Chinese Foreign Minister Extends Belt and Road Cooperation in Five African Countries
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded a very successful visit to Africa on Jan. 9, on his first trip abroad in the new year, as has become traditional. Beginning in the continent’s most populous nation Nigeria, on Jan. 5, the visit then took him to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Botswana, Tanzania, and the Seychelles. The DRC and Botswana both agreed to sign on to the Belt and Road Initiative, the 45th and 46th African countries to do so. Given the rapid spread of COVID now in Africa, there was a great deal of emphasis on coordinating the fight against the pandemic. The Chinese government has made a solemn commitment to make sure that the vaccine now being developed in China is distributed widely, with a priority on developing countries, that have the weakest infrastructure to deal with this problem. In addition to healthcare, China intends to strengthen cooperation in various sectors (agriculture, digitalization, environmental protection, military security etc.).
Speaking to People’s Daily on his return, Wang underlined four points that were key for the China-Africa relationship. First there was the crying need for infrastructure: China has more than 1,100 BRI cooperation projects in Africa, and nearly 100,000 Chinese technicians and engineers are working there. Second, more free trade zones have to be set up with a view to increase the trade within Africa itself and between the continent and the rest of the world. Third, China will assist Africa to optimize the layout of production capacity investment and promote the process of African industrialization. And fourth is to strengthen cooperation in scientific and technological innovation “to help Africa develop by leaps and bounds,” he added.
In Nigeria, the Foreign Minister promised that China would encourage investment in the country and continue to work in infrastructure development, coordinating with Nigeria’s own development plan, as it has done extensively in the past years. Very importantly in the DRC, the commitment was made to wipe out the outstanding loans owed by DRC to China ($28 million) so that it can better deal with the COVID pandemic. In addition, China pledged to extend a further $17 million loan, $15 million of which would go to development projects and $2 million to support getting the DRC up-and-running as this year’s chair of the African Union.
China has a long-standing relationship with Tanzania, as it built its first railroad in Africa there in the 1970s, the Tan- Zam railroad. During Wang’s visit, he witnessed the signing of a contract involving two Chinese companies, that will help build a railroad from Tanzania’s major port on Lake Victoria to the town of Isaka, which has a rail connection to the seaport at Dar es Salaam.