Continuing a 31-year tradition, China's foreign minister is in Africa for his first official visit of the new year. From January 4 to 9, Chinese FM Wang Yi is visiting Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Tanzania and the Seychelles. What does the visit mean for a continent hit hard by the pandemic? What tops the agenda for African countries when it comes to deepening ties with China? And where do China-Africa relations go from here?
"China is taking [Africa] as the first place of visits, which means that Africa is very significant for China, and that means African countries can count on the support of China in the years to come as they engage together in cooperation," Dr. Adekunle Osidipe, researcher at the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University, told CGTN Dialogue.
Dr. Osidipe noted that since the 1990s, the Chinese foreign ministers have made Africa the first region to visit every year. But this year's visit is extremely important given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He believes that the visits will help to boost Africa's confidence in fighting the pandemic and recovering the economy.
Regarding the countries visited on this occasion, He Wenping, senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the five countries are located in different regions of the African continent, and through exchanges with these diverse countries, China-Africa cooperation can be better promoted.
She highlighted that the key priorities of the visit are vaccine cooperation, economic recovery, and transformative development. Meanwhile, with the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation to be held in Senegal this summer, the visit can also help China get to know African countries better and bring cooperation to a new level.
"The key impact has been an economic impact, and it relates to Africa's relationship with the rest of the world." Hannah Ryder, founder & CEO of Development Reimagined, thinks that the pandemic has greater impact on economy and businesses than health for Africa.
She pointed out that African leaders and governments reacted very quickly to COVID-19, and most African countries closed their borders before they even recorded ten cases, but that also means they closed their borders to tourism.
"We need to work with China as well … to move to a new way of structural transformation in African economies, certainly not relying so much on agriculture, not relying so much on commodities, but actually transforming to work on manufacturing." Hannah said she is very much looking forward to seeing further cooperation between China and Africa to accelerate the transfer of Chinese manufacturing firms to the African economy.
Speaking of current China-Africa cooperation, He Wenping mentioned that even during the pandemic, more than 1,100 Chinese projects have maintained operation in Africa. In addition, she emphasized that more than 400 African companies have participated in the China International Import Expo for the past three editions. Particularly, Rwanda has joined the Alibaba-led Electronic World Trade Platform, which enables Rwandan companies to sell their products to the Chinese market.
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