Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Botswana could lose out on China’s windfall

African leaders converged in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 4th of December for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which took place on the African continent for the first since its inception 15 years ago.  Chinese President Xi Jinping, who co-chaired the Summit with South African President Jacob Zuma, mapped out the future development of China-Africa relations with leaders of African countries and regional organisations. 

While many African leaders attended the Summit, Botswana’s head of state Ian Khama was not among his peers who came for this landmark meeting where the Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a US$60 billion of funding support to African countries. Diplomatic experts have raised concern that Khama’s absence could be viewed as a snub by the Chinese government and may make it difficult for Botswana to benefit from the Chinese windfall. The windfall includes US$5 billion of grant and zero-interest loans; US$35 billion of loans of concessional nature on more favorable terms and export credit line; an increase of US$5 billion to the China-Africa Development Fund and the Special Loan for the Development of African SMEs respectively; and the China-Africa Fund for Production Capacity Cooperation with an initial contribution of US$10 billion.

The Summit, which was held under the theme “Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development”  saw the  Chinese President  and all participating African leaders reach a unanimous agreement to lift the China-Africa relationship to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership. In support of the historic progress, African leaders endorsed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s appeal to strengthen the 5 major pillars of political equality and mutual trust, win-win economic cooperation, mutually enriching cultural exchanges, mutual assistance in security, and solidarity and coordination in international affairs. The Summit also agreed to carry out 10 major cooperation plans for China-Africa cooperation  in the next 3 years in the areas of industrialization, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure construction, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.

The programs will focus on helping African countries break the three development bottlenecks of backward infrastructure, talent shortage and inadequate fund, accelerate industrialization and agricultural modernisation, and realise independent and sustainable development. China will henceforth actively promote industry partnering and production capacity cooperation between China and Africa and encourage more Chinese enterprises to make business investment in Africa. The Asian country will also build or upgrade a number of industrial parks in cooperation with Africa, send senior government experts and advisers to Africa and set up regional vocational education centers and schools for capacity building. It will also train 200,000 technical personnel and provide 40,000 training opportunities for African personnel in China. 

President Xi Jinping announced that his country will share its experience in agricultural development with Africa and transfer readily applicable technologies to the continent. Still on Agriculture, China will carry out agricultural development projects in 100 African villages to raise rural living standards and send 30 teams of agricultural experts to Africa. Xi Jinping also said his country supports Chinese enterprises’ active participation in Africa’s infrastructural development, particularly in sectors such as railways, roads, regional aviation, ports, electricity and telecommunications, all of which are aimed at enhancing Africa’s capacity for sustainable development. It was also announced at the Summit that China will support Africa in bolstering its capacity for green, low-carbon and sustainable development and support Africa in launching 100 projects to develop clean energy, protect wildlife, promote environment-friendly agriculture and build smart cities. 50 aid-for-trade programs will also be introduced to improve Africa’s capacity, both “software” and “hardware”, for conducting internal and external trade and investment.

President Khama missed out on the China-Africa poverty reduction plan which could come in handy to augment Botswana’s poverty eradication programs. The Chinese government has promised to carry out in Africa 200 “Happy Life” projects and poverty reduction programs focusing on women and children. Xi Jinping announced that his country will cancel outstanding debts in the form of bilateral governmental zero-interest loans borrowed by the relevant least developed African countries that mature at the end of 2015. China has pledged to build 5 cultural centres in Africa and provide satellite TV reception to 10,000 African villages. It will also provide to Africa 2,000 educational opportunities with diplomas or degrees and 30,000 government scholarships. Every year, China will sponsor visits by 200 African scholars and study trips by 500 young Africans to China, and train 1,000 media professionals from Africa. 

Xi Jinping said his country supports the opening of more direct flights between China and Africa to boost tourism cooperation. China will provide US$60 million of grant to support the building and operation of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for the Immediate Response to Crisis. The Chinese will also continue to participate in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and support African countries’ capacity building in areas such as defense, counter-terrorism, riot prevention, customs and immigration control. Commenting on the Summit, Chinese ambassador to Botswana Zheng Zhuqiang said what has made China-Africa friendship durable and vigorous is that the two sides have always been guided by the principle of treating each other as equals, promoting win-win progress and common development and enhancing sincere friendship and cooperation. “China and Africa will forever remain good friends, good partners and good brothers”, Zhuqiang said.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper