By Zhou Pingjian
The capital city of China is embracing Africa time soon.
Early next month, the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held under the theme of China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation.
President Xi Jinping is looking forward to participating in the Beijing summit with African leaders to discuss plans for the development of China-Africa cooperation so as to improve the well-being of the Chinese and African peoples and promote world peace and development.
We Chinese appreciate the African wisdom, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Indeed, similar historical experience, common development tasks and shared strategic interests have bound China and Africa together. China and Africa have always been a community with a shared future. In today’s world, China-Africa relations have become more important with increasing common interests. Advancing China-Africa cooperation represents the trend of the times and the will of our peoples.
The FOCAC is 18 years old this year. Since its inception in 2000, remarkable progress has been made in China-Africa cooperation across-the-board. Two-way trade and China’s total non-financial investment in Africa in 2017 were 17 times and around 100 times that of 2000 respectively, which shows China’s contribution to Africa’s economic development has risen significantly. As a key platform for the collective dialogue and cooperation between China and African countries, the FOCAC has become a model of South-South cooperation and a banner of international cooperation with Africa.
“We are confident that China, as a strategic and dependable development partner, will always stand shoulder to shoulder with us in our quest to fulfill the aspirations of our people to propel them to prosperity,” said President Muhammadu Buhari in his remarks at the Plenary Meeting of the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit in December 2015.
China has proved itself to be a reliable partner of Africa by always walking the talk. The follow-up actions and the implementation of the outcomes of the Johannesburg Summit, including the “ten cooperation plans” and the FOCAC Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-2018), have produced fruitful results as expected.
The implementation work of the FOCAC Johannesburg summit has been going smoothly with prominent achievements in Nigeria.
The remarkably deepened political mutual trust. The robust bilateral trade and investment relations. The Naira/RMB currency swap. The strong Made-in-Nigeria with China initiative. The flourishing Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone and the Lekki Free Trade Zone. The offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) delivery. The emergency food aid. The agricultural science and technology demonstration parks. And early this month, Anthony Ekwensi, the 21-year old Nigerian student from UniZik, was crowned the African champion at the 17th Chinese Bridge Chinese Language Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students in China. The list could go on and on.
Let me go further on infrastructure, a key execution priority of Nigeria Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). The Abuja-Kaduna railway, Africa’s first modern railway with Chinese technology and standards, was commissioned in July 2016. The Abuja rail mass transit project, the first urban railway in West Africa, was commissioned in July 2018. The Lagos-Ibadan railway broke ground and started building in March 2017. The construction of the Lekki deep water port, the largest port in West Africa, and the Zungeru hydropower station, the largest hydropower station in Nigeria, are well under way. In the past year alone, both sides of China and Nigeria have concluded the concessionary financing arrangements to support more infrastructural development projects in Nigeria, namely, the Nigerian railway modernization project (Logos-Ibadan section), the expansion of 5.4 KM of Abuja-Keffi expressway and dualization of Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road, the Greater Abuja water supply project, the supply of rolling stocks and depot equipment for Abuja rail mass transit project phase I, and the national information and communication technology infrastructure backbone project phase II. Tens of thousands of jobs have been created for Nigerians by projects contracted by Chinese enterprises or partly financed by the Chinese side.
When President Buhari received the board of directors of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group in January this year, he said, “We send our gratitude to the Chinese for all their support to Nigeria. Since independence, no country has helped our country on infrastructural development like the Chinese. In some projects, the Chinese help us with 85 percent payment, and soft loans that span 20 years. No country has done that for us.”
As the largest developing country in the world, China takes deep pride in its ever stronger partnership with Nigeria, the largest developing country in Africa. It is our firm belief that the China-Nigeria cooperation is brotherly South-South cooperation between two equal partners and is indeed mutually beneficial. China remains committed to stepping up its cooperation with Nigeria in agriculture, manufacturing, industrial capacity and investment, infrastructure, energy, and other areas.
We now face new opportunities to grow our bilateral relations.
Five years ago, President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. The Belt and Road Initiative emphasizes on integrating the development strategies and complementary advantages of the partnering countries with a view to promoting high-quality and sustainable development for all in a spirit of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. The past five years have witnessed that the Belt and Road Initiative has transformed itself from a vision to practical actions with fruitful cooperation results.
The Belt and Road Initiative is open to all countries. Though originating from China, it belongs to the whole world. Africa, being part of the historical and natural extension of the Belt and Road, has been an important participant in this initiative. The cooperation between China and Africa under the Belt and Road Initiative will generate more resources and means, expand the market and space for African development, and broaden its development prospects.
Coming the FOCAC Beijing Summit, Both sides will endeavor to combine the theme of the summit with the joint construction of the Belt and Road between China and Africa, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations, the Agenda 2063 of the African Union as well as the development strategies of various African countries such as Nigeria’s ERGP to make new planning for win-win cooperation and open up new prospects for common development. The closer connectivity in policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people ties, strengthened industrial capacity cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, and the greater cooperation in the planning of African infrastructure and industrial development will lend new impetus to the win-win cooperation and common development between China and Africa. Making the FOCAC a major platform for China-Africa cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative with concerted efforts will surely further strengthen the China-Africa solidarity and cooperation in a new era.
In April 2016, President Buhari became the first head of state from Africa President Xi received in Beijing shortly after the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit. The China-Nigeria relations have since entered a new stage of rapid development. It is our firm belief that President Buhari’s attendance at the upcoming FOCAC Beijing Summit will make important contribution to China-Africa cooperation and bring about new opportunities to grow China-Nigeria strategic partnership.
Beijing warmly welcomes Nigeria and Africa.
(Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria)