The eighth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) ministerial meeting that took place in Dakar, Senegal, concluded just last week. Like previous FOCAC meetings, China presented its vision for China-Africa relations for the next three years, this time under the theme “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era.” A review of the content, however, illustrates significant shifts in China’s priorities, emphasis, and approaches from its earlier patterns. In fact, the Financial Times has lamented the quantitative reduction of China’s financial commitments from $60 billion in 2018 to $40 billion this year. However, it is the qualitative changes that raise bigger questions as to whether China is leaving Africa after two decades of robust and ever-growing engagement. Some of the shifts could be temporary and tactical. However, the impact of the others could be far-reaching and long-term.
From 29–30 November, the eighth edition of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was held in Dakar, Senegal, bringing together the foreign ministers and high-level attendees from African countries and China. This year’s theme was to “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era”.
Mineral resources are a critical source of revenue for Africa. In 2019, minerals and fossil fuels accounted for more than a third of exports from at least 60 percent of African countries. The continent produces around 80 percent of the world’s platinum, two-thirds of its cobalt, half of its manganese, and a substantial amount of chromium, leaving it in a strong position to benefit from growing demand for these minerals. Moreover, Africa is believed to have some of the world’s largest untapped mineral reserves.
Industrial policy is seeing a revival in Africa and beyond. In fact, governments across the continent are now explicitly using a variety of industrial policy tools to promote industrialization through agro-processing, labor-intensive light manufacturing, natural resource extraction and value addition, some knowledge-intensive manufacturing, and “industries without smokestacks” such as high-value agriculture and tradable services.
Chinese President Xi Jinping made the commitments virtually as part of the annual Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
As a two-day summit in Senegal comes to a close, China emphasised how crucial the partnership is.
China is Africa’s largest trading partner with nearly $190bn in trade.
But can China avoid criticism for taking advantage of natural resources and saddling developing nations with unsustainable debt?
Presenter: Sohail Rahman
Hassan Khannenje – Director of the HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies
Antony Goldman – Head of Promedia Consulting, advises companies on investment and political risk in Africa
Andy Mok – Senior research fellow, Center for China and Globalization
Chinese companies have been a solid force in promoting in-depth China-Africa cooperation, which has shown resilience amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to play a major role as China and Africa are set to further step up bilateral cooperation, despite rising challenges such as the pandemic and external interferences, a senior Chinese business representative told the Global Times.
Though extremely cliché, some Western media still can’t pass up any chance to hype up the so-called “debt trap” theory when it comes to cooperation between China and other developing economies. The latest example is Uganda’s international airport, which some media reports said is under risk of being “taken over” by Chinese lenders after failing to make a repayment.
The Chinese Embassy in Uganda on Sunday pushed back against foreign media speculations that China would “seize” control of Uganda’s main international airport after the country failed to repay loans, saying that no project in Africa has been “seized” by China due to inability to replay loans.
China has always maintained that Africa should be a stage for international cooperation rather than an arena for power games, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar on Sunday local time, adding that China will always be the most sincere and reliable partner of Africa’s revitalization.