By Ehizuelen Michael Mitchell Omoruyi
The recent roadmap for China-Africa relations in the new era is one eagerly awaited outcome of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which will begin on 3rd September. This year theme is “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future Through Win-win Cooperation.” FOCAC has been pragmatic and efficient because it has led international cooperation with Africa and has become a significant maker of South-South cooperation. The 18-year FOCAC will be a significant diplomatic event hosted by China this year because it comes at the time when China is celebrating its four decades of reform and opening up; it provides an opportune time for China and African leaders to deepening cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), where Chinese and African cooperation has become even more important recently. The fact that China is sharing its amazing experience of industrialization and development of the past four decades with the rest of the world is a key element of success. China lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty – as attested by such institutions as the World Bank – through investments in urban and rural infrastructure projects, and mega-projects in transportation, water and power. This is an unparalleled achievement that can be replicated in Africa. The BRI is a vehicle that calls for prompting regional connectivity which in turn will help build closer China-Africa community with a shared future. This will be a priority in the next phase of China-Africa cooperation. As such, the BRI with Africa development, set a new path for a higher level of China-Africa cooperation, deepen people-to-people exchanges, injecting vitality into Sino-African ties by broadening consensus, strengthening friendship, promoting innovation, coordinating sub-regional cooperation, and promoting infrastructure development in Africa.
BRI has also help advanced China-Africa cooperation significantly in recent years, in various fields, with bilateral cooperation expanding to broader frontiers, such as trade, infrastructure development, skills transfer, security cooperation, industrialization, sports, tourism, medicine, technical management and scientific research. The BRI has enabled Chinese investment and loans in Africa give priority to infrastructure. This priority has enabled China to pump billions of dollars into infrastructure such as Kenya’s monumental SGR Railway. This has helped to propel the bilateral trade between Africa and China recently. For example, China customs statistics display that Africa-China trade was “off to a flying beginning” of $170 billion in 2017. The trade volume increase by 19 percent as against the 18 percent fall in 2015. Furthermore, according to a recent data from the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), trade import and export volumes between China and African economies reached US116 billion in the first seven months of 2018 – up 18.7 percent year-on-year. The increase is propelled by the construction sector which is instigated by the BRI. Recently, the country also helped launch a new multilateral financial institution called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), that was formally established in late 2015 to help low- and middle-income economies pay for infrastructure improvements, such as new roads and power lines to rural villages. China enlisted the help of other emerging economies, including Brazil and South Africa, to establish a development bank of their own, similar to the World Bank and IMF. And it is increasingly investing in African countries through aid, loans and direct investment.
What is more important to me is how African economies will continue to strategize to leverage on the BRI. For the reason that the BRI will be a good way for the African government to engage China more in the area of infrastructure. As a result of the fact that huge opportunities exist for Africa to secure Chinese financing for its infrastructure development to aid intra-continental trade which will help facilitate the newly signed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Also, Africa is likely to benefit from China’s newly created China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) designed to coordinate China’s foreign aid programme. The CIDCA institutionalizes a “mutually beneficial win-win” concept of “development coordination” that is strongly connected with Xi Jinping ubiquitous BRI. Africa is yet to climb the value chain of mineral processing and manufacturing, with the BRI African economies could attract such funding to add value to their natural resources and produce commodities, which would help the region to unlock its full potential of natural resources, which could be exported to China on a value-added basis. We are facing dramatic and dynamic changes in the world. China and Africa have once again come to a crossroad since both sides are undergoing economic and social transformation. Numerous African economies are looking forward to fully participating in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” to reverse Africa’s anti-industrialization process due to their failed adjustment guided by Western “structured reforms” in the 1980s. The final goal is to accelerate technology transfer, job creation and speed up Africa’s comprehensive transformation. At present, China is continuing diversified hi-tech, labour intensive and capital driven industrial capacity cooperation with countries across the whole continent and Island countries nearby. It is for sure the Beijing Summit at the FOCAC this September will bring more impetus to accelerate the fourth industrial revolution driving an economic leap-forward both in China and the Whole African continent.
Omoruyi is the executive Director, Center for Nigerian Studies, at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University