By Tong Zhan, Counsellor for economic and commercial affairs of the Chinese Embassy in Banjul
The third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo (CAETE) is to take place in Changsha, Hunan from June 29 to July 2. The theme of this year’s CAETE is “Common Development for a Shared Future”. As one of the most important trade and economic event between China and African countries of the year, CAETE will build a platform for China-Africa practical cooperation by hosting more than 30 sessions, including the opening ceremony and the China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum, high-end events, matchmaking meetings and seminars.
I am delighted to know that the Gambian government attaches great importance to the third CAETE and will sent a delegation led by The Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment. Honourable Minister Bubacarr Ousmaila Joof will attend the opening ceremony of CAETE, deliver two opening remarks on the Sino-African Medicine and Health Development Forum and the China-Africa Textile and Garment Trade and Investment Matchmaking Conference respectively, participate in the Summit Dialogue on Corporate Social Responsibility and China-Africa Cooperation, the China-Africa Agricultural Machinery, Electronic Ceramics, Text and Printing Products Matchmaking Fair and other activities, he will also visit some major Chinese enterprises in Hunan Province.
I fully believe that this trip to China will enhance mutual understanding and promote the development of economic and trade relations between the two countries.
I. CAETE has achieved remarkable results
The China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo (CAETE) is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China (MOFCOM) and the People’s Government of Hunan Province, the Expo is held biennially. It is committed to building a new mechanism for China-Africa economic and trade cooperation; a new platform for the implementation of economic and trade initiatives under Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), and a new window for China-Africa economic and trade cooperation at the sub-national level. Held in June 2019 and September 2021, the first two sessions have yielded fruitful results including the signing of 216 projects with a total investment of USD 43.02 billion.
The Chinese government will continue to mobilize resources from all quarters, promote upgrading and innovation, improve services and aim for concrete results. We will burnish CAETE credentials, enhance its effectiveness and influence and strive for high-quality development of China-Africa commercial cooperation in a bid to build a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future.
II. Fruitful results of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation in the past 10 years.
The year 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith for China’s Africa policy, and the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests announced by President Xi Jinping. Over the past decade, China and African countries, under the strategic guidance of Chinese and African leaders, have developed win-win cooperation with unique characteristics and fruitful trade and economic outcomes.
First, China-Africa cooperation has expanded to a larger scale. In the past ten years, China-Africa trade totalled USD2 trillion. China remains Africa’s largest trading partner and second largest importer of African agricultural products. Chinese companies signed more than USD700 billion worth of new contracts in Africa, and the turnover of contracted projects exceeded USD400 billion. China doubled its direct investment in Africa by more than USD20 billion, thus becoming Africa’s fourth largest source of foreign direct investment. China sent around 9,000 medical workers to African countries and offered nearly 100,000 training opportunities. A large number of road, railway, bridges, ports, cooperation parks, hospitals, schools, stadiums and other projects were completed.
Second, China-Africa cooperation mechanism has improved. To date, China has signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with 52 African countries and the AU Commission, established joint economic and trade committees with 51 African countries and three sub-regional organizations, and inked bilateral agreements on investment promotion and protection with 34 countries and agreements on avoidance of double taxation with 19 countries. It has set up working groups with African countries on smooth trade, investment cooperation, production capacity cooperation and e-commerce. China vigorously supports the development of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA). It has set up an expert group on economic cooperation with the ACFTA Secretariat for in-depth policy exchanges and experience sharing on trade and investment facilitation between China and Africa.
Third, China-Africa cooperation has become more diverse. Over the past decade, China-Africa commercial cooperation has been expanding from traditional areas of trade and project development to such emerging areas as digital and green development, aviation and aerospace, as well as finance. Chinese enterprises have engaged actively in developing digital infrastructure in Africa, contributing to rapid growth in e-commerce, mobile wallets, the media and entertainment. China has signed civil aviation transport agreements with 27 African countries and successfully built and launched communication and meteorological satellites for Algeria, Ethiopia and Nigeria, among others.
At the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2021, President Xi Jinping announced that China will work closely with African countries to implement nine programs and proposed to build a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future. His remarks have charted the course for China’s cooperation with Africa in the new era and brought China-Africa trade and economic cooperation to a new level.
III. Cooperation between China and The Gambia in various fields has a bright future
The Gambia is a member of the FOCAC family and China-Gambia cooperation is an important part of China-Africa cooperation. China attaches great importance to the development of China-Gambia relations. Although the two countries just re-established diplomatic ties seven years ago, we have made solid efforts to promote bilateral cooperation in various fields under the framework of FOCAC and yield fruitful outcomes. The International Convention Center (ICC) and the road and bridge in the Upper River Region have been completed and contribute to the economic and social development of The Gambia. China and The Gambia have worked together to fight the COVID. China has provided medical supplies and vaccines to The Gambia and dispatched several batches of medical teams to The Gambia, helping The Gambia to improve public health service capacity. China has provided several batches of large-scale food aid to The Gambia, and Chinese agricultural experts have carried out demonstration projects in The Gambia to teach agricultural techniques to Gambian farmers, improve hybrid rice varieties adoptive to local conditions, making active efforts to help The Gambia ensure food security and achieve food self-sufficiency. Chinese companies investing in The Gambia are gradually increasing. Chinese technology, Chinese quality and Chinese efficiency have made positive contributions to Gambia’s economic and social development. After the epidemic, China will actively explore new models and new fields to support Gambia’s economic and social development, and promote the further development of friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries, based on the principles of friendship and sincerity, meeting Gambian’s needs and doing its best.
With the end of the Covid-19 epidemic, the people and cultural exchanges between China and The Gambia will also return to normal. Since the beginning of this year, China has held a number of bilateral exchange programs, and more than 80 Gambians have gone to China to join them. It is expected that over 300 Gambians from different sectors will go to China to participate in those exchange programs throughout the year. Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in The Gambia also encourage more Chinese businessmen to invest and do business in The Gambia and more Chinese tourists to visit the “Smiling Coast”, giving new impetus to exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.