WASHINGTON DC —
The South African government says the country is ready to host a successful Forum for China-Africa Cooperation Summit, which kicks off in Johannesburg on Friday.
The two-day summit will run under the theme ‘Africa China Progressing Together: Win-win cooperation for common development.’
The Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Robert Mugabe are already in South Africa for the summit while other heads of state of most of Africa’s 54 countries have already started arriving. Benedict Nhlapho reports from Johannesburg.
With still a few hours left before the start of the first FOCAC summit in Africa, two African countries are already celebrating and Zimbabwe is one of them.
On his way to the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of ten economic agreements between China and Zimbabwe totaling an estimated four billion dollars and expected by many to revive the country’s ailing economy.
But South Africa has won much more. President Zuma gave a thumbs up to China’s strategy of building win-win relations with African countries after his country penned over two dozen agreements with China on Wednesday.
“We have just witnessed the signing of 26 agreements that are worth R94 billion,” he said.
And the Chinese president has made it clear that he wants the relationship of China and African countries taken to greater heights.
“We need to maintain close and high level exchanges, strengthen the governance experience, and also on issues concerning our major concerns and we should extend mutual understanding and support,” said President Xi.
As the FOCAC summit kick off draws close, all eyes are now on China to see what it will bring to the table for the other 52 African countries. The summit is expected to adopt the Johannesburg Declaration and Action Plan outlining specific measures aimed at consolidating China-Africa relations.
Gideon Chitanga, Researcher at the Centre for Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg, said China and African countries look committed to reviving their historical relationship dating back to the colonial era when most of these countries received help from China.
Chitanga said, “There is indeed an understanding and a zeal, if not an interest, to re-cultivate these relations and turn them into formal diplomatic, political and economic relations, which can be mutually beneficial to the 54 countries in Africa and to China in particular.”
But China’s intentions have received mixed feelings from ordinary Africans. Zimbabwean national Janet Munakamwe cautioned African countries to beware of the strings attached to their deals with China.
“It’s actually conditioned kinds of investments or funds of which China will be like we have donated or we have given Zimbabwe this amount of money, so you have to listen to whatever we are going to say, we are ones who have got the capital in this case.”
But others like South African national Reuben Nthathisi said China has demonstrated genuine efforts to take Africa out of poverty.
“It’s not colonization if we are selling ourselves. Others might want to imagine that it’s some form of colonization, but we haven’t been pressured by anyone except by our own appetite for what the Chinese are bringing.”
China is Africa’s largest individual trading partner with their trade volume amounting to US$220 billion in 2014. Nevertheless, it still remains to be seen what these countries will take home when the summit ends on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Chinese president on Thursday met African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and said Beijing highly values the continental body and the role it plays in Africa’s development and integration.
Mr. Xi called on China and the African Union to enhance mutual political trust, perfect mechanism of dialogue and forge a strategic partnership, among other issues.
For perspective, Studio 7 reached co-director of the Confucius Institute at the Johannesburg University, Dr. David Monyae.