The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit concluded in Johannesburg on Saturday amid an almost giddy atmosphere. All sides in this relationship seemingly walked away with more than what they anticipated.
Africa provided a welcome relief for Xi Jinping’s embattled foreign policy that has struggled in recent weeks following the killing of a Chinese national at the hands of ISIS in Syria, the murder of three Chinese executives at the hotel siege in Mali and tensions with its several of its Asian neighbors and the United States over disputed islands in the South China Sea. FOCAC, instead, allowed China the opportunity to position itself as a incontrovertible force for good.
In the run up to the December summit, a number of African states worried aloud about whether China would remain committed to the continent amid a slowing economy at home and an increasingly fragile economic environment across much of the continent. Furthermore, a number of countries including Mozambique and Angola among others, are also beginning to show strains under the weight of billions of dollars in Chinese loans. They in turn hoped Beijing would use the FOCAC summit to provide some desperately needed financial relief.
On all counts, China delivered.
The high-point of the summit came with Xi’s keynote address where he unveiled an unprecedented $60 billion financial package that includes money for industrialization, infrastructure, poverty reduction and security among other areas. This was a significant increase over the $20 billion China committed at the previous FOCAC conference in 2012.
Not surprisingly, the African delegations were elated with the news. After all, China’s ‘no strings attached’ engagement strategy is far more preferable for many of these governments compared to the more stringent conditional assistance offered by the west and the international institutions it leads.
Although the political elites who attended FOCAC were obviously pleased with the outcome, a number of civil society actors have expressed alarm over what wasn’t addressed at this year’s summit. The environment, wildlife conservation in particular, had been expected to play a much more prominent role than it did, receiving only a passing mention in the final communiqué. Other concerns related to corruption, illegal Chinese immigration and the growing prevalence of counterfeit Chinese goods were largely brushed aside (not surprisingly, of course).
On this week’s show, Eric & Cobus discuss FOCAC from two distinct perspectives with Lily Kuo, the Nairobi-based correspondent for the online business news site Quartz, and Walter Ruigu, Managing Director of China Africa Merchants Advisors Limited (CAMAL).
- The Daily Maverick (South Africa): China-Africa: Commitment and Opportunity by Thembinkosi Gcoyi
- Irish Times: China’s development package aims to counter western influence in Africa by Bill Corcoran
- Business Day Live (South Africa): China slowdown to test its bonds to sub-Saharan Africa by Norimitsu Onishi
About this week’s guests:
Lily Kuo covers East Africa and China in Africa from Nairobi for Quartz. She previously reported for Quartz from Hong Kong. Before that she covered general news for Reuters in New York and the Los Angeles Times in Beijing. She holds a dual master’s degree in International Affairs from the London School of Economics and Peking University, as well as degrees in English and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kuo won the 2014 SABEW award for best international feature for a series on China’s water crisis.
Walter Ruigu is the Managing Director at CAMAL (www.camaltd.com), an independent trade and investment advisory firm operating from Nairobi, Kenya and Beijing, China. CAMAL supports producers of mineral commodities in accessing China and Asian markets. The Firm also supports mining and construction companies in their international procurement of capital equipment. Correspondingly, CAMAL is supporting Chinese companies with a ‘go global’ agenda to enter the African market. CAMAL has worked with mining and construction companies in various countries, enabling them to successfully export minerals such as manganese and chrome to China and to procure quality capital goods. The Firm has also facilitated numerous strategic partnerships between Chinese and African companies.