Delivering the Commitments
All 50 aid projects in Africa announced by China in six areas, including industrial promotion, healthcare, peace and security, green development, trade promotion and people-to-people exchanges, will be completed soon.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) intends to lay new groundwork for deepening bilateral cooperation and contribute to mutually beneficial development across various fields. Xiao Han, Ambassador of China to Senegal, and Mamadou Ndiaye, Ambassador of Senegal to China, shared their views on the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC and Sino-African ties with La Revue de Dakar prior to the meeting in Dakar, capital of Senegal, on November 29-30. Edited excerpts follow:
Since its establishment in 2000, the FOCAC has expanded its African membership to 53 countries and the African Union (AU) Commission, providing a collective dialogue platform and practical cooperation mechanism, and becoming an exemplary model for South-South cooperation and for international cooperation with Africa.
The FOCAC has hosted three summits and seven ministerial meetings, and each of them has witnessed the launch of a series of major initiatives to complement the strengths of both sides and support Africa’s development, benefiting Chinese and African people alike.
The significance of this year’s meeting is even more extraordinary. It is not only a reunion of the China-Africa big family, but also a new starting point for our collaboration. The decision made by China and Africa to hold the meeting as scheduled reflects the mutual trust and support between the world’s largest developing country and the continent with the largest concentration of developing countries, as well as the determination, courage and commitment to jointly finding solutions to the current issues and respond to the changes in the world.
With the joint efforts of China and Africa, the 2018 Beijing Summit was a great success, and the leaders of both sides agreed to promote the alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative with the AU Agenda 2063 and the development strategies of African countries.
Over the past three years, China and Africa have worked closely together to achieve important outcomes. At present, the implementation of the eight major initiatives put forward at the summit has entered its final stage.
As of May this year, more than 85 percent of the projects announced had been implemented, and more than 70 percent of the $60-billion supporting funds had been disbursed or earmarked. As of July, Chinese enterprises had invested $9.5 billion in Africa, and will achieve the target of $10 billion by the end of the year as planned.
The achievements have helped African countries fight the pandemic and recover their economies. All 50 aid projects in Africa announced by China in six areas, including industrial promotion, healthcare, peace and security, green development, trade promotion and people-to-people exchanges, will be completed soon.
As Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out, China has always considered expanding cooperation and boosting development the top priority of the FOCAC mechanism. China will deliver on our commitments.
Since the resumption of diplomatic relations in 2005, relations between China and Senegal have been developing rapidly and are currently at a historical best.
China and Senegal elevated bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in 2016 and Senegal became the first West African country to sign a document on Belt and Road cooperation with China in 2018. China has implemented numerous aid and cooperation projects in Senegal, and has actively invested in the latter’s agriculture, communication technology, digital economy, solar energy and other fields. In 2020, bilateral trade bucked the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and reached a record $2.9 billion, up 15 percent year on year.
What I want to say in particular is that the pandemic has not stopped us from moving forward together. In February, China provided 200,000 vaccine doses to Senegal, making it the first country in West Africa to receive the vaccine in bulk, and one of the first countries in Africa to receive Chinese vaccines.
On November 4, the latest batch of 500,000 China-made Sinopharm vaccine doses arrived in Senegal. As the largest source country of Senegal’s COVID-19 vaccines, China will continue to provide assistance according to its needs, helping the country to accelerate the implementation of its mass vaccination campaign.
While fighting the pandemic together, both countries have also witnessed a steady stream of success in various key cooperation projects. Senegal’s new national datacenter, financed by China, has been officially opened and several other projects are progressing well.
Another series of infrastructure projects will be launched soon, covering digital technology and many other fields, providing firm support for Senegal to stabilize the economy, promote employment and improve people’s livelihood. It fully demonstrates the friendship between the two countries, and consolidates our partnership.
China will promote the alignment between the strategic development plans of both sides to help the Senegalese achieve the goal of making their country an emerging economy by 2035. We will join hands and bring together the wisdom and strengths of both peoples to achieve a brighter future together.
As co-chairs of the FOCAC, President Macky Sall and President Xi Jinping have maintained close contact since the 2018 Beijing Summit and are following, through their respective governments, the implementation of the outcomes of that summit.
Among the decisions of the Beijing Summit that have been implemented is the launch of the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo. This exhibition has been held twice, in 2019 and this year, in Changsha, Hunan Province, with Senegal as one of the guest of honor countries. It is an important initiative that has a significant impact on Africa-China economic and trade relations. At the first edition in June 2019, 84 trade contracts were signed with a total value of over $20.8 billion. This year, the exhibition recorded the participation of over 900 Chinese and African companies and resulted in the signing of 135 partnership projects worth $22.9 billion.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, President Sall approached President Xi to ask for his advocacy for Africa in the initiatives on the part of the international community to mitigate the impact of the health crisis. It was in this spirit that on June 17, 2020, the heads of state of Senegal and China and their South African counterpart, then chair of the AU, organized an extraordinary Africa-China summit on solidarity against COVID-19.
Because they feature the world’s largest developing country and the continent with the greatest number of developing countries, the FOCAC sessions have always produced significant and much-anticipated decisions.
Furthermore, the worldwide situation in which we find ourselves right now adequately justifies looking forward to such decisions. Africa and China, like the rest of the globe, are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason alone, they must use the opportunity to take bold steps to revitalize their economies and enhance their alliance.
They must continue their joint fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which shows the urgency for new initiatives to improve the healthcare systems of African countries and strengthen African capacity in the production of medicines and medical equipment.
At the political level, Senegal-China relations have remained excellent and have even been strengthened through frequent consultations between the authorities of the two countries.
No particular problems were noted in the area of bilateral economic cooperation. On the contrary, the cooperation projects are being implemented according to schedule, and even though the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some disruptions, it has not had any major impact on the overall framework of our partnership.
However, many hope that, very soon, travel restrictions will be lifted or eased around the world so that Senegalese and Chinese companies can resume their contacts and explore further opportunities on both sides.