China To Help Finance The Development of Africa-Wide Free Trade Area Which Will Be The Largest With 55 Nations

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China says will help to finance the development of an Africa-wide free trade area which will be the largest spanning 55 nations with a combined GDP of 3.4 trillion US dollars and 1.3 billion consumers.

Wang Yi the Chinese foreign minister said that Beijing welcomed the development of the African continental free trade area (AfCFTA) and will provide cash assistance and capacity building by training to its secretariat in Ghana capital Accra on Thursday at the event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Forum on China- Africa Cooperation ( FOCAC).

Wang Yi promised that China will continue to invest in Africa in infrastructure and industrial projects via it’s Belt and Road initiative and open up it’s market of 1.4 billion consumers to African products while talking to more than 150 guests who included several African ambassadors to China who attended the event in Beijing.

Wang Yi said that Africa and China needed to deepen free trade cooperation and improve the connectivity of industrial and supply chains so that Africa can better access the vast Chinese market and join international economic circulation.

Free trade area which has its headquarters in Accra the capital city of Ghana is excepted to come into effect next year after being delayed by the covid-19 pandemic, all 55 nations on the continent have signed the deal except Eritrea and about 30 members have both signed and ratified it.

China is Africa’s largest trading partner with a two-way trade hitting 208.7 billion US dollars in 2019.

Chinese firms have built dozens of economic cooperation zones and industrial estates across Africa according to Wang Yi. Since 2000 when FOCAC was created, China helped build and finance more than 6000km of railway, 6000km of roads, 20 ports, 130 plus medical facilities, 45 stadiums, and 170 schools he said.

China is funding the construction of a new Africa center for disease control and prevention in Ethiopia capital Addis Ababa.

According to figures from the China-Africa research initiative at the Johns Hopkins school of advanced international studies in Washington, China advanced 148 billion worth of loans to Africa between 2000 and 2018.

In 2018 at the FOCAC summit, Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged 60 billion US dollars in financial aid and loans to the continent but since then China had come under heavy fire from the US and several EU countries which have accused China of engaging in debt-trap diplomacy. The extent to which the money has helped African countries is also not yet clear as we are yet to receive the report.

Senegalese president and Xi Jinping who co-chaired the Forum on China- Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) said that the forum had become an important and dynamic platform for dialogue between China and Africa and was an important model and a banner for South-South cooperation, they said Africa- China cooperation should become a model of multilateralism and mental benefit.

According to Wang Yi China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 years in a row and has contributed to 20 percent growth for a number of years. He said China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road initiative was progressing well and that 44 African countries and the African Union Commission had signed cooperation documents.

FOCAC has helped to unlock billions of dollars for Africa megaprojects with China investing about 380 billion US dollars in Africa between 2005 and 2018 alone constructing roads, railway, concrete production, electricity production.

Some of those projects include trans- Maghreb high way which will connect 55 major North Africa towns and cities, benefiting 100 million people, 22 international airports, regional Universities, hospitals, and research centers along the way, then transcontinental railway, Mambilla power plant project in Nigeria which is the largest hydropower station projected to produce 3050 MW of energy on Dingo river, Walvis Bay container terminal a state of the art spanning 40 hectares in Namibia, Caculo cabaca hydropower project in Angola which is expected to produce 2172 MW of power after completion in 2024, Ethiopia’s Djibouti- Addis Ababa railway, Kenya’s standard gauge railway and more.

China’s engagement and investment in Africa have forced its rivals like the US, France, Japan, and India to reassess their engagement with the continent and look beyond humanitarian lenses like of recent French president Macron admitted that countries like Kenya turned to China because it provided funding and turnkey solutions along with competitive investment while meeting Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.

The US which has been accusing China of debt-trap diplomacy in Africa and around the world has moved in to counter Chinese influence on the continent through its prosper Africa initiative. Africa was termed as a place for minerals looting, white man’s laboratory, dumping place, and backwardness before China come in that the true importance of Africa was revived on the world stage.

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