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There is a need to boost trade, tech and digital partnership

By Amadou Diop | China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-29 07:01
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A technician from China's StarTimes installs TV satellite equipment in the Wakiso district of central Uganda on Sept 10. ZHANG GAIPING/XINHUA

The ongoing Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Dakar, Senegal, could offer a strategic framework for deepening China-Africa relations.

Some major decisions are likely to be made at the strategic meeting, in order to boost the economic recovery of the Chinese and African economies in the post-pandemic period, especially because the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on African economies, and slowed down global economic growth, although China has fared better in the face of the global public health crisis.

By achieving positive growth despite the serious impact of the pandemic last year, China once again demonstrated its economic resilience in the face of the serious challenges, and by pledging to support African countries in their bid to improve their economies, it has shouldered its global responsibility as a major country.

China's decision to increase trade with Africa by, among other things, reducing customs duties and opening up the Chinese market to more African products will allow both sides to boost their economies.

By helping improve the healthcare infrastructure and services in Africa and develop telemedicine, China will create more opportunities for African countries to strengthen one of their core sectors, that has for long suffered for the lack of proper funding and necessary infrastructure, which in turn has affected their economic development.

The challenges are colossal for the African countries, and they need a solid and rapid economic recovery. As for China, it faces the challenge of maintaining its economic dynamism to better deal with the pandemic and the other problems affecting the domestic as well as global economies.

The cancellation of the debts of the African countries seriously affected by the pandemic and increasing Chinese investments under the FOCAC framework are expected to further strengthen the win-win and equitable partnership between the two sides. And the technological and digital infrastructure strategic partnership will allow them to use their cooperation to bolster their post-pandemic recovery.

Also, the promotion of 5G technology in African countries will create new opportunities for Chinese enterprises and play a key role in boosting Sino-African technological and digital cooperation.

In terms of innovation in the digital realm, China can play a leading role in helping African countries widen their internet coverage. In particular, this can boost their development because the digital sector offers immense commercial opportunities including online sales, online learning, and development of data centers. Digital technology has been playing an increasingly important role in economies, opening up new business avenues including e-commerce, which African countries can use to boost the sale of goods and services from China.

It was heartening to hear China's Vice-Foreign Minister Deng Li say at the China-Africa Internet Development and Cooperation Forum on Aug 24 that China plans to develop and implement a China-Africa partnership plan for digital innovation. This will strengthen African countries' digital infrastructure, as well as promote the Belt and Road Initiative. The extension of the project to all African countries will contribute to infrastructure construction, wealth creation and connectivity in Africa and thus expedite economic recovery.

By strengthening cooperation in areas as varied as trade, technology, the digital sector, healthcare and infrastructure, China and Africa are developing an even more dynamic and mutually beneficial sharing mechanism, which will eventually lead to a more inclusive economic recovery.

As President Xi Jinping and Senegalese President Macky Sall said in their joint statement to mark the 20th year of the FOCAC in October 2020, China and Africa are willing to continue to uphold the spirit of solidarity and cooperation, and work together to cope with the various risks and challenges, making China-Africa cooperation a good example for multilateralism and mutual benefits, and contributing to defending international fairness and justice.

The FOCAC is a strategic framework for deepening China-Africa relations. It is a model cooperation mechanism in that it benefits all stakeholders, especially the African countries through growing Sino-African trade and rising Chinese investments in Africa. In fact, China's direct investment in Africa has reached $110 billion, with more than 3,800 Chinese enterprises either investing or launching operations in various parts of Africa. China has also been Africa's largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years, and Sino-African trade exceeded $200 billion in 2019.

So both sides stand to benefit from further strengthening of the relations, especially in the post-pandemic period.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


The author is a journalist with Senegal's national daily newspaper Le Soleil.

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