The Chinese government has decided to provide, within this year, a new tranche of food assistance to the 17 African countries in need, and will encourage more Chinese firms to invest in agricultural production and processing in Africa to help realise food self-sufficiency.
Africa economic growth
China remains Africa’s largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years in 2021, the bilateral trade volume reached $254.3 billion, up 35.3 per cent year-on-year and hitting a record high. Among them, imports from Africa reached $105.9 billion, up 43.7 per cent year on year.
During the first half of 2022, China-Africa trade reached $137.38 billion, up 16.6 per cent year on year. In the first seven months of this year, China imported $70.6 billion of goods from Africa, and Chinese enterprises invested $2.17 billion in Africa.
In the past five years, China’s agricultural imports from Africa have grown at an average rate of 11.4 per cent annually, and bilateral trade in services has created nearly 400,000 jobs for Africa every year.
By the end of 2020, Chinese companies had invested more than $43 billion in Africa, covering highway, electricity, telecommunications and port projects etc. Chinese investment has brought opportunities, capital and employment, enhancing Africa’s capacity for self-driven development and improving the livelihoods of the local people.
China has never pursued a trade surplus with Africa and has adopted various measures to increase imports from Africa. We has offered zero-tariff treatment of 97 per cent of taxable products from 33 least-developed countries (LDCs) in Africa.
We are pushing for “green lanes” for African agricultural exports to China in a bid to reach $300 billion in total imports from Africa in the next three years.
So far this year, China has signed exchange of letters with 12 African countries on zero tariff for 98 per cent of their export items to China. We will waive the 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries that had matured by the end of 2021. China will continue to actively support and participate in the construction of major infrastructure in Africa through financing, investment and assistance. We will also continue to increase imports from Africa, support the greater development of Africa’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors, and expand cooperation in emerging industries such as the digital economy, health, green and low-carbon sectors.
China welcomes continued interest in and support for Africa from the international community. We would also like to, with the consent of our African brothers, carry out trilateral or multi-party cooperation in Africa. What Africa wishes for is a favourable and amicable cooperation environment, not the zero-sum Cold War mentality. What Africa would welcome is mutually beneficial cooperation for the greater well-being of the people, not major-country rivalry for geopolitical gains.
Capacity to grow
China has always respected the wishes of the African people. Our financing to Africa mainly focuses on infrastructure and manufacturing-related sectors to meet the region’s real needs. To date, Chinese companies have helped African countries build and upgrade over 10,000 kilometers of railway, around 100,000 kilometers of highway, 1,000 Bridges, 100 ports, and many large-scale power plants, hospitals and schools. Such financing support has boosted economic growth, increased tax revenues, created jobs and improved people’s lives, bringing tangible benefits to the African people.
In terms of financing cooperation with Africa, China is a latecomer, but China-Africa financing cooperation has provided Africa with new options to break the bottleneck of insufficient funds for development.
According to the World Bank’s 2022 statistics, 28.8 per cent of Africa’s external debt comes from multilateral financial institutions and 41.8 per cent from commercial creditors. Together they accounted for more than 70 per cent.
Western investors are the largest creditors of Africa. Chinese debt only takes up 17 per cent of Africa’s total external debt.
Labelling China as the main creditor of Africa is clearly an overstatement. Chinese debt to Africa are mostly productive and sustainable “good debt” rather than consumptive or unsustainable “bad debt”. The so-called “Chinese debt trap” is actually a “poverty trap”, a piece of disinformation conjured up by some Western countries to block African development, undermine African countries’ right to independently choose their development partners and hold back Africa’s industrialisation and efforts toward economic independence.
What they want is to plunge the continent into a trap of underdevelopment and continue to make it a provider of low-cost resources.
In its financing cooperation with Africa, China always acts on the principles of equality, openness and transparency and respects the sovereignty and domestic legal procedures of African countries. China has never attached any political strings to debt agreements, never forced any African country to take out loans, and never pressed for any debt service by any African country.
Under China-Africa financing cooperation, not a single African country has been forced to mortgage its ports, mines or other strategic resources to China. Still less, not a single African country slid into debt predicaments just because it has financing cooperation with China.
China supports the effort to reduce the debt burden on African countries, and is fully implementing the G20 DSSI: it has put off more debts than any other G20 member, signed debt agreement or reached common understanding on debt relief with 19 African countries.
China is making steady progress in implementing all the pledges it made in Dakar. Over 3 billion has been delivered out of the 10 billion US dollars of credit facilities pledged to African financial institutions, and nearly 2.5 billion US dollars of loans were channelled into Africa’s priority programmes. More than 2 billion of the 10 billion US dollars of trade finance has been allocated.
We are prepared to, through the IMF’s two Trusts, re-channel 10 billion US dollars of its SDR into Africa, and encourage the IMF to direct China’s contributions to Africa.
Support in sustainable development
China pursues green, low-carbon and sustainable development in its cooperation with Africa, never at the expense of Africa’s ecosystem or long-term interests.
Both sides are expanding cooperation on environmental protection, climate change and green development.
All FOCAC meetings have issued cooperation plans for ecological and environmental protection, which have been effectively implemented. The two sides have expanded cooperation on clean energy including solar and wind power, and successfully held a workshop on building the Great Green Wall of Africa.
China firmly opposes all forms of illegal fishing, illegal mining or illegal logging. Chinese companies strictly abide by relevant laws and have made important contributions to Africa’s economic and social development.
Traditional friendship, fruitful cooperation
China is Ghana’s largest trading partner and major source of investment. The bilateral trade volume always remains among the top in Africa.
In 2021, bilateral trade reached $9.572 billion, up 12.2 per cent year on year. China’s direct investment increased by $57.27 million. So far, Chinese companies have completed a series of key projects, including the Tema Port expansion project, the
Western Corridor Gas Infrastructure Development Project and BUI Hydroelectric Power project, bringing tangible benefits to the Ghanaian people.
At present, the China-aided Jamestown Fishing Port, Phase II of the University of Health and Allied Sciences Project, Polytechnics, Technical and Vocational Training Centers Upgrading Project, and the Annex building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration are well underway.
Under the Master Project Support Agreement between the Government of Ghana and the Sinohydro Corporation, Tamale Interchange and Upgrading of Selected Feeder Roads in Ashanti and Western regions have been inaugurated. Takoradi Interchange is 35 per cent complete, Sunyani Inner City Roads is also 65 per cent complete, while other projects are well on their way.
Later this year, the Communist Party of China will hold its 20th National Congress, thus ushering in a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all respects. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the African Union.
At this new historical starting point, China and Africa need to stand even closer with each other, press ahead toward common development and rejuvenation, and truly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
The writer is the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana.