By Xia Yuanyuan
Chinese and African officials and experts lauded achievements in China-Africa cooperation and called for closer ties between China and Africa at a webinar to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on October 28.
Under the guidance of FOCAC, China and African countries have seen increasingly broader cooperation consensus, wider cooperation realm and greater cooperation impetus, said Lu Cairong, Vice President of China International Publishing Group (CIPG), at the webinar.
Lu said that media is an important channel for people in China and Africa to understand each other. China-Africa media cooperation and exchanges should be further strengthened under the framework of FOCAC. Chinese and African media should strengthen direct exchanges and cooperation through dialogues in various forms, exchange of news products and personnel, and joint reporting, in order to promote the understanding and mutual trust among the Chinese and African people.
“Also, we call on Chinese and African people to launch multi-level and multi-realm people-to-people exchanges and deepen mutual knowledge about Chinese and African civilizations through constantly innovating ways of exchange and cooperation,” he said.
With the theme of 20 Years of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation: Prospects and Perspectives, the webinar was hosted by Beijing Review, a media outlet under CIPG. Officials and media professionals from China and African countries reviewed the important role of FOCAC in promoting China-Africa cooperation in all fields in the past two decades, offered suggestions on the future development of China-Africa cooperation.
The consensus under FOCAC of building a community with a shared future has transformed China-Africa relations, pushing China-Africa cooperation into a new era, said Cedric Thomas Frolick, South African National Assembly House Chairperson: Committees. Long and deep friendship and mutually beneficial economic cooperation are the driving forces of the stronger and fruitful cooperation between China and Africa, he added.
Zhao Yanbo, Chinese Ambassador to Botswana, said that over the past 20 years, FOCAC has bolstered high-level interactions and political trust between China and Africa, delivering a leap in China-Africa relations from “a new type of partnership” to “a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership.”
“I am convinced that with our joint efforts, FOCAC is sure to deliver more for the 2.6-billion Chinese and African people in the course of building an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future,” he said.
Siyavuya Mzantsi，Editor of Cape Times, said that FOCAC has become an important platform for collective dialogue and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa. At present, the world is experiencing an epidemic crisis. He believed that the two sides will surely be able to step out of the dark period in human history and usher in a bright future for the common development and progress of China and Africa.
Hannah Ryder, CEO of Development Reimagined and Former Head of Policy and Partnerships of UNDP China, said that FOCAC at 20 offers an opportunity for us to look back and also look forward. Via FOCAC, China can be Africa’s key partner to help African countries to resume as quickly as possible in post-COVID-19 era, so that to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Charles Onunaiju, Director of the Center for China Studies in Abuja, Nigeria, highlighted the important role FOCAC has played in promoting multilateralism and African integration. He said that the challenge for Africa is to create a platform for advanced African integration. Now, a framework for practical network to address the key lacuna in African economic integration – a proper framework for genuine integration of African economies – is provided by FOCAC in synergy with Belt and Road Initiative. FOCAC has filled an important vacuum in historical challenge of pan-Africanism, he said, adding that FOCAC has delivered real, practical results.
Rudolph L. Boy, Secretary General of Botswana-China Friendship Association and Senior Lecturer of the University of Botswana, also highlighted the benefits of China-Africa cooperation, using the case of special economic zones (SEZs). Establishment of SEZs in Africa represents China’s effort to promote development in Africa, he said.
He Wenping, a researcher of China-Africa Institute, identified three key areas of priority for future cooperation under FOCAC framework. The first area she mentioned is health cooperation, especially in the light of the pandemic. She also said that reviving the economy and bringing it back on track in the post-COVID period should be a priority for China-Africa cooperation. She suggested projects related to people’s livelihoods need to be strengthened, such as drinking water, electricity, and network building.
Miles Gengxu Nan, President of Global Max Media Group, pointed out that among China-Africa cooperation areas, agricultural cooperation is a priority. It has played an important role in promoting the development of agriculture in Africa. Together with China’s experience in poverty reduction, it can help in ensuring food safety in Africa.
Li Jianguo, Associate Editor in Chief of Beijing Review, said that China-Africa cooperation today is faced with challenges not seen before. The webinar provides an opportunity to share perspectives on the contribution of FOCAC in promoting China-Africa cooperation and what lies ahead for the forum as well as for the overall China-Africa cooperation.
The webinar was co-organized by Independent Media Group, People’s Daily Online SA, Beijing Review Africa Bureau and Global Max Media Group.