Fact Box

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Dependable partner


Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China has remained steadfast in its commitment to support Africa's development

Despite the difficulties and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that affected economic activities across the world, China's commitment to Africa continued to thrive.

For instance, according to recent data released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, China's imports of African products from January to July reached about $70.6 billion and Chinese companies have invested $2.17 billion in Africa. China has also signed zero tariff agreements with 12 African nations for 98 percent of their export items to China. As a result, in the first quarter of 2022, trade between China and Africa surged by 23 percent to hit $64.8 billion.

Furthermore, on Aug 18, 2022, during the Coordinators' Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China will waive 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries that had matured by the end of 2021.

As a way of allowing African nations to enjoy the dividend of development as well as avoiding a debt crisis in Africa, the recent FOCAC meeting has explored new models of cooperation that include private sector participation in Africa's development. In the new model, China will encourage Chinese-funded firms to adopt public-private partnership and build-operate-transfer models to invest in the African industry for more localized production of African brands.

China has attached great importance to improving the public health capacity of African nations. It has recently dispatched 332 medical personnel to Africa, and the nearly 1,000 Chinese medical workers in Africa have continuously provided outpatient services and trained 3,600 local medical personnel. China has provided 189 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 27 African nations, and their joint production of vaccines in Africa has achieved an annual capacity of approximately 400 million doses. The headquarters building of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has topped out and is expected to be completed early next year. The project to upgrade the China-Guinea Friendship Hospital has been completed, and the preliminary procedures to pair up hospitals in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Malawi with Chinese hospitals have been concluded.

The staunch commitment from China during the pandemic reinforces that there is great potential for China and Africa to create more "relief hope" in the next decade as the relationship advances. This "relief hope" provides a "golden opportunity" for African nations to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19, break away from charity and move toward a more business-oriented approach which will serve as an effective catalyst for stabilizing African economies, enhancing their capacity for independent development and improving people's livelihoods.

China's commitment demonstrates that it is following the principles of China's Africa policy, sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping and has completely grasped the imperative to support Africa to boost its development. This is what is lacking in the approaches of several advanced economies that are Africa's partners. As a result of such dynamics, African people's perception of China is largely positive and African countries generally consider China to be their preferred long-term development partner.

Looking forward, China promises to strongly support the African Continental Free Trade Area and accelerate the China-Africa Health Silk Road and Digital Silk Road under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. It points to a new development direction for China-Africa practical cooperation in the post-pandemic period.

With this new direction of development, African and Chinese governments should explore strategies to bolster post-pandemic cooperation in the Health Silk Road and Digital Silk Road. This will require novel priorities in investment policies. This will require realigning the investment regimes to the new national development priorities likely to emerge in the post-pandemic period, such as employment opportunities. Reforms may also be required to ensure the limitation or phasing out of crisis-related investment screening and approval mechanisms to permit foreign direct investment entry.

The exponential increase in China's commitment and involvement in Africa is arguably behind the significant development African people have enjoyed for several decades. China is well-positioned to remain a steady development partner of Africa and to assist African people in finding the continent's solutions to its own problems and pursuing the continent's aspirations.

The author is executive director of the Center for Nigerian Studies at the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University. 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.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn