FOCAC - a front to counter the West

Kamal Uddin Ahmed | Published: September 06, 2018 21:58:37 | Updated: September 09, 2018 21:50:03

The Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is the crucial pillar in promoting China-Africa strategic relations. FOCAC summit 2018, held at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing on September 03-04, was participated by heads of states and governments, foreign ministers as well as representatives of 53 African member nations.

Established by China and African leaders at the first Ministerial Conference in Beijing in October 2000, the FOCAC is a multilateral platform for dialogue, formalisations, and consolidation of Sino-African strategic relations. A platform designed to expand and deepen China-Africa ties, its declared objectives are: (a) reinforcement of friendly cooperation between China and Africa; (b), meeting the main challenges of globalisation, and (c) promoting common development.

This was the third FOCAC summit with the  theme, "China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation." Two previously held summits were held in Beijing in 2006 and in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015.

The United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres addressed the inaugural ceremony of FOCAC Beijing summit as a special guest. He held that the UN will continue to support the China-Africa Partnership and more broadly, South-South cooperation, so that all nations - in Africa and beyond - may enjoy sustainable and inclusive development.

While opening the 2-day FOCAC summit, China's President Xi Jinping in his key-note address delineated an eight-point plan. Goals of the plan are: (a) to strengthen economic and trade ties between China and Africa; (b) to reinforce its influence in the region, and (c) to counter escalating trade tension with the United States.

President Xi pledged another US$60 billion in financing for various projects in Africa. The amount will be provided in the form of assistance, investment and interest-free loans over the next three years. The commitment is made on the top of US$60 billion promised at the last FOCAC summit.

Emphasising win-win cooperation for economic relations, President Xi said that "protectionism and unilateralism is mounting… we are against protectionism and unilateralism." Notably, China has allowed tariff exemption to about 95 per cent of exports from the African countries.

President Xi promised to cancel debt from the least developing countries having diplomatic relations with Beijing. He assured that "The debt that they have incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due to mature by the end of 2018 will be exempted." 

President Xi urged all to boost cooperation on major regional and international issues, and to "seize opportunities" created by their complementary development strategies and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He also announced that his government will continue to provide military assistance to the African Union to build defence capability.

The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Co-chair of the summit, hailed the measures declared by President Xi. But he pointed out that "more local partnerships between Chinese and African businesses should be encouraged as the transfer of knowledge and technology will contribute to the development and sustainability of businesses and create new industries."

The FOCAC leaders have decided to construct a China-Africa community that accepts joint responsibility and pursues distinctive path of win-win cooperation.

The FOCAC summit demonstrates that as the second largest economy and major power in the world, China is determined to defend its political and economic interests. In fact, increasing consolidation of China-Africa relations poses a formidable challenge to the West and the United States, in particular, in establishing a sphere of influence in the African continent.

Dr. Kamal Uddin Ahmed is a former Professor and Chairman, Department of Political Science, University of Dhaka.

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