/ 5 September 2023

China-Africa collaborate on development, trade and peace

China's President Xi Visits South African President Ramaphosa
President Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa, co-chaired the China-Africa Leaders' Dialogue on 24 August. (Michele Spatari/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

During the past two decades, a synergy has blossomed between China and Africa, particularly within the realm of infrastructure development, agriculture, trade, health and technology. The just-concluded Brics summit presented an opportunity for African nations to articulate their perspectives and propose avenues for further enriching the tapestry of China-Africa cooperation. 

The theme of the Johannesburg summit was Brics and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism, which describes the spirit of synergy between the Brics countries. President Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa, co-chaired the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue on 24 August. 

In charting the trajectory for Sino-African collaboration, Xi presented three proposals. First, under the banner of the Initiative on Promoting Africa’s Industrialisation, China will buttress Africa’s manufacturing domain and propel industrialisation alongside economic diversification. By amplifying its commitment to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China aims to channel assistance, investment and financial backing into industrialisation initiatives. 

Second, China will launch the Pan for Elevating Africa’s Agricultural Modernisation. A cornerstone of this is augmenting grain cultivation and agricultural investments by Chinese enterprises. Collaboration with Africa in seeds and agro-technology figures will facilitate the transformation and enhancement of Africa’s agricultural sector. 

Third, China will inaugurate the Framework for China-Africa Collaboration in Human Capital Development. This entails a yearly training quota of 500 vocational college principals and educators, as well as 10 000 technicians proficient in Chinese language and vocational aptitude. China will invite 20 000 African government officials and technicians for workshops and seminars. China will launch the China-Africa Universities Top 100 Plan, which includes 10 experimental exchange programmes facilitated by Sino-African partner institutes.

The imprint of China’s involvement is evident in the infrastructure that spans the continent. From 2000 to 2023, China’s contributions include 13 000km of railways, 100 000km of highways, about 1 000 bridges, 100 ports and more than 80 power installations. Infrastructure includes more than 130 medical establishments, 45 sports arenas and about 170 educational institutions. In recent years, theBelt and Road Initiative (BRI) has fortified infrastructure links across the continent that will boost intra-African commerce. 

China’s financial investment in Africa is about $47 billion, with 70% channelled into construction, mining and manufacturing. Fresh contracts exceeded $73.2 billion in 2022. 

The just-concluded six-day China-Africa Peace and Security Forum brought together delegates from nearly 50 nations under the theme Implementing the Global Security Initiative, Strengthening China-Africa Solidarity and Cooperation.

The forum emphasised peace, which resonated throughout its discussions. Participants acknowledged the diverse array of global risks. The international arena has seen a resurgence of hegemonic ambitions and a revival of Cold War-era mentalities. A shared purpose of peace, security and universal development unifies nations across the globe. 

A prevailing sentiment at the forum revolved around development as a paramount objective. Most of the speakers articulated the importance of nations amplifying regional revitalisation efforts, bolstering multilateral coordination and collaboration to surmount developmental challenges. 

The forum also pushed for enhanced military collaboration. They deliberated on ways to deepen the collaborative efforts between China and Africa. 

This evolving partnership between China and Africa contrasts with Western practices of intervention in African affairs. There was consensus among the participants that the proliferation of certain alliances has fuelled global instability and required a recalibration of strategies to forge a new path toward the preservation of global security. 

This imperative resonates with African nations in the Saharan expanse. Sahel stands as the counter-terrorism epicentre yielding poverty and hampering development. The spectrum of challenges encompasses terrorism, extremism and the climate crisis which threaten peace. Encouraging regional actors to harmonise differences through dialogue underscores China’s role as a partner in Africa’s journey toward stability and self-determination.

Dr Imran Khalid is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. He qualified as a physician from Dow Medical University in 1991 and has a master’s degree in international relations from Karachi University.