Building a new era for China-Africa cooperation By H.E. Ma Jianchun, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of The Gambia

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China-Africa interaction will witness a new round of culmination later this month, as the Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the FOCAC Beijing Summit Outcomes will be held on June 24 and 25 in Beijing, followed by the first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo from June 27 to 29 in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan Province located in central China.

High officials from China and all African FOCAC member states will attend the Coordinators’ Meeting, in which they will review the China-Africa cooperation achievements made since last year’s FOCAC Beijing Summit, steer the cooperation along the direction of high-quality and sustainable development, and translate the Summit achievements into more tangible benefits for the people.

The Expo, on the other hand, will bring delegations from 53 African countries and representatives from international organizations together, and focus on trade, agriculture, investment, financing, infrastructure and so on.

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It will be a gateway for closer economic and trade ties between China and African countries. A high-level Gambian delegation led by Hon. Mamadou Tangara, the Foreign Minister, will attend both events.

In the context where international landscape undergoes profound and complicated changes, the Coordinators’ Meeting and Expo are both intended for better implementing the fruitful outcomes of the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, and easing the uncertainties and destabilizing factors of the global economy.

Upholding multilateralism, China and Africa are demonstrating a strong will and firm resolve to strengthen solidarity and cooperation. China and Africa will keep building a community with a shared future that features joint responsibility, win-win cooperation, happiness for all, common cultural prosperity, common security, and harmonious co-existence.

Today, we still recall the FOCAC Beijing Summit held last September, when Chinese and African leaders gathered in Beijing, discussed plans for the future of China-Africa relations, and drew the blueprint for their cooperation to go ahead.

The Summit adopted an Action Plan that identified eight major initiatives as the focus of the next three years’ China-Africa cooperation.

Now nine months on, these initiatives are being implemented step by step. Both sides are promoting in-depth integration between the cooperation under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative with African Union’s Agenda 2063.

China has been actively holding dialogues with African FOCAC member states, discussing country-specific plans of the implementation of the eight major initiatives, and allocating aid, investment and other resources to help African countries achieve their national development goals while ensuring universal benefits. In 2018, the volume of trade between China and Africa reached $204.2 billion, witnessing a 20% annual increase.

In the same year, China imported 22% more agricultural products from Africa than the year before, and significantly increased the import of Africa’s non-natural resource products. Until today, there are more than 3,700 Chinese companies in Africa, and the stock of Chinese direct investment in Africa has exceeded $46 billion.

Since the Beijing Summit, China has steadily increased the number of capacity building and scholarship opportunities for African countries, and has established the China-Africa Institute to boost people-to-people exchanges.

In fact, the earlier-mentioned China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo was also launched under the FOCAC framework as part of the implementation of the eight major initiatives.

China’s cooperation with The Gambia, one of the newest members of the FOCAC, has also yielded a great many noteworthy achievements since the Beijing Summit. The eight major initiatives include industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security.

Projects in all these fronts have achieved progress in The Gambia. For instance, to promote agriculture, one of the most crucial industries of the Gambian economy, China has dispatched a team of highly-experienced experts here to provide technical assistance.

To boost infrastructure and connectivity, Chinese construction teams are busy helping build Gambia’s International Conference Center as well as roads and bridges in the URR. To facilitate bilateral trade, we have exempted tariffs for 97% of Gambian products exported to China.

To help The Gambia develop its own human resources, the most valuable resources for national development in the 21st century, China will provide even more scholarships and training opportunities for Gambian people of diverse backgrounds this year.

To help achieve better health care, China has donated several batches of medical equipment to Gambian hospitals, and will soon dispatch a new team of doctors to continue providing better free medical services to the Gambian people.

These projects all conform well with Gambian government’s National Development Plan (2018-2021), and they are just a very small part of the long and still growing list of China-Gambia cooperation.

That said, could China’s cooperation with The Gambia be a so-called “debt trap”? Certainly not. Among all China-Gambia cooperation projects until today, only one was financed by concessional loan, while all others were provided by China as grants.

The Gambia’s debts to China accounts for less than 5% of its total amount to all the creditors, and China is the only country that relieved all unpaid Gambian governmental debts by the end of 2015. And the only concessional loan is used for the Gambian National Broadband Network, which is to finish shortly and to boost The Gambia’s telecommunications, tourist, cyber and online sales industries in the long run.

China always adheres to the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith when carrying out cooperation with The Gambia and all other African countries, and attaches great importance to their own development sustainability.

In today’s international landscape, unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise, economic globalization encounters headwind, and the international economic order and multilateral trade system are experiencing severe setback.

As an ancient Chinese philosopher said, “plants with strong roots grow well, and efforts with the right focus will ensure success”.

Leaders of China and African countries, including The Gambia, observed the mega-trend of the world and made the decision to work even closer together.

The upcoming Coordinators’ Meeting and Expo will surely witness China and Africa joining hands and taking concrete actions to build a new era for China-Africa cooperation.

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