|The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and Its Significance for Namibia|
by Mme. Ren Xiaoping,Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Namibia
In the first half of November, the 4th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in Sharm el Sheikh of Egypt. This will be a significant event for China and 49 African countries, for, at the conference, China and African countries will give a comprehensive assessment on the implementation of achievements of the Beijing Summit, and will blueprint for further cooperation between China and Africa in various fields for the coming three years.
As the world entered the 21st century, peace, stability and development became a shared aspiration of people of all countries. In order to further strengthen the friendly cooperation between China and Africa under the new circumstances, to meet the challenge of economic globalization and to promote common development, in October 2000, China and Africa jointly set up the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. In the 9 years since then, a summit and three ministerial conferences have been held successfully. Today, the Forum serves as an important platform and effective mechanism for conducting collective dialogue, exchanging experience in governance and enhancing mutual trust and cooperation between China and African countries. The development of the Forum, characterized by the core concept of equality and mutual benefit, and with a strong emphasis on implementation has become a shining example of south-south cooperation.
In 2006 the Summit of the Forum was held in Beijing. Namibian President H.E. Hifikepunye Pohamba attended the Summit, at which governments and delegations of China and 48 African countries solemnly proclaimed the establishment of a new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges. The Beijing Summit set a new milestone in the development of China-Africa relations, injecting new strength into their practical cooperation.
At the Summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced 8 specific measures that China will take to support Africa's development. These measures include: doubling the amount of grant assistance and providing US$ 3 billion soft loan and US$ 2 billion preferential buyer's credit in three years, setting up a China-Africa development fund which will be injected with US$ 5 billion to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Africa, building a conference center for the African Union, cancelling debts owed by heavily indebted and the least developed African countries, further opening up China's market to Africa by largely increasing the number of African export items to China that receive zero-tariff treatment, establishing 3 to 5 trade and economic cooperation zones in Africa in the years 2006-2009, and strengthening cooperation in the fields of agriculture, human resource enhancement, health and education.
China honors what it promises. Immediately after the Summit, a follow-up committee was set up and implementation work kicked off. President Hu Jintao and other top Chinese leaders visited Africa very year, making personal efforts to speed up the implementation. African leaders also made frequent visits to China, exchanging views with Chinese leaders on the progress of the implementation work.
3 years have passed and the Beijing Summit has yielded bumper harvest. China's grant assistance to Africa in 2009 has doubled that in 2006. China has provided a total amount of US$ 2.6 billion soft loan and US$ 2 billion credit line to African countries. China has provided support to more than 60 projects in 33 African countries. China-Africa Development Fund began to function in 2007 and has up to now invested more than US$ 400 million in 24 projects in Africa, bringing into Africa US$ 20 billion from Chinese enterprises. The construction of the AU conference center started in 2008 and will be completed in 2011. China has waived interest-free debts from 32 African countries that were due in 2005. China signed zero-tariff agreements with 31 African countries covering 478 items exporting to China. China has approved the establishment of 7 trade and economic zones respectively in Zambia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia and Algeria, and 6 of them have begun construction. In social development, China has trained 15000 African technical and professional personnel from various fields. More than 4000 African students are studying in China. China has provided anti-malaria medicine to more than 30 African countries. The Chinese Government has built 30 hospitals, 30 anti-malaria clinics, 100 rural schools and 10 agricultural demonstration centers in Africa.
The Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has also brought tangible benefits to Namibia. Since the inception of FOCAC, most of Chinese financial assistance to Namibia has been implemented through this channel, including the two regional assembly buildings in Rundu and Outapi, the Presidential Residence in Windhoek, fishery lab equipment in Kamutjonga, the Defense Academy in Okahanja and the Youth Training Center in Reifontain. The first three projects have been completed and the other two are progressing well.
In February 2007, Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a state visit to Namibia, which was immediately after the Beijing Summit. During his visit, he made more specific promises to help Namibia. It is now two and half years later, and as I briefed H.E. President Pohamba recently, China is proudly announcing that all these promises are realized. With Chinese grant, we have completed 3 rural schools (2 in Tsumkwe, 1 in Omuthiya).The hospital in Omuthiya with Chinese aid has finished designing and will see its ground-breaking in November. Concessional loans have been provided to Namibia for the projects such as E-government software, customs inspection scanners, northern railway line, Oshakati Hospital upgrading and NBC upgrading and expansion, etc. In the past few years, around 300 Namibian personnel have received technical training in China. Chinese Aqua-culture experts have arrived in Namibia and began work with the Ministry of Fishery and Marine Resources. In addition, in line with a newly signed agreement between the two governments, China will provide a whole set of lab equipment to UNAM Ongwediva Campus. Besides, another project of grant was signed for agricultural irrigation.
The successful implementation of the promises made by the Chinese side would not have been possible without the full support of the Namibian Government. I hereby would like to express my deep gratitude to the Namibian government institutions and persons who have delivered us their assistance.
Both China and Africa are heartily encouraged by the achievements of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. The road ahead of us has a bright future. There are so many more things that we can do to enhance China- Africa cooperation. Let us continue to work together to maintain the dynamism of the Forum and bring more tangible benefits to both peoples through our cooperation.
I wish the 4th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC a new success!
Chinese Ambassador to Namibia