THE FORUM ON CHINA AFRICA COOPERATION (FOCAC): MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS

BY SHERIFF GHALI IBRAHIM

DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA, ABUJA-NIGERIA

Abstract

This paper examines the nature of china Africa cooperation using the strategic forum and partnership as a yardstick.

It also analyses the achievements made so far by the forum in the areas of concessional loans provision, boosting education in Africa through thousands of scholarships provided, contribution to the health sector of Africa, infrastructure, technical and technological transfer, training of man power, contribution to peace keeping operation among other significant areas of the cooperation. The paper adopts the secondary methodology and functionalist theory of inter-regional or inter-continental cooperation. Findings show that, the forum on china Africa cooperation is the only area through which Africa can rediscover itself and developmental opportunities are feasible. The paper concludes that, the issue of peace and security are fundamental in China-Africa relations. There is wave of insecurity on the continent from Boko Haram to Al-Shabaab in Nigeria and Somalia respectively. There is also AL Qaeda in Mali, political rebellion and crisis in central Africa. For better cooperation and development, there has to be stability, peace and security. The paper recommends absolute cooperation in the area of aid to Africa to deal with surveillance, weaponry and intelligence to help in fighting terrorism on the continent.

Keywords: forum; china; Africa; cooperation; achievements; challenges

Introduction

With the decolonization and liberation of Africa from colonial domination, Africa has been struggling to plan for the development of the continent. In this post-independence struggle, Africa has been on its own without fruitful aid that would pave a way for its educational expansion, industrialization, science and technological breakthrough. The foreign aid hitherto given to Africa was not geared towards meaningful development as the donors were not ready for African development and the African leaders were nothing but stooges for perpetual economic imperialism.

With the emergence of china as a new global economic power (being the second largest economy in the world), African countries come to have confidence in China as a new partner in political, economic and socio-cultural relations in contemporary global order.China and Africa share many things in common- hence- for-further cooperation and representation of the developing countries of the world, china has taken the lead to establishing this promising forum on China Africa cooperation.

The forum on cooperation is not just concentrated on the general summit which holds every three years, but involves some other areas through which cooperation can be achieved at the zenith, especially by using dialogue mechanisms. Such mechanisms that made FOCAC successful today includes: (a) the ministerial summit itself (b) political consultations between the Chinese and African foreign ministers on the sidelines of UN general assembly (c) the senior officials conference (SOMs) which is held every year (d) consultation between the secretariat of the Chinese follow-up committee and the African diplomatic corps in China (e) the China-Africa business conference (f) the China-Africa people’s forum, and (g) forums on agriculture, science and technology, finance, culture, think tanks, law, youth and women, have been major areas used in the cooperation between china and Africa (Balaam and Dillman, 2011).

The great principle that is discernible in China Africa cooperation has been a vital foundation for this cooperation. What has been established in the areas of respect to the interest, sovereignty of member states; cooperation in the fields of education, health, energy and seeking African representation in the UN Security council among others are significant in the pursuit of China-Africa cooperation (Alden and Large, 2011).

Material and Method

The material used in this research includes authored books, published journal articles, newspapers, direct government reports and periodicals. This falls under the secondary method of obtaining data. The material and method are also supported by the functionalist theory of inter-regional or inter-continental cooperation and integration. As profoundedby DavidMitrany, Karl Duetsch, Donald Puchalaand AmitanEtzioni.The functionalist project was built on the premise that “The growing complexity of governmental system had increased greatly the essentially technical, non-political task facing governments”, which requires cooperation, interdependence and integration. The functionalists also agree that the:

Demand for highly trained specialist at the national level also contributes to essentially technical problems at the international level whose solution lies in the collaboration among technicians rather than political elites (Mitrany,1975).

Cooperation between Africa and china goes beyond relation between or among governments, but include other technical areas such as in science, technology, education, skills acquisition, health, trade and investment, infrastructure, industry among others.

Results and Discussion

Achievements and challenges of the forum on china Africa cooperation manifested from the initial ministerial conference which started in 2000. The cooperation has recorded numerous successes and achievements with noticeable challenges.

The Beijing Declaration

The 2000 Beijing declaration on China Africa cooperation has been a major breakthrough in laying a drastic foundation of such relationship. The Beijing declaration was meant to conduct equal-footed consultation, deepen understanding, broaden consensus, strengthen friendship and promote cooperation between china and Africa. In the first conference of 2000 held in Beijing, a proposal for new china-Africa partnership was embraced, which was framed to deal with: long term stability, equality and mutual benefit (Akugizibwe, 2012).

Some of the major achievements of the Beijing declaration included the cancellation of RMB 10.9 billion debts for 31 African countries, the establishment of African human resources development fund, training of about 7,000 African professionals and providing special funds to support and encourage investment by Chinese enterprises in African countries (Barney and Jamil, 2009). It is unequivocal that the presence of China in Africa and cooperation between the two parties has improved agriculture in Africa, education in Africa, energy in Africa, infrastructure, health and even boosted the African economy (Beri, 2007).

We all saw what happened with the recent outbreak of Ebola in Africa where Chinese government deployed a team of medical professionals to contribute in seeing the end of the epidemic. China is indeed a party to cooperate with in all times, for their humanitarian gesture in Africa against a deadly virus that would have swept the whole continent.

The Addis Ababa Action Plan

The Addis Ababa action plan for 2004-2006 (the second ministerial conference) is also a paramount development for China-Africa cooperation. The second Beijing summit of 2006 has been a wonderful one where Hu Jintao rolled out $ 5 billion as concessionary loans to Africa (Davies, Edinger, Tay and Naidu, 2008; Dirlik, 2006; Eckl and Weber)President Hu also declared the formation of China-Africa development fund, to aid Chinese investment in Africa, with initial provision of $1billion which later increased to $5 billion in future (Caniglia, 2011).

Some of the major achievements of the second ministerial conference includes: the mutual signing of 382 assistance agreements with African countries; china agreed to train 12,600 African professionals; provided zero-tariff benefit to exports from 28 least developed countries of Africa under 190 tariff items; gave 17 African countries the approved destination status for Chinese tourists and; holding meetings in Beijing international arts festival, the voyage of Chinese culture to Africa and two china-Africa youth festivals (China Daily, 2012; China.org, 2012; Chinese Government Portal, 2012)

The 2006 Beijing Action Plan

With the above development, China-Africa cooperation has perpetuated itself in a waxing nature which ushered the 3rd ministerial conference which was held in Beijing in November 2006. The conference marked the 50th anniversary of china-Africa diplomatic relations, which saw the attendance of representatives from 48 African countries. The summit adopted the Beijing declaration and action plan. Some of the achievements of the 3rd conference includes the following:

(a) Doubling Chinese assistance to African countries on the 2006 basis

(b) China provided African countries with US$3 billion in concessional loans and US$2 billion in preferential export buyer’s credit,

(c) Established China-Africa development fund which invested more than US4500 million in 27 projects,

(d) Cancelled 154 debts owed by 33 African countries,

(e) Increased the number of export items to china while enjoying zero-tariff treatment to 478,

(f) Started the construction of six economic and trade cooperation zones in African countries,

(g) Built 96 schools,

(h) Trained 15,000 personnel for African countries,

(i) Increased the number of Chinese government scholarship to African countries,

(j) Sent 104 senior agro-technology experts to Africa

(k) Started the construction of 10 Agro-Technology Demonstration Center,

(l) Built 28 new hospitals,

(m) Opened 30 malaria prevention and treatment centers,

(n) Sent 1,200 medical workers and 300 Chinese youth volunteers to work in Africa.

The Sharmel Sheikh Summit

The 4th FOCAC ministerial conference was held in November, 2009, in SharmelSheikh, Egypt.The conference theme was set as: “deepening the new type of china-Africa strategic partnership for sustainable development”. Where loans to Africa increased to $10 billion from the implemented $5 billion of the Beijing summit of 2006. The FOCAC during the Sharmeil sheikh has also established more areas of cooperation and assistance between China and Africa especially in the areas of energy, scientific research, agriculture, health and education. More agricultural professionals were sent from china to Africa in order to aid in ensuring food security; more schools were built in Africa by the Chinese government and more scholarships for post-doctoral, masters and under-graduate students were provided for Africa (FOCAC, 2009)

In addition to the above, the partnership has achieved debt cancellation of African countries and zero-tariff treatment for 60% of their exports to china; provided medical equipment, materials and medicines to 30 hospitals and 30 malaria prevention and treatment center; provided supplies to 42 schools in Africa; trained 24000 professionals for Africa, including 1,500 headmasters and teachers, 3,000 agricultural experts and 3,000 medical workers; offered 5,710 and 6,316 government scholarships in 2010 and 2011 respectively; implemented 88 China-Africa joint research and demonstration projects and hosted 42 African research personnel for post-doctoral studies under the china-Africa science and technology partnership program (FOCAC, 2009)

The partnership has also carried out 28 projects by Chinese and African academic institutions, supported 14 international seminars in china and Africa, and sponsored 500 Chinese and African scholars for academic exchanges and visits under the framework of the china-Africa joint research and exchange program among other things (Johnson, Paik and Larsen, 2011; Kawakami, 2014; Yan, 2010).

The fifth FOCAC Conference (Beijing)

The 5th FOCAC ministerial conference was held in Beijing, in July 2012. Many heads of state, President Hu Jintao, UN secretary general ban Ki-moon and foreign ministers of the 50 FOCAC members were in attendance. The theme for the 5thconference was: “Build on Past Achievements and Open up New Prospects for the New Type of China-Africa Strategic Partnership”.In his determination to broaden the areas of cooperation, President Hu Jintao highlighted five areas of priority. These priorities are(FOCAC, 2012; Gazebo and Mbabia, 2012; Godement):

The first area deals with the intention of china to expand cooperation in investment and financing to support sustainable development in Africa. This will be hinged on 20 billion dollars credit line to Africa, meant for developing infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and small and medium sized enterprises.

The second area of priority is china’s increasing assistance to Africa in bringing development to the African people. This as planned, was to be achieved by building more agricultural technology demonstration centers; implementing the African talents program to train 30,000 personnel in various sectors of Africa; offering 18,000 government scholarships; building cultural and vocational skills training facilities; sending 1,500 medical personnel to Africa; carrying out the brightness action activities in Africa to provide free treatment for cataract patients; aiding African countries enhance capacity building in metrological infrastructure and forest protection and management and; carrying out more well-drilling and water supply projects in Africa to provide safe drinking water for the African people.

The third priority area designed how china will support Africa on overall development. This was to be achieved by (a) establishing a partnership with Africa on transnational and trans-regional infrastructure development (b) supporting related project planning and feasibility studies (c) encouraging Chinese companies and financial institutions to participate in the transnational and trans-regional infrastructure development (d) helping African countries upgrade customs and commodity inspection facilities to enhance intra-regional trade.

The fourth priority was set to enhance people to people friendship by consolidating public support in order to strengthen China-Africa common development. This, was to be achieved by (a) promoting exchanges and cooperation between peoples organizations, women and youth of the two parties (b) setting up a China-Africa press exchange center in china to promote visits and exchanges between Chinese and African media (c) sponsoring yet another 100 programs for research, exchange and cooperation by academic institutions and scholars of the two parties under the china-Africa joint research and exchange plan.

The fifth priority area as identified by President Hu Jintao was Chinese commitment to promote peace and stability in Africa and form a secure atmosphere for Africa’s development. This was set to be achieved through the initiative on china-Africa cooperative partnership for peace and security; provide financial support for the AU peace-keeping missions in Africa and the development of the African stand-by force; deepen cooperation with the AU and African countries in peace and security in Africa and; training more AU peace keepers and officials in peace and security affairs of Africa (Jacques, 2012).

The Johannesburg Summit (2015) Upgrading China-Africa Cooperation

The sixth ministerial conference is to be held in the first week of December, 2015, where issues will be discussed on the conference theme: “New Africa, new opportunities: outlook for greater cooperation”. With successful democratic transition in Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Ivory Coast among others, more sense of democracy is sweeping the continent of Africa and new initiatives in education, agriculture, security, technological research and developmental issues will be key areas of priority. Full implementation of the previous action plans and consolidating other areas such as poverty, unemployment, food security, trade and investment are potential points to consider.

The population of Africa is also increasing every year, which suggests the rise in the demands of food items, educational-instructional- materials, more schools, more shelter, more markets, more manufactured goods, more textile materials, and health care system among other things. Rising population in economic terms goes with the rise of all that has been mentioned above, which pave a way for more agricultural consolidation as one area that China-Africa cooperation must re-focus on, especially under its program on food security, ensuring more adequate funding of agricultural mechanization and investment.

It is unequivocal that majority of African population is still agrarian. Under the new Africa, we have that opportunity to rejuvenate agriculture and establish more industrial basis for cooperation. African agricultural produce perish to no avail as a result of lack of industrial capacity to process the produce. The forum on China-Africa cooperation must empower Africa not only by selling industrial technology, but by teaching Africa how to make it as African made. This will ensure greater productivity, market and produce more international economic relations between Africa, china and other nations around the world.

China has this opportunity of investing educationally in Africa, as Africans are thirsty of knowledge in this century. We see the outflow of Africans to UK, the USA, Europe and Asia seeking for knowledge. China can establish such institutions of learning in Africa with modern facilities, especially in the areas of medicine, engineering, sciences, technical and vocational education and other relevant areas that are essential for development.

With the increasing nature of African population, the issue of healthcare is significant in China-Africa cooperation. There is the need for training more African doctors and getting more of them. The cooperation has the opportunity to produce more and more African doctors by encouraging African students to study in the field of medicine. African doctors are either limited or consumed by external brain drain as a result of hitherto lack of incentives to medical practitioners even though our societies need them.

Africa also need more engineers and architects that will redesign Africa alongside the infrastructure dream of the continent. China has a greater opportunity in building Africa infrastructurally. We appreciate Chinese effort in making use of the African labor force in the construction processes of Africa. There is also the need to develop more skills, training for African builders to facilitate the development of African talents and support them in contributing their own quota towards building Africa. To this end, it is recommendable the achievements made in the Beijing declaration of 2000, the Addis Ababa action plan, the Beijing action plan of 2006, the Sharmel sheikh proposals of 2009 and the Beijing conference of 2012. All areas identified in helping African young talents and developing their skills are really commendable.

FOCAC Major Challenges and Prospects

Some of the major challenges for China-Africa cooperation is the issue of terrorism and security question in Africa. The massive expansion in Chinese construction in Africa, presence of Chinese companies and investment in Africa, china is building bridges, hospitals, schools, refineries, airports, energy power plants among others. The great challenge here is that, all what the cooperation will provide can be destroyed within a short period of time, if cooperation in security issue is not consolidated. It is evident that Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the horns of Africa is still active; Boko Haram carried a fatal attack in Kano and Adamawa recently in Nigeria; we saw an unprecedented attack on foreigners in a hotel in Bamako, Mali.

The forum on china-Africa cooperation must drastically deal with terrorism and factors that bring about insurgency in Africa such as poverty, illiteracy and unemployment among others. The above can be achieved by (a) providing more intelligence reports to African states on the issue of terrorism (b) more modern weapons that will be sufficient in the fight against insurgency (c) provision of modern surveillance gadgets that can detect any form of terrorist movement and association.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the continent of Africa is bedeviled with incessant violence, terrorism, inter-ethnic and tribal conflicts, political crises arising from self-succession, especially in Burundi and Congo; Boko Haram in Nigeria; Alshabab militants in Somalia, ISIS in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria and many more hidden across the continent. More must be done to deal with the above groups and stability be maintained for productive cooperation.

Recommendations

For china and Africa to have a perpetual cooperation that will pave a room for greater development of the continent, there is need for the following strategies be incorporated in future action plans:

There must be absolute security measures to deal with the issues of insecurity around the continent.

Two, agriculture has to be supported, for there is increasing population in Africa. This will ensure food security by introducing more and easy agricultural system that will be modern, mechanized and soft loans to farmers which will be monitored and evaluated.

Three, industrialization is imperative. China must contribute in the industrialization process of Africa through technical education, and technology transfer.

Four, scientific knowledge has to be supported in Africa and more scholarships be provided for Africans to study medicine, engineering and other development related areas.

Five, massive infrastructure development and concessional loans spending must also be monitored and evaluated.

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THE FORUM ON CHINA AFRICA COOPERATION (FOCAC): MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS BY SHERIFF GHALI IBRAHIM DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA, ABUJA-NIGERIA […]
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