China-Africa Relations Continue to Thrive during the Pandemic
By Chu Maoming, China’s Consul General in Lagos
On September 6, 2021, the Launching Ceremony of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) African Products Online Promoting Season & “The World’s Specialty” African Special Event was held both online and offline. This is just an important action to carry out the China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation that China proposed not long ago. It shows once again that the Chinese side never leaves any of its initiatives to visions or on paper only but translates them into actions in a planned manner.
While boosting the shift of Chinese and African economy and society to digitalization and the expansion of consumption in both China and Africa, e-commerce helps African products tap the Chinese market. Not only does this allow Chinese consumers to buy African goods at a better price and increases China’s imports from Africa, but is also conducive to pulling Africa through the current anti-pandemic difficulties and fulfilling the African people’s aspirations for a better life.
Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, China and Africa have supported one another with good faith, further enriching their brotherhood. In this way, China and Africa have shown the world how a bilateral relationship can continue to thrive despite a raging pandemic.
During difficult times, China and Africa are working hand in hand in accelerating economic recovery.
On one hand, the African Union recently announced that the pandemic has plunged the continent into its first recession in 25 years, calling for prioritizing African integration to accelerate its economic revival; on the other hand, the Chinese Government encourages and supports Chinese enterprises to make more and more investments in Africa.
Facts and figures show that investment cooperation is a strong engine for the qualitative upgrading of the practical cooperation between China and African nations. China is one of the largest investors in Africa. Despite the negative impact of COVID-19, China’s investment in Africa climbed from 2.71 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 to 2.96 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. The shining achievements bring the hope of economic recovery against the pandemic. In addition to the quantitative increase, China’s investment in Africa also presents a qualitative leap forward to make great contributions to the industrialization and employment in the African continent. Excellent Chinese companies such as Huawei and Tecno are committed to the information, communications, and other emerging sectors in Africa and presented a number of high-quality flagship investment projects. A number of Belt and Road projects remain ongoing across Africa even amid the pandemic.
Though Chinese companies are newcomers investing in Africa, they are shifting from “going to Africa” to “rooting in Africa”. The Chinese Government encourages Chinese companies to blend with local communities, assume social responsibilities, and create benefits for the local people.
Chinese enterprises are becoming a significant force in boosting Africa’s economic development and improving livelihoods. They have not only actively supported local COVID-19 containment and prevention measures, promoted the resumption of work and daily life, and provided materials, vaccines and technical assistance, but also facilitated trade and investment in Africa. A special survey by the China-Africa Business Council of nearly 100 key Chinese private enterprises from June to July this year found their proportion of reinvestment in Africa to be around 30 percent.
At the mean time, to help Africa’s economic recovery, the Chinese Government has signed debt service suspension agreements with, and reduced or waived the interest-free loans for multiple African countries, becoming the biggest player in terms of relieving African debt among the Group of 20.
Indeed, what China and Africa have done together during the pandemic testifies to their determination to build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future, and has become living proof of the importance of unity in the face of global challenges.
This year, the FOCAC gathering in Dakar will be held as scheduled. The Chinese side will roll out more follow-up actions and unveil the measures for cooperation together with the African side to open a new chapter in the China-Africa community with a shared future. Chinese and African companies are encouraged to grasp the rare opportunities brought by China’s new journey toward building a modern socialist country in all respects and the accelerating progress of AfCFTA to align the Chinese and African development strategies, combine the Belt and Road development and the African Union Agenda 2063, and help raise and upgrade the quality of China-Africa cooperation.