The 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC 8) takes place on November 29 and 30. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Commerce Secretary Wang Wentao will attend the conference in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. A number of topics are likely to be discussed there, including health, poverty elimination, trade and investment, digital economy, environment, and education.
During a press conference on November 26, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that President Xi would give a virtual keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the conference. After the opening ceremony, “the foreign ministers or representatives of the 54 member states of the forum, and ministers responsible for external economic cooperation and representatives of the African Union Commission will hold the plenary meeting, where they will jointly evaluate the implementation of the outcomes of the Beijing Summit and the solidarity of China and Africa against COVID-19, and outline the development of China-Africa relations in the next three years and beyond, so as to deepen China-Africa mutual trust and elevate the practical cooperation.”
Ahead of FOCAC 8, China issued a white paper titled China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals on November 26. With regard to the upcoming meeting, the report highlights that:
Together the two sides will plan and discuss the outcomes to be adopted at this FOCAC meeting regarding such key areas as health, investment and trade, industrialization, agricultural modernization, climate change responses and digital economy, and both will make every effort to produce a meeting that will build new consensus, explore new fields of cooperation, and be of benefit to both the Chinese and African peoples.
The report also reviews the economic cooperation between China and Africa. It notes that China’s trade with Africa has grown substantially:
China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for the 12 years since 2009. The proportion of Africa’s trade with China in the continent’s total external trade has continued to rise. In 2020, the figure exceeded 21 percent. The structure of China-Africa trade is improving. There has been a marked increase in technology in China’s exports to Africa, with the export of mechanical and electrical products and high-tech products now accounting for more than 50 percent of the total. China has increased its imports of non-resource products from Africa, and offered zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of taxable items exported to China by the 33 least-developed countries in Africa, with the goal of helping more African agricultural and manufactured goods gain access to the Chinese market. China’s imports in services from Africa have been growing at an average annual rate of 20 percent since 2017, creating close to 400,000 jobs for the continent every year. In recent years, China’s imports of agricultural products from Africa have also risen, and China has emerged as the second largest destination for Africa’s agricultural exports.
With regard to development assistance, the report states that:
Foreign aid from 2013 to 2018 totaled RMB270 billion. Of this sum, 45 percent went to African countries in the form of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans. From 2000 to 2020, China helped African countries build more than 13,000 km of roads and railway and more than 80 large-scale power facilities, and funded over 130 medical facilities, 45 sports venues and over 170 schools. It also trained more than 160,000 personnel for Africa, and built a series of flagship projects including the AU Conference Center. ... China has announced an exemption from debt incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due to mature by the end of 2018. It will apply to Africa’s least developed countries, heavily indebted and poor countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing countries that have diplomatic relations with China. During the Covid-19 pandemic, China cancelled the outstanding debts of 15 African countries in the form of interest-free loans that matured at the end of 2020.
Regarding investment, it highlights that “[Chinese investment in the region] covers a wide range of fields including mining, processing and smelting of ores, equipment manufacturing, agriculture, home appliance production, aviation services, medicine and health, and the digital economy.” Some key figures are as follows:
By the end of 2020, direct investment of Chinese companies in Africa had surpassed $43 billion. China has established over 3,500 companies of various types across the continent. Private companies have gradually become the main investment force in Africa; more than 80 percent of their employees are locals, and they have directly and indirectly created millions of jobs.
The white paper also notes China-Africa cooperation in mutual political trust, social development, and people-to-people and cultural exchange.
In addition, it calls for further cooperation through FOCAC and the Belt and Road Initiative, and bringing the relations to a new level.