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Chinese President XI Jinping (right) welcomes Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi at the famous Great Hall of People in Beijing at a banquet in honour of the African leader who is on a state visit to China and to also attend the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) / Photo: Government of Botswana

African leaders parley with China in Beijing

African leaders are in the Chinese city of Beijing for a high-level summit hosted by the Chinese government. The Forum for Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC)  Summit is a meeting between the two partners and is largely premised on ways to increase diplomatic, economic and bilateral ties.

It officially kicks off on September 3 through to September 4. This year’s edition is themed “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation.”

The summit is seen largely as key diplomatic event hosted by China this year and attended by the largest number of foreign leaders to date. African leaders already in Beijing have held different levels of talks with their Chinese counterparts signing deals and also meeting investors.

The interest in the forum is a result of China’s growing influence on the African continent and proves the FOCAC has been pragmatic and efficient, analysts said.

Passengers take pictures with a train they have just travelled on after the formal inauguration of the Chinese-built Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, October 2016, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Most infrastructure projects built by China in Africa were built were financed by debt, leading economists to warn of a potential debt trap / Photo: CRIE

 

Beijing has been Africa’s biggest trading partner over the last decade, and its resources have helped fuel China’s transformation into the world’s second-largest economy.

The growth in trade between China and Africa has been very impressive. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the volume of trade in 2000 stood at $10 billion (€8.5 billion). In the 17 years since, the figure has risen twentyfold to $200 billion. In the meantime, Africa’s trade with Europe and the United States has stagnated for years. In addition, the African continent has seen a sharp rise in Chinese direct investment.

Participants at this week’s summit are looking for ways to “advance common growth and development”, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said.

But most African nations – exporting minerals and buying Chinese manufactured goods – run large deficits with China.

“The question of the trade imbalance is one that I think will be placed firmly on the table by the African delegates,” Sim Tshabalala, chief executive of South Africa’s Standard Bank Group, told reporters on Saturday.

Critics also say Africa is loading itself up on Chinese debt that countries may struggle to repay, with estimates ranging in the tens of billions of dollars.That could leave African nations with no choice but to hand over controlling stakes in strategic assets to China in the near future.

Kola Tella with agency reports

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