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China's diversified and deepened engagement with Africa

By Mercy Tedeku | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-02-28 07:02
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In the dynamic landscape of Sino-African relations, the year 2024 is unfolding as a pivotal chapter, marked by the impending Ninth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in China. FOCAC 2024 signifies not only a renewed commitment to enhance collaboration between China and Africa but also a year of looking ahead, where the outcomes of various initiatives in the Africa-China space are expected to be reviewed and the way forward discussed.

Amid this pivotal event, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently concluded his first foreign trip of the year to Africa as part of the established tradition. Wang's visit marked the 34th consecutive year Africa has been the chosen destination for the Chinese foreign minister's first overseas visit.

His visits to Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire are of great diplomatic importance in the context of broader Africa-China engagement. Beyond the formal platforms of the FOCAC and the Belt and Road Initiative, the visits not only serve as a dynamic channel to deepen bilateral cooperation, address issues of mutual benefit and set the stage for a future characterized by strengthened diplomatic ties but also send a powerful signal regarding the future trajectory of Africa-China collaboration.

Economic cooperation has far-reaching impact

During Wang's latest visit to Africa, China's diplomatic relations with the four countries were reviewed, with the focus being on key areas such as the economy, infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, education and culture. The China-Togo relationship, spanning over half a century, and the China-Tunisia relationship, which completes 60 years this year, were highlighted for their importance and for China's firm support and continuous enhancement of political mutual trust.

As for Wang's visit to Cote d'Ivoire, the emphasis was on the two countries' friendship and partnership for development, which are yielding some tangible, mutually beneficial results — notably, China's contribution to Cote d'Ivoire as it hosted and won the just-concluded 34th Africa Cup of Nations showcasing the diverse facets of collaboration.

Egypt, on the other hand, was congratulated for becoming a new member of BRICS from Jan 1.

Wang's discussions in each of the four countries focused on strengthening economic ties and promoting development initiatives. Discussions revolved around increasing trade volumes, diversifying trade products and promoting investment in key sectors such as infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and the implementation of the Belt and Road projects with special, renewed emphasis on environmental sustainability.

The visits also showcased China's commitment to promote peace and stability in the African continent. Wang emphasized China's support for Africa-led initiatives and China's willingness to contribute to resolving regional conflicts.

In Egypt, hotspot issues especially the Israel-Palestine conflict and its spillover effects on the region, the Red Sea turmoil, for example, were discussed, with the two sides asserting there is a need for an immediate cease-fire, in order to prevent the further escalation of the conflict. Wang emphasized that China supports African countries' efforts to safeguard their sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security. It also supports African countries in their quest for strength and to choose their respective development paths with African characteristics, so that they continue to develop further while maintaining their independence and stability.

The fact that Africa has been the chosen destination for the Chinese foreign minister's first overseas visit for 34 consecutive years shows the importance China attaches to its diplomatic ties with African countries.

The China-Africa friendship has withstood many challenges, is proud of its accomplishments and is looking forward to a promising future. It demonstrates China's commitment to maintain and deepen its relationship with the continent, highlighting the long-standing and enduring nature of their partnership.

Wang's annual tour to Africa not only reinforces the long-standing diplomatic relationship between China and African countries but also demonstrates China's dedication to further boost collaboration and cooperation with Africa. The visits therefore have significant implications for the future trajectory of Africa-China relations.

Also, the emphasis on continuous enhancement of political mutual trust, as seen in the case of China and Togo, suggests a commitment to a stable and supportive political relationship. In fact, this trust is the foundation for deeper cooperation in various domains.

The commitment to advance pragmatic cooperation and opening up new prospects for bilateral relations, guided by the consensus reached by the heads of state, implies a forward-looking approach. Both China and Togo asserted they are committed to exploring new opportunities and adapting their collaboration to the changing circumstances, while China envisions greater collaboration in emerging fields such as green development, digitalization and healthcare.

As Africa's economic and technological landscapes undergo transformation, China aims to support its partners in leveraging these opportunities to achieve sustainable development.

The discussions between Wang and the African countries' leaders and officials underscored a shared vision for development, focusing on economic growth and sustainable development. China's commitment to further develop the Belt and Road Initiative aligns with Africa's aspirations for infrastructure development and economic transformation.

Wang's latest visits to Africa also show China's aim is to strengthen trade ties with African countries, help them improve their infrastructure, and increase investments in sectors such as mining, agriculture, manufacturing and energy for mutual benefit.

China's engagement with Africa diversifying and deepening

China's engagement with the African countries is aimed at diversifying and deepening its partnerships on the continent. This strategy promotes inclusivity and allows for a more comprehensive and robust collaboration in various fields. By visiting countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire, Wang has taken bilateral relations beyond traditional partnerships, which reflects China's intention to engage with a diverse range of African nations and highlights China's recognition of Africa's growing importance on the global stage and its desire to forge stronger relationships with a broader array of African states.

That China has helped build three of the six soccer stadiums that hosted the just-concluded Africa Cup of Nations shows the diversification of collaboration and cooperation between China and African countries. China's engagement with African countries goes beyond the traditional areas to cover the cultural and sporting fields as well.

In conclusion, Wang's visits to Africa highlight China's commitment to deepen cooperation in key areas such as the economy, infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, education and culture. It signifies a forward-looking approach, the enduring nature of diplomatic ties and a dedication to explore new opportunities.

The result will be a strengthened partnership, deeper bilateral cooperation and a shared commitment to achieve development goals. The visits serve as not only a testament to the diplomatic relationship between China and African countries but also a proactive step toward shaping a future characterized by strengthened diplomatic ties, mutual benefit and shared prosperity.

The author is a research associate at the Africa-China Centre for Policy and Advisory, a Sino-African research and policy think tank and advisory firm headquartered in Accra, Ghana. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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