Why Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Africa tour is crucial
By Eric Biegon
There is a popular saying: “You define what is important to you by what you dedicate your time to.” This dictum has time and again been used to lay emphasis on an issue that takes first place or simply that which is given priority on any given circumstance. Indeed, it is easy for an individual or a group to gauge its significance to a course looking at the treatment they get.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) meets with South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is here to attend the Coordinators' Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), in Beijing, capital of China, July 29, 2016. [Photo: Xinhua]
This saying is particularly important at a time when, all over the world, nations and populations are looking to build lasting but genuine friendships. These friendships, it is expected, will yield mutual benefit to the parties involved.
Every ardent observer of international happenings is keenly following almost every single move made by China, which undoubtedly, is the fastest growing economic powerhouse. This became the case particularly after its current leader began to promote the building of a mutually beneficial society.
Africa at the moment appreciates the inspiration from China. What’s more, a record 50 African countries have established diplomatic relations with the Asian nation.
First overseas trip of the year
Interestingly, China has developed a tradition over the years where Chinese foreign ministers have always chosen Africa as their first overseas trip in the New Year. This tradition has been observed for the last 20 years. Yet 2018 is no different.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has begun a tour of four African countries where he will pay an official visit to Rwanda, Angola, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe on January 12 through to January 16.
“Foreign Minister Wang Yi's continuation of this tradition shows that China consistently pays great attention to China-Africa ties," said Chinese Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson Lu Kang recently at a press briefing in Beijing.
Undeniably, this visit is principally geared towards solidifying friendship that already exists between China and Africa. In fact, this friendship no longer exists in a vacuum. It has been solemnized into concrete platforms that are strategic in nature. Forum for China Africa Cooperation is one such platform.
“Wang's visit will promote political mutual trust, strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation, and prepare for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit, which will be hosted by China this year”. Lu said.
Africa’s Development Bottlenecks
Chinese president Xi Jinping announced 10 major cooperation areas with Africa in 2015 during the FOCAC summit held in South Africa. The $60 billion-mechanism had been earmarked to breathe life to key economic sectors such as industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.
“We will focus on helping African countries break the three development bottlenecks of backward infrastructure, talent shortage, and inadequate fund.” President Xi stressed
In his address to the African heads of states and governments back then, the Chinese leader left no doubt that China was only keen to help Africa’s fledgling economies to realize independent and sustainable development.
By pumping substantial financial resources to this all-for-Africa initiative, China was already demonstrating its commitment to the development of the continent. The 10 major plans are all at a stage of implementation at the moment. Without a doubt, mega industrial and infrastructural projects initiated by the Chinese government directly or through Chinese enterprises have sprung up across the continent ever since this package was announced.
Projects Implementation Timeline
The Beijing-based administration has consistently reiterated that 2018 is crucial in the implementation timeline. This in part, is the reason China will play host to this year’s FOCAC summit. Officials drawn from both sides agree that the meeting will be used to evaluate progress made since 2015.
Therefore, Wang’s trip, according to Chinese foreign affairs spokesperson, is meant to follow up on proposals and cooperation agreements recently signed between China and the five countries.
It will be remembered that Wang was on the same mission last year when he visited Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, Congo, and Nigeria. In 2016 he went to Namibia, Malawi, Mauritius, and Mozambique. In 2015, Wang Yi began his visit to Africa from Kenya before he proceeded to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Subsequent to every visit made, the foreign affairs minister has been eager to point out the importance of such visits, insisting that they are not just a mere formality.
“We will always stand together with developing countries, with African brothers, because developing countries are the foundation of China's diplomacy, and Africa is the core of this foundation.” Wang Yi told journalists in Nigeria last year after a similar tour.
Responding to questions especially regarding his country’s core agenda in the continent, Wang Yi was categorical that China has the firmest friendship and most profound cooperation with Africa. In his opinion, China has the willingness and capacity to contribute to the peace and development of Africa through deepening cooperation with countries in the continent.
“We will continue to earnestly follow the cooperation policy towards Africa of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith put forward by President Xi Jinping, while implementing the results from the Johannesburg Summit and making feasible plans for preferential fields and priorities of bilateral cooperation based on different conditions and needs of African countries.” He noted
There is no doubt that China is proving to be a magnanimous example when it comes to backing up promises with tangible actions whose results are being felt across the continent.
(Eric Biegon is a News reporter, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation – KBC Channel 1 TV)