Nations firm up FOCAC summit cooperation plans

Updated: 2016-08-05 08:11

By Ren Qi and Li Xiaokun(China Daily Europe)

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Contracts signed covered infrastructure, finance and investment, manufacturing, energy and chemicals

Chinese and African financial institutes and enterprises inked 40 deals on July 29 at a Beijing seminar aimed at making plans agreed at the major summit last year into a reality.

The contracts signed covered infrastructure, manufacturing, finance and investment, energy and chemicals, as well as other sectors, and were worth a combined $18 billion.

 Nations firm up FOCAC summit cooperation plans

Foreign Minister Wang Yi (center) attends the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing on July 29. Ren Qi / China Daily

The seminar was a follow-up to the Johannesburg summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in December, when China agreed $46 billion in direct investment and commercial loans to nations across the continent.

In addition, President Xi Jinping put forward 10 major plans to boost cooperation with Africa over the next three years and said his government would provide a $60 billion investment package to finance initiatives.

All 53 members of the forum sent ministerial representatives to the Beijing event to discuss how to put the plans into action.

Chinese companies have been increasing their investment in Africa in recent years, with the continent becoming the second-largest market for overseas construction contracts. In the first six months of 2016, China's direct investment in Africa increased year-on-year by 10 percent, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi says financial aid to Africa takes up only a small part of bilateral cooperation. Investment has been the main avenue of China-Africa collaboration, providing a boost to industrialization on the continent, he says.

Xi sent a congratulatory letter to the meeting on July 29, saying that in the past six months, China and Africa have worked together to overcome the negative effects of a sluggish global economy and made tangible achievements in implementing agreements from the Johannesburg summit.

Anil Sooklal, South Africa's coordinator in charge of implementing the agreements from the Johannesburg summit, says the China-Africa relationship is not one between donor and receiver, but between equal partners.

"We must understand that the (Beijing) meeting is taking place at a time when the global economy is facing severe crises, when access to finance for development is difficult to come by. ... China has come forward to push this cooperation.

"What is encouraging is that Africa wants to learn from and partner with China."

Prince Mupazviriho, permanent secretary of the Zimbabwean Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, says he was in Beijing to discuss details about a major dam expansion project in his country, which is being carried out by China's Power Construction Corp.

He says the $1.17 billion hydropower project will take more than three years to complete, but will mean there will be many more opportunities for investment in agriculture and domestic water supplies in the future.

"China-Africa relations are strengthening day by day because of what China is doing for Africa. We believe China is trying to do what is good for the African people," says Alhaji Alpha Taue Jalloh, president of the Sierra Leone Importers Association.

"A great number of people in Sierra Leone, and Africa as a whole, are enjoying the hospitals, training and other activities thanks to contributions by the Chinese government," he says. "In my country, for instance, more than 80 percent of railways have been constructed by Chinese companies.

"I can see more Chinese companies coming to Sierra Leone, investing in Sierra Leone, and increasing the potential of Sierra Leone."

Helen Hai, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, says China-Africa cooperation has entered a new phase since December. However, she adds, it remains a challenge for China to help African countries to restructure their economies.

"Judging from the weight of importance, China-Africa industrialization and agricultural modernization plans highlight that the goal of the new era of cooperation is to promote economic transition of African countries," she says.

Nations firm up FOCAC summit cooperation plans

Mo Jingxi and Yan Dongjie contributed to this story.

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Lesotho trade zone to boost bilateral trade

China has agreed to help Lesotho establish a free trade zone, part of efforts to boost bilateral trade.

The deal was one of three agreed by the countries at a China-Africa business cooperation seminar in Beijing on July 29.

Lineo Exinia, an expert with the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says China is trying hard to build the African economy and has provided nations on the continent with many opportunities.

"China is producing a lot of machinery, while Africa needs a lot of machinery, so we're going to have some cooperation in this field," she says.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, since 1983, the country has helped to build Lesotho's National Conference Center, Paramount Hall and National Library, as well as constructing radio and television facilities and providing aid.

China has written off part of Lesotho's debt and given tax-free treatment to some of its imported goods since 2005. Bilateral trade stood at $101 million in 2014.

However, Exinia says she has not seen much desire to invest in the country, except for Chinese machinery companies.

"I've been here (in Beijing) for three weeks and haven't found one company with the willingness to invest," other than in machinery, she adds.

(China Daily European Weekly 08/05/2016 page28)