Sino-African cooperation eyes more benefits

Economic advantages: A farm worker harvests tea leaves at a plantation in Kenya’s Kericho highlands. China is pledging to jointly roll out programmes with African countries and upgrade cooperation in improvement of people’s livelihoods. — AFP

BEIJING: Having seen African people benefit from decades of cooperation with China, which has ushered in new infrastructure, more job opportunities and greater momentum for the continent’s sustainable development, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told Xinhua News Agency he deems the partnership “a friendly cooperation between brothers”.

Indeed, a number of cooperation projects and productive mechanisms for equal dialogue have all become clear proof of China-Africa cooperation that is carried out in line with the principles of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, and with a commitment to the greater good and shared interests.

“Today, the outcomes of China-Africa cooperation are all over the African continent. The roads, railways, airports, ports, high-rise buildings, stadiums and other infrastructure that China helped build can be seen everywhere,” said Chinese ambassador to Liberia Ren Yisheng in a recent article published in Liberian media.

Between 2000 and 2020, China helped African countries build more than 13,000 km of railways, some 100,000 km of highways, 1,000 bridges, 100 ports and more than 80 large-scale power facilities.

China has also aided the construction of more than 130 medical facilities, 45 sports venues and over 170 schools, trained more than 160,000 professionals across various fields and created in excess of 4.5 million jobs for Africa, said the ambassador.

Since the existing infrastructure gap acts as a drag on Africa’s economic growth, the continent is in urgent need of upgrading its infrastructure through cooperation.

The African Development Bank said improved infrastructure will facilitate Africa’s domestic and international trade, reduce business costs and enhance competitiveness – both as an export and an investment destination.

In this regard, China has been playing a significant role.

“In 2020, for instance, Chinese firms were responsible for 31% of all infrastructure projects in Africa with a value of US$50bil (RM222bil) or more,” Deloitte, a consultancy, said in a report.

Investment in African infrastructure is “a global public good in the context of the worldwide significance of Africa’s demographic evolution and its necessary productive transformation”, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report.

China has been providing public goods through its cooperation with Africa despite Covid-19 disruptions. After the onset of the pandemic, Chinese and local staff have been struggling to overcome difficulties to keep more than 1,100 cooperation projects running consistently, and the implementation rate of the outcomes of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Summit (Focac) has exceeded 70%, said Ren.

Describing Africa’s infrastructure achievements as an illustration of the win-win partnership with China, Diop, the Malian foreign minister, said, “Since the creation of the Focac in 2000, China-Africa relations have continued to grow, particularly in the economic, industrial, agricultural and diplomatic areas.”

During the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Focac held in Senegal in November 2021, China pledged to jointly roll out nine programmes with African countries, and upgrade China-Africa cooperation in various fields including healthcare, improvement of people’s livelihoods, green development, digital economy and capacity building.

In the Dakar Declaration issued during the conference, China welcomed and encouraged African countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation.

Over the past few years, the China-proposed BRI has helped enhance infrastructure connectivity across the continent and boost intra-African trade in the long run. It has become even more attractive to Africans, given that China has aligned the initiative with Agenda 2063, an economic blueprint proposed by the African Union.

In Kenya, for instance, the 480km Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway financed and built by China has greatly facilitated the movement of goods and passengers.

As one of the flagship BRI projects, it is the first modern railway built in Kenya in the past century, and also the country’s largest infrastructure project since its independence in 1963.

China-Africa cooperation in trade and investment has helped to create a booming job market in Africa.

Since 2017, China’s imports in services from Africa have been growing at an average annual rate of 20%, creating close to 400,000 jobs for the continent every year, said a white paper titled China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals released by China in November 2021.

Chinese private companies have become the main investment force in Africa. With more than 80% of their employees being locals, they have created millions of jobs. By the end of 2020, China had established over 3,500 companies across Africa.

Increased investment and upgraded infrastructure drive the growth of various industries, naturally generating more jobs.

For example, regarding a 56.5km asphalt road recently completed by China Communications Construction Company in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, the local government said it believes the road will not only facilitate the transport of agricultural products, but more importantly, unleash the potential of tourism, a catalyst for job growth and economic prosperity.

Not coincidentally, the 1,344km Benguela Railway constructed by China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corp in Angola has delivered win-win outcomes. Chinese enterprises have provided technology, experience and standards to Africa, while local employees have acquired jobs, skill training and higher incomes, said Zhu Qihui, chairman of the board of the Chinese group’s subsidiary in Angola.

The above-mentioned Mombasa-Nairobi railway has also created 46,000 direct and indirect jobs for local communities.

On top of the impressive achievements made through their cooperation in past decades, China is continuing to play a key role in fast-tracking Africa’s development and lending support to the sustainable development of the continent.

China had been Africa’s largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years by the end of 2021.

China has promised to provide zero-tariff treatment on 98% of taxable items originating in the least-developed countries, including Togo, Djibouti and Rwanda, and has become Africa’s second-largest agricultural export destination.

“The biggest feature of China-Africa cooperation is mutual benefit and common development,” said Ren, the Chinese ambassador, adding China welcomes Africa to take the express train of China’s development and share its benefits.

In these turbulent and changing times, observers are still optimistic that flourishing China-Africa cooperation will withstand the test of time and bring more mutual benefits for both sides through synergy between their development plans.

“As for China’s solutions to global issues, I’m impressed most by the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative.

They are in line with current international calls and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and are also significant to the African continent,” said David Monyae, director of the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. — Xinhua

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