A gathering of African Union member-states and the People’s Republic of China on Dec. 4-5 under the banner of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation has placed strong emphasis on greater collaboration between the two regions based on mutual benefit. It was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, under the theme “China-Africa Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized during his speech before the FOCAC Summit that Beijing has become Africa’s principal cooperation partner in several significant areas. By the conclusion of 2014, the volume of Chinese investment in Africa reached $101 billion in more than 3,100 Africa-based enterprises. During 2014, bilateral trade reached $221.9 billion. (Xinhua, Dec. 5)
Xi announced that China was offering $60 billion in funding, including $5 billion of grant assistance and interest-free loans, $35 billion in preferential loans and export credits on more favorable terms, $5 billion each in additional capital to both the China-Africa Development Fund and the Special Loan for the Development of African SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises), and a China-Africa production capacity cooperation fund, with initial capital funding of $10 billion.
AU Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said, “President Xi Jinping’s speech was great in the sense that it identified areas where Africa is interested in and which are in our agenda 2063. Those are areas we are going to cooperate on and take this relationship to new heights.” (Xinhua, Dec. 7)
China-Africa cooperation on infrastructure
Plan 2063 is a 50-year plan for development and unification outlined at the 2013 AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A state-of-the-art AU headquarters in Addis Ababa was recently constructed by the Chinese.
Dlamini-Zuma also said, “We are going to cooperate with China whether in modernizing agriculture, infrastructure, energy, training of the young people and culture. The cooperation with China will enable us to implement the three network projects, which include highways, railways and aviation.”
During President Xi’s Africa tour to both South Africa and neighboring Zimbabwe earlier that week, some 26 agreements were signed that center around the construction and strengthening of infrastructural development, which will result in what Xi called “win-win cooperation.”
Hosted by President Jacob Zuma of the ruling African National Congress party, the Johannesburg gathering represented the continuation of a decades-long relationship, dating back to the early years of the Chinese Revolution, which paralleled the emergence of the national independence movements on the African continent. During the course of various political and military struggles against colonialism, China, under the leadership of the Communist Party, has provided material and political support.
Currently, China, through its role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has blocked the imposition of even more draconian Western sanctions against the states of Sudan and Zimbabwe. Beijing also deploys troops as participants in peacekeeping operations in the Darfur region of Sudan and in the Horn of Africa state of Djibouti.
The South African gathering is the latest in a series of such meetings since 2000. There have been five other ministerial conferences, four of them held in Beijing.
The current meeting, officially described as the second FOCAC Summit, was treated as a major event in both geopolitical regions. Preliminary meetings, as well as the two days of deliberations, placed the summit in the context of the world economic crisis, which has impacted both China and the African continent.
Before the summit, Xi Jinping visited Zimbabwe, led by President Robert Mugabe, who is the current AU rotating chair. Xi signed additional agreements with Zimbabwe, which is still under sanctions by the U.S. and other imperialist countries. Zimbabwe’s state media gave lead coverage to the visit of President Xi and his large delegation.
The Zimbabwe Herald on Dec. 2 reported: “Landmark deals worth $4 billion signed between Zimbabwe and China on [Dec. 1] will convert provisions of the Government’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset, into programs of action. The two nations signed 12 investment agreements covering different sectors of the economy. The deals include financing for the expansion of the Hwange Power Station, construction of a new parliament building and a pharmaceutical warehouse, expansion of a national fiber-optic broadband project and provisions of wildlife monitoring equipment.”
Western banks suppressed development
Zimbabwe is still overwhelmed with debts to global capitalist financial institutions. An attempt to reschedule its obligations to Western banks and their subservient lending agencies will prove formidable in light of declining commodity prices that the African state depends on to earn foreign exchange revenue known as hard currency.
The Herald article adds: “Zimbabwe has, for over 15 years, been unable to secure long-term loans to fund infrastructure because it is in arrears with global lenders — the [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank. However, the multilateral institutions might resume financial support to Zimbabwe after a deal was struck with international creditors on how the country intends to repay its arrears. Zimbabwe intends to clear its arrears to the three multinational institutions, the IMF ($110 million), the World Bank ($1.15 billion) and the [African Development Bank] ($601 million) by the end of April 2016.”
In South Africa, Xi signed agreements worth $6.5 billion with the ANC-led government. These agreements are mainly designed to build infrastructure in the continent’s most industrialized nation.
During Xi’s visit, President Zuma championed relations between South Africa and China as being at their “best ever” after the two leaders held discussions concentrating on the boosting of investments.
“China and South Africa relations are at a new historical level. We want to build it into a model for relationships between China and other emerging economies,” Xi told media representatives after the initial talks. (TVC, Dec. 3)
In response to criticism leveled by Western imperialist states, including the U.S., over allegations that Africa-China relations represent a new form of “colonialism,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta rejected this, saying that both regions are benefiting from the burgeoning partnerships. “China is ready to help us develop and meet our socio-economic objectives without imposing its agenda on us. This is the outstanding aspect of our cooperation with China,” Kenyatta said at the FOCAC Summit.
Xinhua news agency quoted Kenyatta: “China is doing what the colonialists failed to do in the past: help Africa out of poverty.” (Dec. 5)