As China and Africa embrace the 15th birthday of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the world has witnessed their accelerating steps in expanding cooperation in various fields.
There have been many voices on China-Africa relations over the years. Some hail China’s increasingly prominent existence in Africa as a boost to Africa’s development, while some, mostly in the West, insist on throwing a wet blanket on China-Africa cooperation, hence fantastic theories like “neocolonialism,” “plunderer of Africa’s resources” and the latest “concrete diplomacy.”
Despite some “growing pains” between China and Africa over the years, it is indisputable that Africa has benefited a lot from the China-Africa cooperation, which has been attested by growing trade due to improved infrastructure in the continent.
Although one has difficulty in understanding what wrong with a “concrete diplomacy” for a continent which needs badly infrastructure projects, the phrase circulates in the Western media in many reports covering China-Africa cooperation.
World Bank senior transport specialist Justin Runji told Zambia Daily Mail the transport was big business and an important catalyst for spurring economic development in Africa.
The World Bank official however expressed concern that in the recent past, some donors have withdrawn their support to the transport sector in Africa.
China has become Africa’s largest trade partner, and Africa is now China’s second largest overseas construction project contract market and the fourth largest investment destination, according to the 2013 white paper on China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation” by the State Council of China.
Up to now, China has completed 1,046 projects in Africa, building 2,233 kilometers of railways and 3,530 kilometers of roads, among others, promoting intra-African trade and helping it integrate into the global economy.
A Chinese company is constructing a standard gauge railway in Kenya, which is also expected to connect to more countries in East Africa.
“CHINA IS EXPLOITING AFRICA’S RESOURCES”
Believers of such theories seem to ignore the simple fact that Western powers have been holding their grounds in production of natural resources like oil, gas and minerals in many African countries.
According to a report quoted by the Wikipedia, joint ventures between foreign companies and Nigerian government account for approximately 95 percent of all crude oil output in Nigeria, while local independent companies operating in marginal fields account for the remaining 5 percent. And the top six foreign companies operating in Nigeria are all of western origin, including Shell Nigeria who accounts for 50 percent of Nigerian’s total oil production.
The same story happens in many other African countries: Angola, Zambia, Botswana, etc., a story neglected by some people in the West perhaps because they have taken this for granted for too long to remember.
China’s investment in Africa has been diversified alongside improvement of level of investment. Currently, over 2,000 Chinese enterprises are investing and developing in more than 50 African countries and regions, and cooperation fields have expanded from agriculture, mining and building industry to intensive processing of resource products, industrial manufacturing, finance, commercial logistics and realestate.
COOPERATION IN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY
Agriculture is crucial for stable development and poverty reduction efforts in Africa. In recent years, Sino-Africa trade in agriculture products has grown quickly. From 2009 to 2012, China’s agricultural exports to Africa grew from 1.58 billion to 2.49 billion, an increase of 57.6 percent.
During the same period, China’s agricultural imports from Africa grew from 1.16 billion dollars to 2.86 billion dollars, a 146 percent increase. Most imported agricultural products are non- food items, including cotton, hemp, silk, oil seeds and other such products.
China adopted in 2005 zero-tariff policy for some African products. Chinese enterprises also invest in fields like breeding improved seeds, planting grain and cash crops, and processing agricultural products.
Africa has sustained rapid economic growth in recent years, but it still faces severe development problems and difficult task of accomplishing the UN Millennium Goals.
China has in the recent years developed cooperation with Africa in areas relating to public amenities, medical and health care, climate change and environmental protection, humanitarian aid,and other fields. China has also strengthened cultural and educational exchanges and scientific and cooperation in an effort to improve Africa’s ability to develop independently.
From 2010 to 2012, China helped build 27 hospitals in Ghana, Zimbabwe and other African countries. China has also sent 43 medical teams to 42 African countries and regions, treating over 5. 57 million patients.
Since November 2009, China has carried out more than 100 clean energy projects in African countries, including biogas technology cooperation with Tunisia, Guinea and the Sudan, solar and wind power generation in Morocco, Ethiopia and South Africa.