2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation: What Can We Expect?

Wednesday, 05 September 2018 3537 Views 0 Comments
2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation: What Can We Expect?

The 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in Beijing between September 3 and 4, 2018. The inaugural FOCAC was held in Beijing in 2000. After 18 years, China-Africa cooperation enjoys so much support by African Heads of State, largely because it is mutually beneficial. As such, I have many expectations of the upcoming Beijing Summit. A careful examination of China’s priorities and agenda in past six FOCAC meetings has attached so much importance to Africa. The results can be seen in the areas of financing for infrastructural development, trade and investment, agriculture, industrialization, peace and security. Little wonder African leaders attach so much importance to FOCAC.

Judging from the theme of this year’s Summit – “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Co-operation” – expectations are that China will boost its commitments towards Africa on many fronts.

First, on the economic front, we can expect to see China announce more financing for infrastructural development in Africa. Since 2000, China has committed over US $70 billion towards transportation and electric power projects. For example, the US $3.3 billion Standard gauge railway from Mombassa to Nairobi built by China, is one of the biggest projects in Kenya’s history. General Electric (GE) has been working with State-owned Power Construction Corporation of China (Power China) to build power plants and grids in such African countries as Nigeria. Major announcements towards similar infrastructure projects should be expected during the 2018 Summit.

Second, we expect collective dialogue at the 2018 FOCAC to be geared towards promoting more healthy levels of trade between China and Africa. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for nine consecutive years, so this is not hard to imagine that there will be policies announced to sustain these growing levels of trade. Besides, more commitment to investment in processing and manufacturing sectors in African countries is anticipated. Optimism towards this is fanned by the observable success of the Chinese manufacturing firm, C & H Garments which specializes on the production of textiles and garments to appeal to the local market in Rwanda: about 1500 Rwandans have been hired and trained by the firm; some Rwandans have received further training in China; and others have started their own local manufacturing businesses as a result of the skills transfer and capacity building from the trainings. To this end, it will be unsurprising should more disbursements from the China-Africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation Fund, active since January 2016, be announced, especially targeting various industrial zones across Africa. This will ensure technology transfer and human capacity development while providing opportunities for creation of employment to many Africans.
Third, in line with its economic engagement, China’s peace and security engagement in Africa is deepening. The Gulf crisis that started in June 2017 when Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) blacklisted Doha, added a dangerous new twist to the lingering border dispute in the Horn of Africa between Eritrea and Djibouti, where both countries are claiming ownership of the Dumeira mountains and Islands. Both Eritrea and Djibouti sided with Saudi Arabia and its allies in severing ties with Qatar. As a result, Qatar withdrew its nearly 200 troops stationed in this disputed area since 2010 to maintain peace between the two countries. In the wake of this impasse, China offered to send troops to the disputed border area. A month later, China officially opened its first overseas logistics and military base, a naval resupply facility in Djibouti. According to Beijing, the base will help China to better fulfill its international obligations in Somali waters such as carrying out anti-piracy, as well as peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in Africa, thus enabling China to make further contribution in safeguarding peace and security on the continent. Currently, China’s first overseas peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has 700 troops. Recently, in June this year, the inaugural China-Africa Defense and Security Forum was held in Beijing to focus on issues of regional security and China-Africa military cooperation.
These developments are broadly seen as part of China’s extension of its military footprint in Africa and could see more resources directed towards conflict resolution and stability of the continent. It is highly likely that we will see China pledge more peace and security support to Africa in terms of additional funding to support the African Union’s peace and security architecture, military equipment delivery, more bilateral exchanges between defense officials, and plans to engage more in peacebuilding initiatives in Africa, from peacekeeping to collaboration in anti-piracy efforts.
These particularly, and other existing areas of cooperation are expected to be intensified, meanwhile, new areas of China-Africa cooperation are likely to be announced during the 2018 FOCAC. The outcome will guide China’s Africa Policy until 2021. It remains to be seen what key areas China and Africa will prioritize in the next three years.

Hubert Kinkoh

Hubert Kinkoh currently works with the African Leadership Centre, Nairobi, as Fellowship Administration Intern and Research Assistant. He is a holder of an MA in Peace Studies and International Relations (with Honors) from Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations, Nairobi-Kenya. His thematic research interests span everything Africa; forced migration and human security; women, peace and security; youth, peace and security; transitional justice in post-conflict societies; and the political economy of conflict. Geographically, Hubert’s research interests include the Horn of Africa, East Africa and the African Great Lakes Regions.

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