African countries have expressed hope that the upcoming Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum will boost their multidimensional cooperation with China, especially in trade and investment.
They believe that the meeting, scheduled for Dec. 15-16 in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, will provide various opportunities for them and China to enter mutually beneficial cooperation in trade and investment.
A senior Ghanaian trade official said the forum has set a good example of cooperation among developing countries, through which the collaborating sides could all benefit.
"The forum will give us opportunities to know more about the world and encourage our businessmen to look for more markets," said Daniel Hagan, director in charge of policy, price, monetary and exports in the Ghanaian Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Ethiopia, one of the world's least developed countries, has given its support for the forum by offering to host the meeting, which is to have the participation of some 70 ministers from more than 40 countries.
"The confidence is that this forum will give an additional value and create constructive engagement between the private sectors, business enterprises of China and African countries," said Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, adding that his country is proud of hosting the meeting.
Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island country, considers the forum as another step by China to help Africa out of its very poverty-stricken state.
"The China-Africa Cooperation Forum is another framework where we can look at the larger picture for Africa and we will certainly look at the ways where we can get this forum to become a shining example of what China can do for Africa," said Mauritian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, who is slated to lead the Mauritian delegation to the meeting.
Africa, he said, is faced with a series of challenges, such as poverty, HIV/AIDS and lack of infrastructure.
"These are what we believe China will be able to assist," said the minister, expecting China to come to the meeting with projects, technical assistance and ideas to help the continent change the way it has been doing things.
Gayan based his trust in China on the long-lasting friendship between Africa and China. "We have found that whenever we asked China for any assistance, China was always prepared to listen and to do whatever it could do," he said.
Du Qiwen, director of the Department of African Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, attributed African countries' support for the meeting mainly to the follow-up work by both sides after the first ministerial meeting of the forum in Beijing in October 2000, which has further increased their confidence in growing trade and economic cooperation between the two sides.
The China-Africa Cooperation Forum was established three years ago with the framework of collective dialogue between China and African countries to promote peace and development on the basis of equality.
Adopted during the first ministerial meeting were two documents, namely, the Beijing Declaration, and the Program for China-Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social Development, creating the framework for China and Africa to build long-standing, stable and mutually beneficial relations.
Since the 2000 meeting, both China and Africa have worked toward implementing the forum's follow-up action.
China established a followed-up action committee consisting of 21 government departments in December 2000, while Ethiopia, Gabon, the Sudan and Zambia have also set up their follow-up action organizations.
The efforts by both China and African countries have been bearing fruit, with exchanges and cooperation between the two sides increasing rapidly.
The latest official statistics indicate that trade between China and Africa had grown to US$12.39 billion in 2002 from US$10.6 billion in 2000, and the figure for the first nine months of 2003 is US$13.39 billion, surpassing that of the whole 2002.
Chinese investors have already established 602 businesses in 49African countries, covering such areas as trade, industry, and agriculture.
Africans, including those from South Africa and Uganda, have also had their investment in China.
The main task of the second ministerial meeting is to review the implementation of the two documents passed during the first ministerial meeting, and discuss cooperation in such key areas as agriculture and human resources, and the prospects for development and exchanges in the future.
An action plan on the specific steps for cooperation between China and Africa over the next three years will be passed during the meeting.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is expected to attend the opening ceremony of the meeting and deliver a speech. Also attending will be Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and more than 10 other African leaders.
(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2003)