The recent Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg has provided a new direction for cooperation. Ballooning trade figures show the reason: when the forum was first established in 2000, the trade volume between China and Africa stood at 10 billion U.S. dollars. Now China has become the continent's largest trading partner, with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce expecting trade to reach 300 billion dollars at the end of 2015.
Cooperation with China is helping Africa break it`s three development bottlenecks of poor infrastructure, shortage of technical graduates and inadequate funding, accelerating its industrialization and agricultural modernization. The summit has provided strengthened consensus between the world's largest developing country and the continent with the biggest number of developing and underdeveloped countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that his country will roll out 10 major plans to boost cooperation with Africa in the coming three years.
Covering the areas of industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction, public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.
To ensure a smooth implementation of the initiatives, Xi announced, China will offer 60 billion U.S. dollars of funding support including: 5 billion dollars of free aid and interest-free loans, 35 billion dollars of preferential loans and export credit on more favorable terms, 5 billion dollars of additional capital for the China-Africa Development Fund and a Special Loan for the Development of African SMEs, and a China-Africa production capacity cooperation fund with the initial capital of 10 billion dollars.
- China will establish a number of regional vocational education centers and several capacity-building colleges for Africa, train 200,000 technicians for African countries, and provide the continent with 40,000 training opportunities in China. Furthermore, China will offer African students 2,000 education opportunities with degrees or diplomas and 30,000 government scholarships. Additionally China will also invite 200 African scholars to visit China and train 1,000 media professionals from Africa.
- On poverty reduction, President Xi said China will launch 200 "Happy Life" projects and special programs focusing on women and children and 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.
- In order to help Africa accelerate agricultural modernization, China will carry out agricultural development projects in 100 African villages to raise rural living standards, send 30 teams of agricultural experts to Africa, and establish new cooperation mechanisms between Chinese and African agricultural research institutes.
- On security cooperation, Xi announced that China will provide a total of 60 million U.S. dollars in free aid to the African Union (AU) to support the building and operations of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for the Immediate Response to Crisis Force.
The Chinese government has also finalised a deal with the Djibouti to build its first international military base, granting China land rights for ten years. Whilst international critics have have focused on the threat of China’s military expansion in the region. The new base, reflects China’s long-term economic goals in Africa more than its current military objectives: as Chinese economic interests expand in Africa it is likely that their military presence will grow as well. The base will serve a number of different functions: as a logistics hub for naval operations to support Chinese anti-piracy operations, as a staging point for operations similar to the deployment in South Sudan, and a means for ensuring that Chinese infrastructure investments remain secure.
It has become increasing apparent that Western FDI models have not been working in large tracts of Africa. South African President Jacob Zuma said at the summit "Western countries had been in Africa for centuries to rob Africa's resources. They should be admitting what they have done. Some (Western countries) are rich because of the resources they took from Africa. They never thought of helping Africa to develop". Still only accounting for less than 4% of the continents FDI, Chinese investment is equally distributed between good and poor governance countries in the Continent. China`s philosophy to “respect each other's choice of development path and not impose our own will on others” must be given an opportunity to work.
However this is not pure philanthropy. China is using African infrastructure projects to keep its construction industry busy: which has emerged over the years as one China’s most important exports. Constituting roughly one quarter of China’s $10 trillion economy it is slowing alarmingly on the domestic front. Chinese companies have achieved unprecedented penetration of the African construction sector and this trend now shows no signs of slowing. Infrastructure construction in Africa has now become an end in itself.