Historic summit pushes China–Africa relationship to a new high

7 December 2015

The Second Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit held in Johannesburg on 4-5 December ended with a comprehensive set of initiatives intended to upgrade their mutual partnership. These initiatives include the adoption of a declaration and action plan outlining specific measures aimed at deepening the cooperation between China and Africa as well as US$60 billion in financial support.

Held under the theme "Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development,” the FOCAC aims to promote bilateral cooperation between China and Africa through dialogue.

US$60 billion financial support

At the end of the FOCAC summit which took place for the second time in the 15-year history of FOCAC and for the first time in Africa, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged US$60 billion in financial support including US$35 billion in preferential loans and export credit lines, US$5 billion in grants, US$15 billion of capital for the China-Africa Development Fund and another US$5 billion in loans for the development of African small and medium enterprises.

“This is a significant amount,” said South African President Jacob Zuma.

“China-Africa relations have today reached a stage of growth unmatched in history,” Xi told African leaders at the summit.

The big package announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping covers about 10 cooperation projects across various development areas such as industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, and peace and security.

The 10 plans identified are in line with Africa’s priorities as defined in the Agenda 2063—a strategic framework for Africa’s development aspiration—according to the Chair of the African Union Commission, Nkosazama Dlamini-Zuma,

Statistics show that in 2014, trade between China and Africa exceeded US$220 billion and China’s investment stock in Africa surpassed US$30 billion. However the scale of the package announced during the summit came as a surprise to some international observers since China’s economy has slowed down considerably while the country rebalances itself away from investment and growth.

Most of Africa’s growth has been driven by commodity exports to China over the past decade, economists observe. While the exact consequences of China’s recent economic dip over African economies are being assessed, the International Monetary Fund notes that the huge amount of trade between Africa and China exposes Africa to any negative spill-overs from the latter emerging economy (Bridges Africa, 14 September 2015).

Johannesburg declaration

The summit also adopted the Johannesburg Declaration and Action Plan which outline specific steps to promote China-Africa cooperation.

According to Xinhua, Zuma explained that the announcement of 10-point plan constitutes evidence that China “listens to what Africa is saying”.

“China didn't come with its own thought-out ideas. It actually met the expectations of African leaders," Zuma said.

"China firmly supports Africans in addressing African issues in an African way, actively facilitates peace talks, and pushes for political settlement of hotspot issues in the continent," said Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi during a ministerial conference which took place prior to the FOCAC summit.

The summit gathered more than 40 heads of state and government, representatives from the African Union (AU), heads of regional organisations and multilateral organisations.

ICTSD reporting: “China aims to counter western influence in Africa,” The Irish Times, 7 December 2015. “China reiterates commitment to stronger ties with African countries,” Xinhuanet, 4 December 2015. “AU Chairperson lauds Chinese President's speech at FOCAC summit,” New China, 6 December 2015. “China’s Xi Jinping commits to ‘win-win’ co-operation with Africa,” Financial Times, 4 December 2015.

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