China-Africa Relations: What to expect in 2022 and beyond.

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By Allawi Ssemanda.

The year 2021 ended on a very good note for African countries in context of Sino-Africa relations with Beijing showing readiness and commitment to double down its development support and cooperation to African countries.

Looking at Action Plan for the year 2022-2024 produced from November 2021 Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) ministerial conference held Senegal, it is clear that China is ready to increase its development support to African countries. One can also confidently argue that this Action Plan which details how China and African countries will co-operate in the next three years will highly succeed considering the fact that it was generated through consensus which reflects China’s relationship with African countries – mutual respect and the partnership of equals!

The nine areas identified in this action plan namely; peace and security, digital innovation, promotion of trade, people-to-people relations, promotion of investments in African countries, supporting medical and health programs, poverty reduction, supporting agricultural programs, green development, and capacity building are all key to African countries economic and sustainable development.

Despite striking similarities in some sections of 2018-2021 action plan, the 2022-24 action plan has packages that if well implemented will spur economic, social and sustainable development.

For example, the 2022-2024 action plan has a package of $40 billion financial commitments of which $10 billion will be invested in specific sectors, namely; manufacturing industries, agriculture and digital economy. Aware that the 2018-2021 action plan did not specify which sectors would benefit, this time workplan singles out sectors to benefit from China’s partnership.

Also, in this workplan, Beijing earmarked $10 of her International Monterey Fund (IMF) drawing rights share to assist development in African countries, $10 billion will go to supporting trade with aim of boosting African countries exports to China a development expected to increase volume of China’s imports from African countries to a whopping $300 billion while $10 billion has been set aside to facilitate credit lines to African financial institutions to be accessed by several African countries.

Considering effects of covid-19 pandemic on global economy which saw major economies growth reduce with China’s growing at 2.3% in 2020 which is the lowest since 1976, China committing $40bn to African countries is evidence of China’s commitment to support her allies.

Fighting Covid-19 Pandemic Together.

The 2021 FOCAC ministerial came at a time when the world is battling Covid-19 – the worst pandemic of our times which has devastated the world for two years and its defeat remains elusive, with over 326-million people infected, and claimed lives of over 5.54 million people.

In all this uncertainty, using their financial muscle, Western Countries chose vaccine nationalism-buying almost all produced vaccines on markets, and leaving poor and developing countries especially in Africa with less no vaccines, putting the continent far from the needed 60% vaccination for its population needed for herd immunity. Even with Covax facility, today, only 14% of African countries have vaccinated their citizens, 76% in Canada and the U.S.A, 66% in Europe, 72% Asian Pacific, 72% Latin America and 51% in Middle East.

However, as developed countries hoarded vaccines, working with African countries, China organized a novel extraordinary China-Africa summit to devise means of containing the pandemic. Consequently, China and African countries have been working together in fighting the pandemic by donating thousands of tonnes of materials required in fighting covid-19 which include facemasks, ventilators, testing kits, ventilators, financial assistance and sending experts to work with African counterparts among others. China has also worked with some African countries like Morocco and Egypt to locally produce Covid-19 vaccines.

Addressing the 2021 FOCAC ministerial conference, President Xi Jinping announced China will supply one billion vaccines to African countries of which 600 million will come as donations while 400 million doses will be produced locally through joint vaccine production arrangement between China and African countries. It is important to note that Morocco have already started producing vaccines with support from a Chinse pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm. President Xi’s promised 1 billion vaccines to Africa is enough to vaccinate 40% of continent’s population which will be a big boost. If fully implemented, this will be the largest bilateral vaccine support to African countries if compared with U.S.A’s. 500million vaccine pledges promised to poor and developing countries world over.

While China’s critics accuse Beijing of the so-called Vaccine Diplomacy, arguably, to compare China’s assistance to African countries in building a functioning health system with politics is an insult to Africans and ignorance of facts like African countries’ need in building a robust public health system that will be able to withstand any future pandemics. This is what China is doing. The construction of the Headquarters Building Phase I Project of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) funded by China is ongoing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Revolutionizing digital economy and green development

The 2022-2024 action plan for China-Africa cooperation also points at digital and green economy. To show emphasis, digital economy is presented as an independent subsection under economic cooperation and green development is presented in its section signifying China’s commitment to support African countries in the two sectors.

Aware that digital revolution is the way to go, China and African countries have come up an initiative to work together and jointly build a China-Africa Community with a shared future in Cyberspace, a development that will see both sides working together in areas like artificial intelligence, big data internet, mobile internet, cloud computing, among others. In Uganda for example, Huawei is already implementing this program and hence, supporting African countries technological transfer, digital infrastructure and digital innovation.

In green development, focus is given to ecological and climate change mitigation which can be achieved through clean energy which China is supporting in Africa. This initiative is spot-on for one can argue that it directly responds to China’s critics who often claim that China does not consider environmental issues when supporting developmental projects in Africa.

All in all, China-Africa cooperation if measured from the success of FOCAC, in its 21 years, the cooperation has achieved a lot for the African countries and much more is in pipeline! Going by commitments released by Chinese government in its FOCAC whitepaper of November 26th 2021, China is ready to double down her support to African countries to realise a China-Africa Community with a shared future. From 2022-2024, FOCAC’s focus will be on cooperation like digital economy, health, poverty reduction, green development, capacity building, peace and security, promotion of trade, among others. One can therefore confidently argue that China is and continue to be Africa’s desired development partner.

However, African countries should not just sit and wait to be spoon-fed, they must be pro-active and use the opportunity of China’s willingness to work with them as “equal partners” so as to further gain from Beijing. As of today, despite having FOCAC in place, there seems not to be a coordinated engagement with China with no single African country having a clear “China strategy.”  As of today, China has released comprehensive three Africa policy papers since 2006 yet, despite having many experts on China including thousands with highest education thanks to Chinese government scholarships, there no single policy paper on China has been developed by Africa as a continent either under the African Union or even FOCAC.


Allawi Ssemanda is Executive Director Development Watch Centre; a Foreign Policy think



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