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Changing dynamics

Great power competition is shaping new issues in China-Africa cooperation as the global development paradigms are being transformed

By ZHOU YUYUAN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-06-19 08:08
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Great power competition is shaping new issues in China-Africa cooperation as the global development paradigms are being transformed

In terms of economic growth, since the commodity prices collapsed globally around 2015, the growth momentum in Africa has begun to decline, and political, economic and development challenges have been accumulating. The shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine crisis and the structural impact of the energy transition have further exacerbated this trend. In terms of political security, the increasing number of violent conflicts, the possible spread of extremism and terrorism and the rise of non-traditional security threats, such as food and energy scarcity, have made the continent face more severe political security challenges in recent years.

The global development transformation has intensified the strategic planning needs of African countries for future growth. Some African countries are striving to participate in the green development transformation process shaped by climate change. African nations also need the sharing of development and transformation concepts and experience as well as material assistance.

Addressing the development challenges of Africa has become an important driving force for China-Africa cooperation. The two sides jointly launched the Initiative on Partnership for Africa's Development and issued the Declaration on China-Africa Cooperation on Combating Climate Change and both are committed to building a fair and stable financing framework for international development. China and Africa also jointly call on developed countries and the international community to actively fulfill their commitments and contribute to alleviating the financial and debt problems of African and developing countries. China strongly supports African countries to play a greater role in global affairs and their proposals at the United Nations, backs them to play a bigger part in the UN Security Council reform, takes the lead in assisting the African Union to become a permanent member of the G20, supports increasing the share of African states in multilateral financial institutions, and is increasing the attention to African issues through multilateral platforms such as the G20 and BRICS.

Solving problems in China-Africa cooperation is an important issue for both sides. For the problems in trade, investment and financing cooperation between the two sides, China actively participates in seeking solutions through bilateral and multilateral channels. It supports Africa to expand its exports to China, has further expanded the range of products with zero tariff treatment from the least developed countries that have established diplomatic relations with China, and has opened a "green channel "for African agricultural products to China through the China International Import Expo, China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, and the construction of e-commerce centers. China has promised to invest no less than $10 billion in Africa from 2022 to 2024, encourages domestic financial institutions to support Chinese enterprises in investing in African enterprises and projects through public-private partnerships, and assists Africa to implement 10 projects involving industrialization and employment promotion. It strengthens industrial docking and production capacity cooperation between the two sides, and drives Africa's industrial growth and diversified economic development by expanding the industry chain and enhancing the value chain. In response to the current difficulties in financing in Africa, China has committed to appropriately increasing the preferential loans, innovating financing models, implementing 10 infrastructure connectivity projects, supporting infrastructure construction, providing a $10 billion credit line to African financial institutions, and focusing on supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises in Africa. To support the Horn of Africa in achieving long-term stability, peace and prosperity, China has proposed the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa. It supports African countries in addressing the triple challenges of security, development and governance. Africa has also been identified as a key partner for cooperation in implementing the China-proposed Global Security Initiative.

China-Africa cooperation is facing new opportunities for transformation and upgrading. First, the energy transformation, digital economy, green development, and new industrial revolution have enabled Africa to enter a new stage of economic transformation. Raising its status in the global industry chain and seizing the opportunity of the fourth technological revolution are becoming key expectations and national strategies for African countries. E-commerce, the 5G network, green economy, and new energy cooperation are turning into new growth points for bilateral cooperation. Cultivating these new growth points and enhancing China's role in Africa's development and transformation process are important new directions for their cooperation. Second, increasing institutionalized connections with African society and people is an important area for further optimizing cooperation between the two sides. Compared to governments, public sectors and state-owned enterprises, the private sector in Africa is the "engine" of economic growth and the most important sector for promoting employment. Investment and policy support in Africa's private sector can bring a wide range of economic and social impacts. China-Africa cooperation should increase attention to the private sector and small- and medium-sized enterprises in Africa, and attach more importance to the unique role of African youth, women and social organizations.

Finally, the cooperation between China and Africa requires both sides to make new efforts in the era of great changes. In the face of the global development transformation, China and Africa need to enhance their ability to unite and cooperate in addressing common global challenges, sharpen their competence to shape, lead and expand new cooperation agendas, and more importantly, to improve their ability to solve problems, deepen cooperation, and innovate mechanisms. To this end, China and Africa should assume more proper roles in South-South cooperation, global governance and the international order, and continuously expand their common ground from a global perspective. They should adhere to the spirit of China-Africa friendly cooperation, firmly support each other, and strive to solve the key problems that hinder Africa's development. The two sides should improve their cooperation mechanism and strengthen the coordination and docking between the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, the Global Civilization Initiative and the cooperation mechanism between China and Africa. They should promote the formation of an open and inclusive global partnership for Africa's development through expanding and improving bilateral cooperation in new fields and building a more balanced structure of China-Africa ties.

The author is a senior research fellow and deputy director at the Center for West Asian and African Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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