Africa

By Zhang Mengying    People's Daily Online   14:37, January 13, 2021

From Jan. 4 to 9, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Botswana, Tanzania, and Seychelles, continuing Chinese foreign ministers’ 31-year tradition of choosing Africa for their first overseas visit every year since 1991.

The New Year visits to the five African countries demonstrates the traditional and profound friendship between China and Africa who share weal and woe, the great importance China attaches to Africa, and China’s firm resolve to deepen bilateral friendship amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A staff member unloads Chinese medical supplies for 18 African countries from an airplane at the Kotota International Airport in Accra, capital of Ghana, April 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Xu Zheng)

Joint response to COVID-19 was one of the priorities of the trip. Living up to its international responsibilities, China has sent medical expert teams and a tremendous amount of medical supplies and assistance to Africa, established a cooperation mechanism for Chinese hospitals to pair up with those in Africa, and aided the construction of the headquarters of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In June 2020, China, South Africa, the rotating Chair of the African Union, and Senegal, the Co-Chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) initiated and convened an Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19.

China has also worked together with other G20 members on debt service suspension for Africa.

In African countries, Egypt and Morocco have ordered Chinese COVID-19 vaccines and are seeking the localized production of the vaccines.

During his trip to Africa, Wang and foreign ministers of the five African countries reached a broad consensus on continuing to fight the pandemic together. China will enhance health cooperation with Africa to help the continent ramp up its preparedness against major diseases and build a healthy Africa.

The joint China-Africa fight against COVID-19 demonstrated that China is a major and responsible country. The two sides’ joint response has also set a fine example for international cooperation against the virus, laying a solid foundation for promoting the sound development of relations between China and Africa in the post-pandemic era.

Another priority of Wang’s trip was to help Africa resume production and ensure employment and people’s wellbeing.

In April 2020, the World Bank predicted that COVID-19 would cost Sub-Saharan Africa between 37 to 79 billion dollars in output losses for the year. Given the pandemic’s heavy toll on Africa’s economy, accelerating production resumption and economic recovery on the continent will affect the long-term development of African countries and African people’s normal life.

China’s share of its experience in targeted poverty alleviation and eradication will surely contribute to Africa’s economic transformation and poverty alleviation, driving African countries’ endogenous growth after the pandemic.

On Jan. 1, 2021, African countries began officially trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the China-Mauritius FTA came into force.

Wang held talks with the African side to integrate the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the AfCFTA during his visits. His trip will bring new opportunities for China-Africa cooperation and inject new impetus into the transformation and upgrading of bilateral cooperation.

The trip also aimed to further implement the outcomes of the FOCAC summits and promote the high-quality development of the Belt and Road cooperation.

Since the establishment of the FOCAC in 2000, trade between China and Africa has grown by 20-fold and China’s direct investment in Africa 100-fold. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 years in a row and has contributed more than 20 percent to Africa’s growth for several years.

Meanwhile, based on the 10 cooperation plans and eight major initiatives as the focus of China-Africa cooperation, the two sides have expanded the breadth and depth of cooperation in politics, economy, education, health, ecological environment, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, peace and security, laying a solid foundation for the stable and long-term development of bilateral relations.

So far, over 70 percent of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit have been implemented, as China and Africa’s joint efforts to pursue the BRI have yielded remarkable results.

During Wang’s trip, the DRC and Botswana signed a memorandum of understanding on BRI cooperation with China.

The next FOCAC summit will be held in Senegal this year. During his trip, Wang solicited advice from the African side on the three priority areas of vaccine cooperation, economic recovery, and transformative development for the summit’s agenda. It is believed that the summit will help China and Africa build new consensus on solidarity, break new ground for cooperation, deliver new benefits to the people, and build an even stronger community with a shared future.

(The author is a researcher at the China-Africa Institute.)