Ambassadors' Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Beijing

The Ambassadors' Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held in the College of Defense Studies at National Defense University of the Chinese People's Libration Army in Beijing on December 21. The Forum aimed at creating understanding of China's Policy towards Africa and China-Africa Cooperation from the perspective of "China-Africa Cooperation-An African Perspective". The Forum attracted more than 100 high-level military officers from 53 countries, 18, including Ethiopia, from Africa, and it helped to create further understanding about China's policies towards Africa and the importance of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), set up to provide for a win-win partnership between China and Africa.

The Forum was co-chaired by Senior Colonel Xu Hui, Commandant of the College of Defense Studies of China and among the speakers were Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the People's Republic of China and Ambassador Liu Guijin, China's Former Special Envoy for African Affairs.

Ambassador Seyoum in his presentation strongly underlined the importance of FOCAC Summit that had been held in Johannesburg, in December 2015. He commended the commitments made there and the pledge made by President Xi Jinping at the Summit that China would offer a US$60 billion package, a combination of grants, interest free loans, concessional lines of credit, debt relief and skills training for hundreds of thousands of Africa's young professionals along with three-year 10-point plans anchored under the proposed five-pillar themes.
He stressed the unparalleled commitment of the Chinese leadership to this new type of partnership and strategic friendship with African countries offered an historic opportunity to pursue Africa's dream for growth and prosperity, and for transforming and integrating Africa's economy into the rest of the world to ensure a safer world for all to live in. The cooperation between China and Africa, he emphasized, was anchored in principles of equality, mutual respect, common interest, shared goals and values.

Ambassador Seyoum noted that Ethiopia's rapid GDP growth rates, averaging 10.9% per annum for more than a decade allowed the country to be considered a model for South- South cooperation. Ethiopia's achievement ranking among the top performing economies in the world and the remarkable reductions in poverty that it had achieved, underlined its march towards becoming a middle income economy by 2025. Equally, the construction of major projects such as the eco-friendly Addis Ababa-Djibouti Electrified Railway, the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT), the Addis Ababa-Adama Expressway, the Adama Wind Power project and its telecommunication infrastructure expansion could be cited as showcase examples for win-win partnership and cooperation between Ethiopia and China, anchored within the framework of FOCAC. A short video was shown highlighting the economic development of Ethiopia in infrastructure, health, education, and industrialization, demonstrating the effects of real partnership between Ethiopia and China.
Ambassador Seyoum strongly underlined the indispensable role that China has been playing as one of Ethiopia's trusted development. He pointed out China was the biggest investor and the largest trading and development partner of Ethiopia.
He has also underlined the necessity for African countries to move faster and submit feasible project proposals to utilize the multibillion dollar fund announced by the Government of China to support Africa in the areas of industrialization and development of industrial parks, agriculture modernization, infrastructure, public health, education and human resources development, culture and tourism and military as well as security cooperation.

Regarding connectivity, `and the "One Belt One Road" Initiative, Ambassador Seyoum mentioned the contribution of Ethiopian Airlines, one of the longest serving flag carriers in Africa. This has been providing consistent services for the last 70 years for the movement of people, ideas, cultures and business into and out of the African continent, and since 1973 between Africa and China. Ethiopian Airlines, with the state of the art technology and latest aircraft fleet, flies from its hub in Addis Ababa to 93 international cities in four continents. With its motto "The New Spirit of Africa" it offers the best links from 48 African cities to four gateways in China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai).  Ambassador Seyoum highlighted the indispensable role of the Airline in promoting investment, trade, tourism and culture between Africa and China through its 31 flights weekly.

Ambassador Seyoum also referred to peace and security, emphasizing the commitment of Africa and China to discharge their international responsibilities to contribute to the common endeavors of world peace and stability. In this connection, he urged China to strengthen its support to the African Union, and to the continent's Regional Economic Communities and other African sub-regional institutions. This would help them to play a leading role in coordinating and solving issues of peace and security in Africa and support Africa's peaceful and stable development and integration. He also underlined the importance of collaboration and cooperation among all countries in the world to bring peace and stability. One country, however, strong and however much of a superpower it might be, could not bring peace alone. Recalling what had happened during the Cold War, he spoke out strongly against Africa becoming an arena of conflict between China and countries in the West.  He emphasized the importance of Africa being a region of cooperation and investment and of becoming one of the growth poles highlighting tripartite cooperation between China, Africa and the developed countries in the West.

Following his contribution, Ambassador Seyoum responded to various questions and concerns raised by participants on issues relating to China's engagement in the peace and stability of Africa, the challenges surrounding the implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Actions, Ethiopia's role in regional stabilization and the state of good governance on the African continent.

Ambassador Liu Guijin, China's Former Special Envoy for African Affairs, detailed recent developments in the implementation of the Johannesburg Action Plan. He mentioned that the use of multidimensional approaches such as official development assistance, soft loans, and concessional and commercial loans were mostly channeled to private investment and this had enhanced manufacturing and export earnings. He emphasized that China's partnership with Africa had focused on bottlenecks such as the infrastructure deficit, financing limitations and capacity deficiencies. He also indicated that there has been a shift from contractual projects towards joint ventures, investments and industrial park development. In his analysis, he also emphasized that the ten cooperation plans drawn up by FOCAC focused on industrial capacity cooperation, poverty reduction and increasing agriculture production. Ambassador Liu Guijin elaborated on the necessity of building industrial parks and special economic zones in Africa to enhance the flow of foreign direct investment for labor intensive and export oriented light-manufacturing industries. He mentioned the Eastern Industry Zone (EIZ) in Ethiopia, constructed by a Chinese company, as an encouraging showcase example of what could be done. He also discussed the impact of world economic slowdown and the effect of the reduction of oil prices and precious minerals on African countries such as Nigeria, Angola, Sudan and South Africa, looking at the relevant economic indicators.