THE scorching weather in Beijing could not deter a group of young Africans from visiting the myriad of high-tech companies scattered across the city's Zhongguancun Science Park (Z-Park) in late June. These youth representatives from 53 African countries and the African Union (AU) who were invited to the 3rd China-Africa Youth Festival jointly held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC and China Soong Ching Ling Foundation are also members of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Since its establishment in 2000, FOCAC has become a vital platform to coordinate and strengthen cooperation between China and African countries.
Potential in High-tech Cooperation
“China, a big economy with global impact and thousands of enterprises investing in Africa, has made significant contributions to the economic and infrastructure development on the African continent,” Deputy Director of Namibia’s Ministry of Finance Paulus Natangue Ithete told China Today. He hoped to discover more cooperation opportunities during this trip and expected that the upcoming FOCAC Summit will further boost cooperation between Namibia and China.
Young people from Africa visit the exhibition hall of the Leyard Group in the Z-Park, experiencing its virtual reality technology in late June.
Deputy Director of the Administrative Committee of Z-Park, Hou Yun, introduced the delegation to Zhongguancun’s policy on attracting overseas talents, and shared its experience in cultivating an innovative, entrepreneurial environment over the past 30-plus years. As the first national talents management reform pilot zone, Z-Park has built connections with Africa and decided to set up a liaison office in South Africa to better engage with innovative entities at home and abroad, helping both sides promote innovation and entrepreneurship.
The young Africans visited the exhibition hall of the Leyard Group, a Chinese electronics manufacturer designing, producing, and selling LED products, including displays and lighting. They enjoyed a live show featuring virtual reality technology. When one of the visitors danced to the pop music, his image synchronously interacted with local hip-hop star William Chan on the screen. The interaction based on the technologies of LED display screens and city outdoor lighting inspired the visitors who asked a barrage of questions about its innovative application and overseas sales.
Edmundo Galiza Matos from Mozambique asked about the talents policies specifically. He inquired about the details for the exchange of talents through universities and scientific research institutions. He also hoped the Z-Park could set up liaison offices in more African countries and introduce high-tech companies and innovative technologies to Africa.
Ten Major Cooperation Plans
“China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for nine consecutive years,” said Shen Xiang, Deputy Director General of the Department of Western Asian and African Affairs in the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, in his brief introduction of the pragmatic economic cooperation between China and African countries. Under the framework of the FOCAC, the Chinese government has announced and implemented dozens of measures to boost economic and trade cooperation, such as establishing economic and trade cooperation zones in African countries, setting up the China-Africa Development Fund, developing special loans for African small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as launching the China-Africa Industrial Cooperation Fund. These programs launched in different periods and under various conditions reflect the direction and focus of the China-Africa economic and trade cooperation.
In December 2015, at the Johannesburg Summit of the FOCAC, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed to promote Sino-African relations to a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, and announced to roll out “Ten Major Cooperation Plans” in areas of industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction, public health, cultural and people-to-people exchange, peace and security in the period from 2015 to 2018. In addition, a total of US $60 billion of funding support was announced to be provided by China.
The roundtable discussion of economic and trade cooperation proceeds at the 3rd China-Africa Youth Festival jointly held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC and China Soong Ching Ling Foundation.
“In the past three years, most of these tasks have been completed owing to the joint efforts made by China and African countries,” said Shen Xiang.
In 2017, the China-Africa trade volume hit US $170 billion, rising by 15-fold over the number in 2000 when FOCAC was established. The trade structure has been optimized. The quality of China’s exports to Africa have increasingly improved, with products covering mechanical equipment, automobiles, computers, aerospace products, digital devices, and other high-tech products. Imports have expanded from energy and mineral resources to agricultural products. In 2017, China’s imports of fruits, seafood, coffee, and cotton from Africa have increased 75, 40, 29 and 17 percent respectively. Meanwhile, Mauritius began negotiating Africa’s first free trade agreement with China.
The Chinese government has encouraged Chinese companies to invest in Africa, helping African countries raise tax revenue, increase job opportunities, and promote industrial development. In the current global economic climate, with a sluggish price of bulk commodities and a fluctuation of international investment, China’s investment to Africa has been steady at US $3 billion annually. As of the end of 2017, China’s direct investment had surpassed US $40 billion in total, a 70-fold increase compared to that in 2000.
A Chinese invested agricultural development zone in Sudan launched in 2016, with an accumulated investment of US $27 million and a cotton plantation of 108,000 mu (about 7,200 hectares) is a fine example of things to come. The whole industrial chain has been formed including researching, planting, deep processing and trading, which can offer over 10,000 job opportunities for local residents.
Training Professionals in Agriculture Sector
President Xi said that Africa is home to many developing countries, while China is the world’s largest developing nation. Therefore, the future and aspirations of Chinese and African peoples are connected. Agriculture is a common concern for the people’s livelihood. Deepening pragmatic cooperation in the agriculture sector is essential to improving Africa’s capability in developing agriculture and thus to establish a community of a shared future for China and Africa.
According to Xue Ruining, secretary of the Communist Youth League Committee under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, China has established 22 agricultural demonstration centers in 21 African countries and has dispatched experts to participate in and support agricultural development in Africa. China signed an agricultural cooperative agreement with Ethiopia in 2001 and sent the first 10 agricultural professionals to provide training for locals. African counterparts were also invited to China. From 2006 to date, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has held 260-plus training programs in China which accumulatively helped over 5,000 Africans accept technical training.
China is also one of the earliest countries to participate in the South-South Cooperation under a programme led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO), sending the largest number of personnel. Up to now, Chinese experts and technical staff have implemented over 300 small-scale demonstrative programs in Africa and trained nearly 30,000 local farmers and technicians.
The youngest parliamentarian of the civil parliament in the Republic of Congo and member of the ruling Labor Party, Antoine Bienaime Obam Ondon, said, “We hope to conduct pragmatic cooperation with China in areas of the green economy and related industries. As our nation is covered with a large expanse of dense tropical rainforests, which ranks second in the world in terms of area, we have set up a green fund to transform the energy-based development mode so as to protect the environment while developing a green economy. “
Facilitating Infrastructure Construction
Funds are in desperate need in Africa for its infrastructure construction. Within its capability, China has therefore offered support for a large number of infrastructure construction projects including residential buildings, highways, bridges, harbors, railways, airports, electric power facilities, and telecommunication networks, making great contribution to economic development in Africa.
Paulus Natangue Ithete said China and Namibia’s bilateral trade volume in 2017 reached US $569 million. Various Chinese enterprises are now investing in Namibia’s highway, minerals, energy resources, and harbors.
“Chinese enterprises’ support for the construction of Namibia’s ports and containers wharf extension project helps to improve the infrastructure network, facilitates the connections between us and southwest African countries, and makes Namibia the regional logistic center and estuary for inland nations. It is both convenient for us and other African countries to develop overseas trade now and thus contribute to our economies,” he said.