DR Congo FM's China visit brings new chance for Africa development
Bereket Sisay


Editor's note: Bereket Sisay, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a commentator of international affairs, with a special focus on Africa. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

At the invitation of Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Christophe Lutundula is visiting China from May 21 to 24. 

China-Africa ties are at an all-time high. China's approach to modernization offers a valuable model for African countries seeking economic growth and development. It is an undeniable fact that China's transformation has been an inspirational force for most developing countries, as the nation has managed to achieve inclusive development in the shortest period of time in human history.

China's remarkable success in lifting a significant proportion of its population out of poverty and transforming the nation into one that is pursuing uninterrupted economic growth, while building the world's second largest economy, could be a model for Africa, if not for others. That's the obvious reason why Africa is attaching great importance to its cooperation with China, as its march towards modernization is having a positive spillover effect on the continent.

In recent decades, China and Africa have achieved a series of successes on many fronts through mutually respectful and win-win cooperation.  Since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the subsequent launch of cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, China-Africa relations have achieved tangible results in infrastructure development. 

Among other things, between 2000 and 2020, China helped African countries build more than 13,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 km of highways, some 1,000 bridges, nearly 100 ports and more than 80 major power plants. In addition, by the end of 2021, China was Africa's largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years.

Apart from their direct impact on improving people's social lives, these infrastructure development projects have also been the source of millions of jobs for African youth. As a result, the World Bank has often praised China's role in addressing Africa's infrastructure deficit, which is having a measurable impact on Africa's growth.

Africa is growing rapidly and is poised to become an economic success story, as closing the infrastructure deficit is critical to Africa's economic prosperity and sustainable development. But the continent's huge infrastructure deficit is still holding it back. Recent estimates by the African Development Bank put the continent's infrastructure needs at $130-170 billion per year, with a financing gap of $68-108 billion. This structural gap is holding back the continent's social and economic progress.

A section of the Nairobi Expressway built by China Road and Bridge Corporation in Nairobi, Kenya, May 8, 2022. /Xinhua
A section of the Nairobi Expressway built by China Road and Bridge Corporation in Nairobi, Kenya, May 8, 2022. /Xinhua

A section of the Nairobi Expressway built by China Road and Bridge Corporation in Nairobi, Kenya, May 8, 2022. /Xinhua

A recent United Nations Development Program report showed that most African countries are struggling to meet most of their sustainable development goal (SDG) targets, as the continent struggles with poverty and infrastructure gaps. As such, the continent is expected to consolidate international partnerships to bridge the infrastructure gap, even as it puts in place policies to accelerate progress. 

In this regard, China has proven to be a reliable partner, having delivered on its development finance commitments for decades against a backdrop of decoupling. As the existing infrastructure gap acts as a drag on Africa's economic growth, further strengthening cooperation in infrastructure development is particularly important for the continent. Moreover, China-Africa cooperation brings new opportunities for Africa's development, as it expands a range of partnerships deemed important for growth.

As the development advantages of China and Africa are highly complementary and the prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation are broad, the partnership needs to grow more. At the eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference held in Senegal in November 2021, China pledged to jointly implement nine programs with African countries and enhance China-Africa cooperation in various fields, including medical and health care, improving people's livelihoods, green development, the digital economy and capacity building.

Since then, China and Africa have begun to strengthen high-level exchanges, better aligning their development strategies and focusing on practical cooperation, but more needs to be done to turn these pragmatic plans into reality.

As the digital economy is a recipe for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services, the China-Africa partnership offers an opportunity to work together to expand digital technologies and platforms, as well as to expand human development cooperation. However, there is also a growing "digital divide" and increasing cyber risks, which require cooperation to thwart digital attacks and maintain digital security.

China's new offer of zero-tariff treatment for 98 percent of taxable goods originating in the least developed countries is also a further impetus to strengthen the trade partnership and thereby accelerate Africa's development. Thus, China's support for Africa's development efforts should be increased and it must continue to deliver on its promise to work to narrow the gap between the global North and South.

Like China, Africa has a huge potential to grow and be a positive force in steering global growth in an upward trajectory. Therefore, a China-Africa partnership would be of great significance in bringing the world to a better frontier.

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