By Talibeh Hydara in Beijing
Over 50 young representatives from across Africa have arrived in Beijing to attend the 7th China-Africa Youth Festival, which officially opened on Tuesday.
The event, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and organized by the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, was initiated in accordance with the consensus reached during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Johannesburg summit in 2015.
It seeks to promote exchanges between Chinese and African youths to boost the relations between China and the African continent.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Senegalese ambassador to China and the FOCAC co-chair, H.E Ibrahima Sory Sylla, said the youth festival symbolises the importance both China and Africa attach to the young people.
Ambassador Sylla said the combined population of China and Africa is over 2.6 billion, half of which are youths, arguing that young people should be empowered to have decent jobs in order to be productive in society.
He urged the participants to learn from each other and build shared aspirations for development of humanity.
Mr Liu Yuxi, Special Representative of the Chinese Government for African Affairs, said the forum has energised him, recalling his experience in Cameroon where he made many friends. Mr Yuxi said relations between China and Africa started nearly seven decades ago, saying that President Xi Jinping stated during his visit to the continent that China and Africa remain reliable friends.
He urged the youths to be broad-minded and carry forward the common value of humanity, noting that China and Africa set a good example for the South-South Cooperation.
He said youths should have a sense of responsibility and align words with actions to drive the principles of sincerity.
Ms Li Bin, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, revealed that the African participants will experience a one-week tour of places and discuss with Chinese youths to understand China’s path to modernisation.
She made honourable mention of Madam Soong Ching Ling, who made outstanding contributions to the development of China and remains an inspiration to the new generation.
Gambian participant, Omar Cham, the Speaker of the National Youth Parliament, said the event is a rare opportunity for African youths to discuss with their Chinese counterparts and share ideas.
“Issues of diplomacy and partnerships should not only be limited to the central governments. It should also come down to the young people because, at the end of the day, young people are not only current leaders but future leaders. So it is paramount that this bond is built from the onset and that is actually what is going on right now. We look forward to building immense collaborations between China and Africa,” Mr Cham noted. “This collaboration will go a long way in enhancing development and partnership; in enhancing understanding and mutual respect. But most importantly, in ensuring that the young people from both Africa and China are uplifted and join hands for development.”