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Published On: Thu, May 8th, 2014

China-Africa cooperation: Premier Li visit nudges it higher

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china flagBy Charles Onunaiju with agency reports

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proposed Monday that China and Africa join hands to bring forth an upgraded version of their all-round cooperation.

Speaking at the headquarters of the African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital, Li expounded China’s Africa policy and reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to further deepening the China-Africa comprehensive cooperative partnership.

The Chinese premier, visiting Africa for the first time since taking office in March last year, listed four principles, outlined six areas and highlighted one platform for the Asian giant and the promising continent to realize the upgrading.

Now a land full of vim and vigor, Africa has reshaped itself into an important pole in world politics, a new pole in global economic growth and a colourful pole in human civilization, Li said.

In order to further consolidate bilateral cooperation, he suggested that the two sides stick to the four principles of treating each other sincerely and equally, consolidating solidarity and mutual trust, jointly pursuing inclusive development and promoting innovation in bilateral practical cooperation.

Noting that China and Africa now share more common interests and boast a stronger foundation for cooperation, Li proposed that the two sides seize the momentum and open a new chapter in bilateral cooperation.

The premier identified six areas — industry, finance, poverty reduction, ecological protection, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security – for the two sides to make the leap forward.

With regard to industrial cooperation, Li noted the rapid growth of bilateral trade over recent years and urged the two sides to bring the volume to 400 billion U.S. dollars by 2020 and push China’s cumulative direct investment in Africa toward 100 billion dollars.

China-Africa trade reached 210.2 billion dollars in 2013.

China is ready to expand cooperation with Africa in building road, rail, telecommunications, power grid and other infrastructure so as to help the continent realize regional interconnection, he said, adding that Beijing also encourages Chinese enterprises to form joint ventures with African counterparts in a bid to improve Africa’s regional aviation industry.

The premier also depicted a dream of connecting African capitals with high-speed rail, saying that China is willing to use its world-leading technologies in this area to help make the dream come true so as to improve pan-African communication and development.

In the financial area, Li said China has decided to increase its loans for African countries by 10 billion dollars, which brings the total pledged amount to 30 billion dollars, and to expand the China-Africa development fund by 2 billion dollars to 5 billion dollars. As to poverty reduction, China will train 2,000 agricultural technicians and management personnel for Africa in the coming five years, and tilt its assistance toward such public-welfare areas as drinking water and prevention and control of epidemics.

Stressing that ecological protection is a shared responsibility of all humanity, Li said the Chinese government will provide Africa with 10 million dollars of free aid for wild life preservation and promote joint research in protecting biological diversity, preventing and controlling desertification and promoting modern agriculture.

In respect of people-to-people exchanges, Li said China will carry out its African talent plan in an all-round manner and will provide African countries with 18,000 government scholarships and help them train 30,000 various professionals as scheduled.

As for peace and security, Li said China supports Africa to solve African problems in the African way and stands ready to assist Africa’s capacity-building in such areas as peace-keeping, counter-terrorism and anti-piracy.

China, he said, will offer South Sudan another 50 million yuan (about 8 million dollars) of humanitarian aid to help deal with the humanitarian crisis in the African country.

Pointing out that the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation serves as an important platform for deepening bilateral relations, Li called for joint efforts to improve the mechanism and make it more pragmatic and efficient.

About 1,500 dignitaries from Ethiopia, the AU and other countries and international organizations listened to the address at the AU Convention Center. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also made remarks at the event.

Dlamini-Zuma said that Africa and China have a shared commitment to common destiny, and Africa is ready to work with China not only in poverty reduction but also in modernization.

Hailing Li’s visit as a milestone, the African leaders agreed that China-Africa interaction is a classic model of win-win cooperation, and that the strategic partnership between them will grow ever stronger.

In his meeting with Dlamini-Zuma prior to their speeches, Li hailed the organization as a banner in leading African countries toward solidarity and progress, saying that China firmly supports Africa’s drive for peace and development.

For her part, the AU chief saluted China as a true friend of Africa and stressed the AU Commission’s continuous commitment to playing an active role in boosting the development of Africa-China relations.

After their speeches, Li, Hailemariam and Dlamini-Zuma visited a Chinese rail and aviation exhibition. Pointing out that China’s rail and aviation equipments and technologies are advanced, highly cost-effective and well-reputed in the international market, he said China is willing to boost cooperation with Africa in the areas.

In addition, China and the AU released a joint statement on comprehensively deepening bilateral friendly cooperation and an outline of a joint program for strengthening cooperation on poverty reduction.

Ethiopia was the first leg of Li’s ongoing Africa tour, which has taken him to Nigeria, and then, to Angola and Kenya. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s ongoing three-day visit to Nigeria is expected to boost cooperation between China and the West African country.

The Chinese premier, who arrived at Nmandi Azikiwe International Airport at 7.15pm, was received by the FCT Minister Sen. Bala Mohammed and Foreign Minister Alhaji Aminu Wali.

The premier, who is being accompanied by his wife and a 129-member delegation, was treated to some cultural dances as part of reception ceremony.

Speaking after receiving the premier, Mohammed said Keqiang, who is also participating in discussions during the World Economic Forum for Africa, would sign six bilateral agreements with top government officials.

He said agreements would cover economic and technical co-operation, Bilateral Air Service Agreement, cooperation on sale of pharmaceutical products and a special facility on development of small and medium enterprises.

“Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa while China is the biggest developing country in the world, and the relationship between Nigeria and China has been very cordial,” Gu Xiaojie, Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, has earliersaid in an interview with Xinhua.

“The trade between China and Nigeria is growing rapidly, and people of the two countries have solid relationship,” said Gu.

Li’s visit will strengthen mutual political trust, as well as expand bilateral cooperation in various fields, Gu said, noting that Nigeria has its urgent needs in infrastructure development, energy and hydropower.

China has been a leading partner of Nigeria in developing new infrastructure and rehabilitating the existing ones.

“Through this visit, the leaders of the two countries will reach a consensus on the development of bilateral relations, which will also create a good environment for economic, trade and investment cooperation,” he added.

Li arrived in Abuja earlier on Tuesday for a visit to Nigeria, the second leg of his first Africa visit since he took office in 2013.

The Chinese premier is scheduled to attend the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa and meet African leaders in the Nigerian capital.

During his stay, Premier Li and his delegation are also expected to work together with the Nigerian government to further strengthen their cooperation in the economic field.

“From the economic perspective, China-Africa cooperation brings China necessary resources for economic development and brings Africa inexpensive but nice products,” Li Zhibiao, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said before Li’s visit.

Africa, the last continent on Earth that suffers pervasive poverty while full of promise and potential , has been busy lately greeting high-ranking officials from Western developed nations and Asian economic powerhouses.

It’s noteworthy that the ongoing four-nation tour of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has practically overlapped those of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Coincidentally, Ethiopia and Angola, two legs of Li’s Africa tour, have also been part of Kerry’s itinerary.

That coincidence may lead to a rash assumption that the world’s economic heavyweights are engaged in a fierce race to grab their share of the most promising continent.

Biased people in the West tend to see China, a late comer to Africa, as a rising contender and smear it as the new colonist that snatches natural resources to fit its own development agenda as Western powers did centuries ago.

Such misgivings only attest to the West’s poor knowledge about the real story of the China-Africa cooperation.

The unremitting and ever-robust China-Africa partnership comes from shared inspiration for common development and improvement of people’s livelihood.

That effort, as defined by Li and African leaders in a joint statement at A.U headquarters in Addis Ababa, welcomes diversification of Africa’s cooperative partners, or “a third party” in Africa “on the basis of its need, consent and participation.”

Such cooperation’s openness and inclusiveness are also proved by increasing joint ventures on the continent financed by China and other countries, which is distinct from the old Western version featuring snatching the sphere of influences and stopping the outsiders from coming in.

Efforts at , politicizing China’s normal business cooperation with Africa is doomed, as enhancing people’s livelihood is pursued by two sides, whose economies are highly complementary and impossible to be alienated.

The strategic partnership of China and Africa, with an eye to benefit both their own peoples and the globe at large, will thus enjoy more tenacity and longer duration.

Promoting economic ties with Africa is by no means a zero-sum game for China and the West. The vast continent, full of commercial potentials and business opportunities, is large enough to accommodate competent companies from all countries on an equal footing.

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