Africa heads to China to talk business but also military cooperation

Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Photo: South China Post

Addis Abeba (ADV) – This week, all African leaders with very few exceptions like the bed-ridden Algerian leader will be in Pekin to attend the 7th two-day China-Africa economic forum that opens on 3 September in Beijing.

This year’s summit will be themed “China and Africa: toward an even stronger community with a shared future through win-win cooperation”.

Chinese trade with Africa’s 54 countries stood at $172 billion in 2017 Africa’s largest trading partner. At $63 billion in 2017-18, making it Africa’s biggest trading partner surpassing that with the US and European partners.

Next week’s event in Beijing is certainly the biggest gathering of African leaders out of the continent in nine consecutive years in a row since China became Africa’s largest trading partner.

Analysts say the difference in the various summits is that the one in China is underpinned by a « state-heavy » approach focuses mainly on trade.

China-Africa trade has been growing robustly since the launch of 10 major cooperation plans three years ago.

In the first half of 2018, bilateral trade between China and Africa rose 16 percent year on year to 98.8 billion dollars, Qian Keming, vice minister of commerce, told a news conference.

China announced 10 major plans for China-Africa cooperation at the Johannesburg summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2015 and many of them were targeted at economic and trade cooperation.

Mr Keming said all of the economic and trade cooperation plans have so far been implemented and some of them have yielded « excellent results”.

In the past three years, China’s annual average direct investment to Africa stood at around three billion dollars, while progress was seen in industrial cooperation in sectors such as manufacturing, finance, tourism, and aviation.

According to the document, Africa’s infrastructure is seeing improvements thanks to these cooperation plans, which are expected to bring the continent 30,000-km of highways, 85-million-tonnes per year of harbor capacity.

It also showed over nine million-tonnes per day of water-cleaning capacity and about 20,000-megawatt power generating capacity, together with creating some 900,000 jobs.

China’s deepening military engagement in Africa often goes unnoticed to many but the fact is that Pekin is also engaged militarily in Africa exemplified by its first military base overseas last year in Djibouti.

So, one should expect that much of the China-Africa summit will also be about military cooperation.

© Bur-csa – Tamba Jean-Matthew III – ADV