The China-Africa Cooperation Forum (CACF) was jointly proposed and established by China and some African countries in 2000, on the basis of "equal negotiation, enhancing understanding, increasing consensus, strengthening friendship and promoting cooperation." Its purposes are to conform to the changing international situation, meet the requirements of economic globalization and seek co-development through negotiation and cooperation.
The forum is to be held every three years, with the second taking place this December. China and African countries take turns in hosting the event.
On October 10-12, 2000, the First CACF Ministerial Conference was held in Beijing. Nearly 80 foreign ministers and ministers in charge of international economic cooperation affairs from 45 African countries attended, along with representatives of 17 international and regional organizations, heads of nongovernmental organizations and entrepreneurs. Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji and Vice President Hu Jintao and Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity Salim Ahmed Salim attended the opening and closing ceremonies of the conference and delivered speeches.
During the meeting, Chinese and African representatives exchanged views on proposals of establishing a new international political and economic order and strengthening cooperation in trade between China and African countries. The meeting passed the CACF Beijing Declaration and the Program for China-Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social Development. Both parties agreed to establish a long-term, stable partnership of new type that is based on equality and mutual benefit.
After the first ministerial conference, China and some African countries established ministerial commissions to plan and coordinate the implementation of follow-up measures. In the following three years, both parties made joint efforts to promote implementation of the agreements reached, making new progresses in cooperation in various areas.
High-ranking officials of both sides exchanged frequent visits. More than 30 African leaders visited China, and President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji of China's third generation of collective leadership also visited African countries. Nongovernmental exchanges increased continuously and contacts between political parties and women, youth and businesses organizations on both sides became closer. Sino-African dialogue mechanisms were also diversified, with China and some African countries establishing political consultation systems between foreign ministries and joint commissions on issues of economy, trade and science and technology. On international and regional affairs, China and African countries actively maintained legal rights and interests of developing countries through consultation, cooperation and mutual support.
Economic and trade cooperation between China and African countries was strengthened and expanded rapidly. China reduced and exempted a total of 10.5 billion yuan of debts owed by 31 African countries to it, contributing to economic and social development of these countries.
The Chinese Government also set up trade promotion centers for investment development in 11 African countries, establishing special funds and offering preferential discount loans to encourage and support Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa. Meanwhile, China actively created investment opportunities for African enterprises. Investment in China from countries such as South Africa has increased continuously year by year.
Trade between China and African countries has grown rapidly and is becoming more balanced. In 2000, trade volume between China and African countries exceeded $10 billion. In the first seven months of 2003, trade volume reached a record $10.25 billion. Exports of African countries to China increased greatly. In the first half of 2003, African countries' exports to China totaled $4.11 billion and imports valued at $4.48 billion.
China and African countries have achieved much with cooperation in human resources development. China annually offered 1,500 scholarships to African students to come study in China. It also held various seminars and training classes for senior African diplomats and economic and financial officials. Technological training in agriculture and processing sectors had also been offered. Meanwhile, China sent experts, teachers and technologists to African countries, training about 7,000 local experts urgently needed in economic and social development for African countries.
China continued to offer various help to African countries without any political conditions attached, helping the recipients to construct infrastructures and social welfare projects such as roads, water supply systems, schools and hospitals. Chinese medical taskforces to African countries provided local residents with medicine, medical equipment and publications for free. China also promoted cooperation in epidemic prevention and cure, including AIDS, malaria and pulmonary tuberculosis.
China has also added Egypt, South Africa and Morocco to the list of approved tourist destinations for Chinese people.
The Second CACF Ministerial Conference is scheduled to be held in Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa on December 15-16. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and leaders of some African countries are expected to attend the meeting. The meeting will review the implementation of tasks put forward in the first ministerial conference, discuss new measures in deepening cooperation in areas of human resources development, agriculture, infrastructure construction, investment and trade, and make detailed cooperation plan in various areas for the next three years.
CACF has become an important platform for China and African countries to strengthen unity and cooperation while maintaining common benefits. With joint efforts of all members of the forum, the Addis Ababa meeting is expected to make new contribution in enhancing friendship between China and Africa, deepening bilateral cooperation and promoting common development.
(China.org.cn December 10, 2003)