Chinese Ambassador to Seychelles H.E. Mme GUO Wei talks about the eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)
The eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held on November 29 and 30 in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, the African co-chair of FOCAC. With the theme of “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era”, the conference will review and assess the follow-up implementation of the outcomes of the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit as well as the joint China-Africa response to COVID-19, and chart the course for China-Africa relations for the next three years and more to come.
Q1: What are the consultation mechanisms of FOCAC and how many fruits have been borne since the establishment of FOCAC 21 years ago?
Ambassador Guo: FOCAC was formally established at the 2000 Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing in October 2000 under the joint initiative of China and Africa with the purposes of further strengthening friendly cooperation between China and African states under the new circumstances, jointly meeting the challenges of economic globalization and seeking common development. The Ministerial Conference is held every three years and the Senior Official Follow-up Meeting for the Ministerial Conference is held in the previous year before the Ministerial Conference. The Ministerial Conference and Senior Official Meeting are held in China and Africa alternately. In view of the needs of expanding China-Africa relations, China and Africa upgraded the Third Ministerial Conference of FOCAC, held in November 2006 in Beijing, the Sixth Ministerial Conference, held in December 2015 in Johannesburg, and the Seventh Ministerial Conference, held in September 2018 in Beijing, to FOCAC Summits.
In addition, with the ever expanding and deepening China-Africa cooperation, various sub-forums have been established within the framework of FOCAC. They include the China-Africa People’s Forum, China-Africa Young Leaders Forum, Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Cooperation, Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation, China-Africa Poverty Reduction and Development Conference, FOCAC-Legal Forum, Forum on China-Africa Local Government Cooperation, and China-Africa Think Tanks Forum.
FOCAC is our own platform for collective dialogue and mechanism for practical cooperation. It has bolstered high-level interactions and political trust between China and Africa, delivering a leap in China-Africa relations from “a new type of partnership” to “a new type of strategic partnership” and to “a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership”. For the twenty one years since the establishment of the FOCAC, the trades between China and Africa and China’s investment in Africa have expanded by 20-fold and 100-fold, respectively. China has remained Africa’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years. Direct Chinese investment in Africa has been steady, reaching US$3 billion in 2020 alone. China has built more than 6,000 kilometres of railway lines, 6,000 kilometres of roads, nearly 20 ports and more than 80 large power facilities in Africa, assisted Africa in building over 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and 170-plus schools, dispatched a total of 21,000 medical team members to 48 African countries and treated about 220 million patients in Africa.
As the headquarters of the African Union, the tallest building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the AU Conference Centre cost $200 million and was totally funded by the Chinese government. PHOTO/XINHUA
Q2: What efforts has China made to implement the decisions of the FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2018 and what are the results?
Ambassador Guo: The FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2018 is a milestone in the history of China-Africa relations. After the summit, China and Africa have worked together to implement the outcomes. Although the sudden outbreak of the pandemic disrupted the pace of China-Africa cooperation, it has not shaken the confidence of both sides in strengthening cooperation. We are proceeding in two ways to maintain a strong momentum.
On the one hand, we are jointly fighting COVID-19. The successful holding of the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 has demonstrated the firm resolve and confidence of China and Africa in fighting the pandemic together. After the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa, China took the lead in providing assistance, sending medical experts to 15 countries, cooperating with 43 hospitals in 38 African countries, and providing anti-pandemic materials to all African members of FOCAC, which was widely praised by African countries.
On the other hand, we are advancing cooperation despite difficulties. Under the pandemic situation, the two sides have focused their cooperation on health, resumption of work and improvement of people’s livelihoods. Since the Beijing Summit, China and Africa have successfully held important events such as the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo. The China-Africa Institute located in Beijing, the China-Africa Environmental Cooperation Centre headquartered in Kenya and 14 Luban workshops have been launched. In spite of difficulties, a large number of Chinese staff have stayed at their posts or made trips to Africa to ensure that more than 1,100 cooperation projects continue uninterruptedly. From January to July this year, China-Africa trade volume and China’s direct investment in Africa have both bucked the trend and increased. Trade has reached $139.1 billion with a year-on-year increase of 40.5 percent, and Chinese direct investment in Africa reached $2.96 billion, exceeding the level of the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.
For now, over 85 percent of the eight major initiatives announced at the 2018 Beijing FOCAC Summit have been implemented, 70 percent of the US$60 billion supporting funds have been disbursed or earmarked, and a large number of cooperation projects have been launched or completed. All this provides a strong buttress for Africa to achieve economic recovery.
The roundtable meeting of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the FOCAC was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 4, 2018 (XINHUA)
Q3: How does FOCAC boost China-Seychelles cooperation?
Ambassador Guo: Following the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and guided by FOCAC, China has made joint efforts with Seychelles by promoting bilateral economic and commercial cooperation and providing government assistance for its economic and social development. All these have resulted in fruitful outcomes.
The Palais de Justice, National Assembly Building, Anse Royal Hospital, Corgate Residence projects and SBC project are all the most telling witnesses of our solidarity and friendship. In response to Seychelles’ concerns on sustainable development and clean energy, China is building a Low-carbon Demonstration Zone in Seychelles, the first of kind overseas. Regarding to Seychelles’ concern on maritime security, China donated two aircraft and a patrol vessel, hoping to help Seychelles strengthen its capacity to safeguard maritime security. In support of Seychelles’ medical system, China has been dispatching Medical Teams to Seychelles, and up to now 18 batches teams, 108 Chinese doctors from Shandong province have been serving Seychellois with their medical profession. In order to assist the human resource building of Seychelles and enhance the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, the Chinese government provides around 800 programs and 80-100 short-term training opportunities each year to qualified Seychellois. Over the past 5 years, around 400 Seychellois attended seminars in various fields. Over the past decade, bilateral trade has grown steadily and reached a record in 2019 with a year on year increase of 7.12 percent. The new Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation, signed during State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Seychelles in 2021, will certainly boost the future bilateral development cooperation.
Q4: What are your expectations of the upcoming FOCAC meeting that will be held in Senegal?
Ambassador Guo: At present, both Chinese and African economies are facing challenges due to the intertwined effects of the pandemic and the changes of the international situation unseen in a century. Africa has rising expectations of deepening China-Africa cooperation. Coupled with the interference of external factors, China-Africa cooperation can be compared to rowing in midstream, where not advancing means dropping back.
The Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC will chart a new direction for China-Africa cooperation in the next three years and beyond, and inject new vitality into the development of China-Africa relations. The two sides are working closely to integrate more new initiatives for practical cooperation into the outcomes of the meeting.
In terms of cooperation, we will adopt measures in such key areas as health, investment and trade, food security, climate change, human resources and digital innovation, with a focus on transforming and upgrading China-Africa cooperation to improve its quality and efficiency.
Private enterprises will play a greater role in the future. At present, private enterprises account for 90 percent of the number of Chinese companies in Africa and about 70 percent of total Chinese enterprises’ direct investment in Africa. Companies such as Huawei and Transsion are well-known in Africa. The next conference will open up a broader space for the development of private enterprises in Africa. It is hoped that private enterprises will adapt to the new development situation of China-Africa cooperation, give full play to their competitive advantages, and contribute more wisdom and strength to deepening China-Africa cooperation and promoting Africa’s economic and social development.
Since its inception 21 years ago, FOCAC has spearheaded international cooperation with Africa and become a golden brand for South-South cooperation. It is believed that with the joint efforts of China and Africa, the mechanism of FOCAC will lead China-Africa cooperation to blossom and bear fruit again and again, and make new contributions to building an even closer China-Africa community with a shared future. China is willing to stick together with African brothers and form a new chapter in China-Africa friendly cooperation.