The 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held in early September in Beijing, China. Previous meetings have bore fruit, but African countries can still use the opportunity to derive greater benefits from their cooperation with China, writes Gedion G. Jalata (firstname.lastname@example.org), CEO of Center of Excellence International Consult. His views do not represent that of any organisation.
This year’s edition of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held early next month in Beijing, China.
Its theme will be to create “win-win cooperation and join hands to build a closer community with a shared future for China and Africa.”
China and Africa are expected to declare an action plan underpinning the Belt & Road Initiative, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
Indeed, the forum is the premier platform through which trade and investment are mediated between China and African countries. Since the first conference in 2000, there have been six Ministerial Meetings – two of which have been elevated to summits.
Each forum led to a growing portfolio of development projects that have led to significant growth in investment and trade. This has benefited African countries as well as China. However, the partnership between China and Africa can still evolve into a win-win situation.
While recognising and appreciating this mutual development, it is critical to ensure that the forums projects are integrated into and are consistent with the UN’s sustainable development goals, Agenda 2063, as well as national development strategies, social sustainability and environmental targets.
China is one of the top four African partners in trade, infrastructure, foreign direct investment and official development assistance. It is thus evident that African countries should effectively engage in the forum.
During the last summit in Johannesburg, three years ago, ten cooperative plans were rolled out and five pillars of China-Africa ties were slated for improvement. A comprehensive and strategic partnership was at the core of the relationship.
This framework for cooperation is indeed comprehensive, covering substantial areas of interest to Africa such as infrastructure, investment, human resource, environment and natural resources as well as support for globally and continentally-agreed development goals.
In the same summit, China pledged to give 60 billion dollars as a development fund to African countries. They included loans, preferential loans, export credits and concessional foreign aid loans amounting to 35 billion dollars; fund for equity investment; small & medium enterprises credit line; grants and zero interest loans; and a new China-Africa Cooperation Fund worth 10 billion dollars.
China also provided 3.1 billion dollars to the South-South Climate Change Cooperation Fund and an additional two billion dollars in aid for the implementation of SDGs.
Nonetheless, only a few nations are making the most out of their engagement with China. Africa should develop an African-grown comprehensive strategy going into negotiations with the Chinese.
To engage better with China, adequate and early preparation is critical. In this regard, African countries must develop a common position in their engagement at the upcoming forum. Priorities at the continental, regional and country levels ought to be identified.
African countries must understand the forum’s process and develop an engagement strategy in relation to it. The voices in Africa are fragmented, and there should be regional and continental representatives such as the African Union and regional economic communities.
The Agenda 2063 and different AU sectoral programmes such as Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa, as well as the African Development Bank, can be used to engage with China in a multilateral setting.
African countries must also negotiate at the RECs level to promote enhanced infrastructure development in the sub-regions, which will help African nations to actualise the Continental Free Trade Area.
Promotion of green infrastructure through better design and planning will promote the use of social and environmental criteria, and investing in woman and youth will have a multiplier effect.
Projects launched at the forum ought to also give room for utilisation of input from the local private players of African countries. Including the African-based private sector, such as consultants and contractors, in projects coming from China is just as important.
Nations should actively engage in integrated regulatory frameworks and issues related to environmental assessments.
Legislation to prevent and enforce the trade of illegally-harvested, traded and transported timber, timber-based and non-timber products should be given significant focus. Non-compliance and violations ought to be punished to the full extent of the law.
A matter that cannot be eschewed as well is the development of traceability systems – monitoring and evaluation – for trade in natural resources to ensure legality and sustainable extraction. A monitoring and evaluation plan that stipulates periodic reporting can help here, and reports should be publicly accessible.
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