Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.

I agree

Wang Yi's visit underscores symbiotic ties between China and Africa

Vehicles run on the Nairobi Expressway in Nairobi, Kenya, February 6, 2023. /Xinhua
Vehicles run on the Nairobi Expressway in Nairobi, Kenya, February 6, 2023. /Xinhua

Vehicles run on the Nairobi Expressway in Nairobi, Kenya, February 6, 2023. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Stephen Ndegwa, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN. 

As it has now become customary for incumbent Chinese foreign ministers, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, also a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, will make the first overseas trip to the African continent from January 13 to 18. Wang Yi will visit Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire. He will then proceed to Brazil and Jamaica, two countries that have a large African heritage.

The Chinese FM is not new to the African continent. Since he assumed his position in March 2013, this will be his 11th annual first trip overseas to Africa, which means that he is on a first-name basis with many top leaders.

The trip was on the radar of international media – for obvious geopolitical reasons, the West is always curious about the outcomes of China's engagement with Africa. Experts believe that after all the negativity the West has constantly poured on China-Africa relations through claims such as "debt trapping," there is extreme frustration that the stratagem has boomeranged.

In the African tradition, such steadfast gestures by a visitor are not taken for granted. The fact that Chinese FMs have maintained the annual ritual since 1991, in both good and bad times, bespeaks a genuine partner who would like to continue growing a relationship. Even countries not visited at that particular time of the year usually rest assured that the visit is representative of their interests both at a bilateral and multilateral level.  

Furthermore, the Chinese FM, including other high-ranking officials, continue to visit the continent in the course of the year. In mid-2023, for instance, Wang Yi visited South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia on a wide range of issues including BRICS, infrastructure and debt relief.

Relations between China and Africa have grown stronger, with the partners engaging at various levels, not just economic and diplomatic. As the largest developing country and continent, the two have a lot in common in terms of their vision and the challenges they have to overcome in different sectors, and even at a geopolitical level.

In order to rationalize the cooperation, the two partners agreed on the establishment of the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in the year 2000. The 55-member FOCAC comprises China, the 53 African countries that have diplomatic relations with China, and the African Union Commission. The 16th Senior Officials FOCAC meeting held in Beijing last October reiterated the partners' commitment to mutual benefit, shared development and win-win cooperation. In 2021, the group had implemented over 70 percent of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2018.

The headquarters building of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 8, 2023. /Xinhua
The headquarters building of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 8, 2023. /Xinhua

The headquarters building of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 8, 2023. /Xinhua

China-Africa ties became even closer during the COVID-19 pandemic. China donated medical supplies – including equipment, medicine, personnel and vaccines – worth millions of dollars to help the continent fight the pandemic. Africa also contributed to China's fight against the pandemic by offering moral support at the initial stages of the pandemic. This happened at a time when the West had ganged up against China and sought the country's isolation from the global community.

Post COVID-19, China continued supporting African economies by enhancing trade and infrastructural support to the continent. The support in fighting the pandemic ensured that African economies were not utterly devastated, and had some strong props on which to rebuild.

According to data released by China's General Administration of Customs in August 2023, trade between China and Africa grew by 7.4 percent year on year to about $158.36 billion in the first two quarters of the year. China has remained Africa's largest trading partner over the past decade.

Wang Yi is expected to seek Africa's continued support for the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative. China started the three initiatives in response to profound global social and economic challenges unseen in a century, and in cognizance of the fact that we are living in a global community with a shared future. The three-pronged strategy resonates with the world's multi-polarity, of which the two partners are at the core.

Africa's participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is also expected to be on the cards. At least 44 African countries have signed on to the multibillion-dollar BRI, which forms a third of all signatories. The BRI has been a game-changer for many African countries, helping to bring roads, rails and infrastructure to many of the developing economies.

In a sense, China and Africa relations will continue with business as usual. The status quo is definitely far from perfect, but the pace and nature of the partnership are on the right track. There are also areas that need more impetus to be on par with the rest, while there are new areas of cooperation that are yet to be discovered, or pursued in earnest.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

Search Trends