During the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), held in South Africa on December 4-5, Chinese President Xi Jinping and African leaders reached consensus on lifting China-Africa relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.
On the basis of this agreement, China, African countries and the continental African Union (AU) are expected to achieve additional progress toward political equality and mutual trust, mutually beneficial economic cooperation, cultural exchanges and collaboration on world affairs. In particular, their cooperation in promoting industrialization and agricultural modernization on the African continent will enrich the already dynamic China-Africa relationship.
There has been a big leap in economic and trade links between China and Africa over the past decade and a half. Bilateral trade surged to $222 billion in 2014 from $10 billion in 2000. Since 2009, China has overtaken the United States to become Africa's largest trading partner for six consecutive years.
China has invested more than $30 billion in African countries. More than 2,500 Chinese companies are operating in Africa in a wide range of sectors, including trade, manufacturing, transportation and agriculture.
Currently, African countries expect to advance the process of industrialization and agricultural modernization in a bid to reach economic independence and sustainable development. China has become a net capital exporter and is seeking opportunities to export part of its quality-rich industrial capacities to countries in need. Therefore, their industrial cooperation will not only help Africa transform its abundant labor force and rich natural resources into energy for growth, but also have a significant effect on China's economic restructuring.
Backward infrastructure conditions and a lack of well-trained laborers are two major obstacles on the road for Africa's development. China will pay close attention to these problems and join African countries' efforts to address them. Furthermore, China's commitment to helping African countries build industrial, grain security and healthcare systems focuses on long-term problems in those areas, including employment.
More than 50 African countries share a common desire for development but their national conditions differ from each other. China should research their respective needs in order to identify the best possible form of collaboration with each of them.
In the future, China could establish a fund to facilitate investment and innovation in specific fields, such as agriculture and food technology in Africa. That is in addition to diversifying their approaches toward cooperation between China and African countries, encouraging more private Chinese enterprises to participate, as well as expanding people-to-people exchanges through various channels.
More importantly, China should set strict requirements for industrial projects to be relocated to Africa in order to prevent energy-consuming and polluting enterprises from misusing the opportunities. Both China and Africa should establish assessment and supervision mechanisms in order to ensure that their industrial cooperation projects are eco-friendly. The Chinese Government should also encourage Chinese companies in Africa to adopt more active localization strategies and employ more African employees for the benefit of local residents.
China and Africa have a thousand reasons to enhance collaboration and every step toward this purpose is surely to each other's benefit. Moreover, China welcomes more international support for Africa's development and will actively participate in Africa-related multilateral cooperation.
The author is a senior researcher of The Charhar Institute and a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan
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