Africa is the second-largest continent in the world both in size and population. China also has the largest population in the world and is one of the biggest countries on the globe in terms of size. This means the two sides account for the largest portion of the world’s population as well as a significant volume of natural resources.
Both Africa and China share some similarities, in addition to their large population size and vast land area. In terms of economy, the two sides can be categorized as developing economies. But while Africa still contends many economic development challenges, China has passed through the amazing speed of growth and has become an engine of growth for the entire world.
In this regard the cultural similarities the two sides share serve as factors to exchange all-rounded collaboration with a spirit of friendship for a common bright future. In the early days of their ties, African countries have expressed their support to China in its bid to maintain its permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
On the other hand, China has also done a lot of contributions to the development needs of the continent since then. The most iconic one is the railway line that connects Tanzania with landlocked Zambia.
At that moment, China committed itself to build a railroad between Tanzania and Zambia, supplying an interest-free loan to be repaid over 30 years. The construction began in 1970 and operation commenced six years later. The line starts at the port of Dar-es- Salaam and crosses Tanzania in a southwest direction.
Since Africa and China are streamlining their collaborations under various initiatives, currently, there are couples of frameworks through which the two sides are executing their economic and cultural collaboration.
The first and very important one is the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). FOCAC is a tri-annual meeting launched by China in 2000 to project and coordinate Chinese foreign policy and cooperation objectives in Africa through commitments in consultation with African leaders.
The Global Development Initiative (GDI) is another initiative which is proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is an initiative to support the development of developing countries, promote global economic recovery in the post-pandemic era and strengthen international development cooperation.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious plan to develop two new trade routes connecting China with the rest of the world. But the initiative is about far more than infrastructure.
It is an effort to develop an expanded, interdependent market for China, grow China’s economic and political power, and create the right conditions for China to build a high technology economy.
As of December 2021, the number of countries that have joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China is 145*. The countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are spread across all continents: 42 countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is an initiative that promotes intra-regional connectivity between the capital cities of Africa by creating a single unified air transport market in Africa, as an impetus to the continent’s economic integration and growth agenda. Unlike the other initiatives, the AfCFTA is originated from Africans but it will have a lot of benefits to enhance the growing economic ties between Africa and China.
According to WB, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will create the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. The pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$ 3.4 trillion. It has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, but achieving its full potential will depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.
In his congratulatory message to the 35th Ordinary Summit of the AU Heads of State and Government, Chinese President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed his government’s readiness to further enhance Chinas support to Africa in the success of all the initiatives that the two sides are collaborating in including the AfCFTA.
“Under new circumstances, China stands ready to work with the African side to actively implement the outcomes of FOCAC meetings, and advance the in-depth synergy among Belt and Road cooperation, the Global Development Initiative, the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the building of Free Trade Area, to bring China-Africa cooperation to a higher level with more extensive fields, and write a new chapter in China-Africa friendship” Xi remarked.
While all the other frameworks of collaboration are in good standing, the AfCFTA is also gaining momentum as 41 AU member states have already joined it, as well as important steps like settlement of payment in individual countries’ currencies, dispute resolution mechanisms, among others, are already figured out.
Sharing experience and working in close collaboration would further boost the effectiveness of the continents economic integration process.
Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The
BY ZEKARIAS WOLDEMARIAM
THURSDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2022