Platform for growth
MA XUEJING/CHINA DAILY
Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is playing an increasingly bigger role in helping to realize the 2063 Agenda for Africa
China and African countries jointly launched the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000, signaling the establishment of a China-Africa multilateral consultation and dialogue mechanism. Over the past 20 years, with economic globalization further developing and China's national strength greatly increasing, the China-Africa relationship, driven by the FOCAC, has been constantly strengthened.
Within the FOCAC framework, China has provided African countries with preferential loans and debt relief to help ensure Africa possesses sufficient and sustainable funds for its development. To help enhance the development capabilities of African countries, China has set up the African Human Resources Development Fund, which includes training for officials and vocational and formal education. It also not only sends young volunteers to work in African countries, but has increased the number of medical and agricultural experts being sent to Africa. China also provides food, cash, living and medical supplies as humanitarian aid to African countries suffering from natural disasters, pandemic outbreak or wars.
To make bilateral trade and investment more sustainable, China has set up a series of mechanisms to make trade more standardized and institutionalized, including the Investment Promotion Centre of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, the China-Africa Development Fund, the Special Loan for the Development of African Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, and the Capacity fund for China-Africa Cooperation.
Most African countries are aware of the fact that the development strategies suggested by Western countries are not suitable for them, and they should explore their own development paths. China offers a new concept of development: seeking a development path based on the reality of the country, respecting people's choices and benefiting the people.
The novel coronavirus that swept across the world in 2020 has posed severe development challenges for Africa. First and foremost, economic difficulties, as many countries are heavily dependent on exports, which have been hit hard by the pandemic. Meanwhile, the pandemic has had a severe negative impact on foreign investment to fragile, small African economies, which have been further marginalized in the global capital flow. The average growth rate of GDP in Africa has contracted by 2 percent in 2020, which is expected to push 5 million to 29 million people back into abject poverty.
What's more, the pandemic has resulted in a more serious food crisis for African countries. A severe locust plague hit East Africa in 2020, making food and feed safety problems worse. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has pointed out that about 6 million people in Ethiopia live in areas affected by the locust plague. Border closures and traffic restrictions caused by the pandemic have made the affected countries unable to obtain effective goods and materials; even worse, the original food supply chain has been severely damaged.
Also, the pandemic has made poverty, violence, equality, education and other issues that have always existed in African countries more prominent. Domestic abuse has been exacerbated by lockdowns; terrorist and criminal groups have also been less punished due to the pandemic, and they have even increased their influence via the internet.
On the contrary, economic globalization has faced hurdles in recent years. The pandemic has had negative effects on the economies of developed countries, so they have reduced the amount of aid they give to other countries. Under the present circumstances, Western countries are finding it difficult to keep their promises to help African countries achieve the 2063 Agenda.
With such severe prospects, the FOCAC is expected to play a bigger role in helping realize the African Union's 2063 Agenda. The challenges of the pandemic, food crisis and structural violence are undoubtedly the major challenges to the inclusive social and economic development that the AU is striving for.
In light of this, China and Africa should focus on medical and healthcare cooperation, the resumption of work and production and ensuring people's livelihoods. In order to promote the sustainability of African countries' development, China and the AU have accelerated the docking of the AU's Agenda 2063 and China's Belt and Road Initiative. The recent signing of the cooperation plan between China and the AU on jointly promoting the construction of the Belt and Road will facilitate bilateral policy coordination, thereby overcoming structural and institutional difficulties more efficiently.
The FOCAC is also expected to promote the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The pandemic that has swept the world has caused many of the goals of the sustainable development agenda to stagnate. Therefore, China is actively helping Africa to fight the virus, and resolve domestic crises, as well as suspending debts, in order to ensure that progress on the Sustainable Development goals will be continued.
At the same time, China has promoted the improvement of the overall market capacity and governance capabilities of African countries through a series of measures such as strengthening human resource cooperation with Africa, supporting the construction of the African Continental Free Trade Area, and helping Africa to develop the digital economy, establishing foundations for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The author is an associate research fellow and deputy director of the Institute of International Development Cooperation of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, affiliated with the Ministry of Commerce. She is the author of Cooperation and Win-win: Research on Jointly Building a China-African Community with a Shared Future. This article is some excerpts from the book. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.