The year of 2015 will go down to the annals of history as the year which saw Sino-Africa relations take a giant leap forward. Politicians and experts have agreed that this is the year where the relations between Africa and China was at the highest level.
The year started with the African Union and China signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the improvement of Africa's transport system and enhancement of industrialization infrastructure. The MOU was meant to transform Africa's industrialization, transport system, including high speed railways, highways and aviation. This resulted in China sending its ambassador to the AU, which will dispatch its ambassador to China early next year to oversee the implementation of the MOU. China has been pursuing a multi-pronged approach towards Africa, enhancing relations with the AU on the one hand and with individual countries on the other.
Sabelo Gatsheni-Ndlovu, Director of the Archie Mafeje Research Institute and a professor at the University of South Africa, told Xinhua that the Sino-Africa relations developed and became stronger in 2015, highlighted by the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in early December in South Africa. It was the first time that a FOCAC summit was held in Africa. "That showed how strategic China continues to be for Africa," Gatsheni-Ndlovu said.
The summit successfully accomplished all its major tasks under the atmosphere of sincerity, friendship, equality and a win-win cooperation. It is a historic meeting in the history of China-Africa relations. It was in this summit that Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the 60 billion U.S. dollars aid package for Africa in the next three years. The package seeks to help Africa to industrialize, modernize its agricultural production, boost the skills of its workers, build infrastructure and improve its health care.
Gatsheni-Ndlovu said, "China showed its commitment to be the main anchor of the African development with the pledges announced at the FOCAC Summit. China also showed its commitment to helping the AU and Africa with infrastructural development. This sees China fulfilling its long term commitment to help Africa's modernization, agriculture and industrialization." Yazini April, a research specialist from Human Science Research Council of South Africa, said Africa-China relations climbed to a much higher level in 2015. "
In 2015 China-Africa relations did go up and that demonstrated trust and mutual benefit. The hosting of the FOCAC Summit was also a major milestone in the relationship. The fact that it was elevated to a summit on its own is a seriousness on the relationship," April said. She stated that Africa and China develop their relationship on the basis of mutual benefit. "China proved itself that it's a dependable partner. When China promise to do this and that this year, they do it. China is not the World Bank or the U.S. which tell you a lot stories and take time to deliver. China has deliverables which are tangible," April said.
At the FOCAC Summit, China agreed to help AU with its agenda 2063 and continue assisting with infrastructural projects. The tone of FOCAC this year changed and it was not China deciding what needs to be done, April said. Africans were so much involved in the agenda of the summit with South Africa consulting with other African leaders, she said.
This year also saw the establishment of China-Africa Joint Arbitration Centres (CAJAC) in China and South Africa. These centres are responsible for handling complaints and solve them without resorting to the courts. The lawyers from Africa and China noted that as the trade and interaction increases, misunderstanding are bound to occur and CAJAC would handle those in an impartial manner. Speaking at the end of the FOCAC Summit, South African President Jacob Zuma said the Sino-Africa relationship is at the highest level ever. "This summit has certainly taken the FOCAC partnership to its highest level ever," Zuma said.
South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the summit clearly illustrated the key principles of the FOCAC relationship, namely mutual trust, win-win cooperation and mutual benefit. "Most importantly, we have upgraded this partnership to a higher strategic level, that of a 'Comprehensive Strategic and Cooperative Partnership', thereby ensuring that we are better able to address the pressing needs of our peoples," Nkoana-Mashabane said.
China-Africa trade reached 220 billion dollars last year with investments seen at 32.4 billion dollars. In 2015, China-Africa trade is expected to approach 300 billion dollars. The direct investment in the first half of 2015 went to 1.19 billion dollars. China has signed 245 new economic assistance agreements. China has also exempted 156 items of debt from 31 African countries. China has also signed medical aid agreements with 41 African countries. The year of 2015 was indeed an eventful year which saw China-Africa Cooperation ushering in a new era of mutual benefits.