Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is due to conclude on Saturday his visit to five African nations, namely Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Botswana, Tanzania, and Seychelles. Braving the COVID-19 pandemic, the visit has particularly shown the great importance China attaches to maintaining its profound friendship with Africa.
The message is resonant — China and Africa will never stop joint efforts to consolidate their sound ties and push forward cooperation in key areas for economic recovery, though the pandemic still shows no signs of abating and has sunk the world into deep concern.
Chinese foreign ministers have continuously chosen Africa for the first overseas visit each year since 1991. Wang said that this decades-old tradition has never changed, rain or shine, and should never stop.
During the trip, Wang highlighted the common aspiration of China and Africa to deepen their multipronged cooperation. Noting that Chinese engineers, technicians, and medical workers have contributed to Africa’s socio-economic development, Wang said the Chinese people’s efforts in this regard should not fall into false accusations.
Wang said China always believes that Africa is a big stage for international cooperation, instead of a game arena among big countries, adding that the international community has a shared responsibility to support Africa’s development, and all countries should cooperate with Africa on the premise of respecting Africa’s sovereignty and listening to Africa’s voices.
Experts said Wang’s opportune visit has yielded fruitful results, and will cement ties between China and its African partners.
Cooperation in infrastructure connectivity is one major outcome reached during Wang’s visit. Earlier this week, the DRC and Botswana both signed memoranda of understanding with China on jointly advancing the Belt and Road construction. So far, 46 African countries have signed such cooperation deals with China, signaling African countries’ need to improve infrastructure with China’s engagement.
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, said during his meeting with Wang that China’s enormous support has helped the country effectively improve its underdeveloped infrastructure and played a key role in the nation’s sustainable development.
In recent years, Chinese-built transport projects in Nigeria, such as the Abuja light rail transportation system and the Abuja-Kaduna rail line have both facilitated people’s mobility and created jobs for locals.
The two countries also agreed to establish an intergovernmental committee to better coordinate cooperation in various fields. They have agreed to expand cooperation into areas such as industrialization, digital and green economy, as well as military and security cooperation.
During the visit, Wang said that China will also work with Africa to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. In the DRC and Botswana, presidents of the two countries both expressed gratitude to China’s support in the COVID-19 fight.
Wang said China will work with the DRC in the health sector and also pledged cooperation in other areas including agriculture, clean energy, education, power facility, digital industry, and people-to-people exchanges.
Meanwhile, Botswana said it welcomes more Chinese investment and looks forward to cooperation in such areas as industrial parks, digital economy, and science and technology innovation, agriculture and tourism.
During his talks with Wang, Lemogang Kwape, Botswana’s minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, said China’s strong economic recovery brings opportunities to Botswana’s economic development.
During his stay in Tanzania on Friday, Wang recalled Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the country in 2013. “It was during that visit that President Xi put forward for the first time the concept of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, and the right approach to justice and interests, which has now become the guiding principle of China’s Africa policy,” Wang said.
CONFIDENCE IN COOPERATION
Humphrey Moshi, a professor of economics at the leading state-run University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, said Wang’s visit is timely and comes after China and Africa celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2020.
Francis Semwaza, a social affairs analyst based in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam, said the visit will strengthen the historic friendship between the two friendly countries.
“Currently, Tanzania’s ongoing industrialization drive will benefit significantly from the cooperation and help Tanzania make significant steps in the areas of industrial production and trade. The countries and their people at the individual level will come even closer and create a better understanding of each other,” Semwaza said.
Frank Youngman, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Botswana Open University, said the need for China’s support for the development of African infrastructure will remain and countries continue to find out how to further benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative as well as FOCAC.
Regarding COVID-19 cooperation, he also expressed confidence that China will help African countries access vaccine and assist the continent in its drive to seek economic recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, China has provided supplies to African countries, sent expert teams and facilitated Africa’s procurement of medical supplies in China. In December, with China’s assistance, the construction of the headquarters of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started ahead of schedule. And China also pledged that once the development and deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit.
In fact, such help has been mutual between China and African countries. Many African countries have donated medical materials to China when China was registering surging cases in the first several months of 2020.
For example, Pointe-Noire, the second largest city in the Republic of the Congo, donated 10,000 medical protective masks to their sister city Suzhou in eastern China in February.
Moukila Ngalipe Tessia Harmanie, a Congolese singer, made a song with a local drum band to tell a story of solidarity of the two countries in the face of the pandemic.
“We’ve got medicines from China to help us battle the virus. What can we musicians do to thank China? We composed this song. Let’s go hand in hand and prevail over the virus together,” Zoubakela Destin, head of the band, said in Chinese. Enditem
(Xinhua reporters Cao Kai and Wang Hongjiang in Nairobi also contributed to the story.)